Last year, I carved a TARDIS pumpkin. A few people asked about it afterward, so I'm posting the pattern this year.
I adapted my pattern from this t-shirt stencil, which used to be on the BBC website. It's a peeling design, where you cut out some areas and peel others. This can be somewhat time-consuming, but it looks pretty cool when you're done.
This website has some advice about peeling designs, and I agree with most of it. They suggest a lot of different tools, but I've always gotten by with some little pumpkin saws (from Pumpkin Master kits, etc), an exacto knife (to get the peeled areas started) and flathead screwdrivers in various sizes, including at least one miniature one. Someone else I know suggests using a clay-carving loop to deepen the peeled areas, rather than a screwdriver. One thing I don't recommend is a dremel tool -- all it does is chew the pumpkin's skin into uneven pulp.
You also need a pattern or three. One copy to ruin in some way, one to use to transfer the pattern to the pumpkin itself, and one to look at while you're carving. You really, really need that extra copy to refer back to while carving. Believe me.
The full-sized version is here.
The white areas will be carved out, the grey areas peeled, and the black areas left intact.
- It'll be a miracle if you really have an 8.5"x11" flat surface on your pumpkin, so the pattern will have to be scrunched in some way when you're taping it onto the pumpkin to transfer the design. You can fold or make little cuts to the edges to make it fit. Try to do that in areas where it won't distort the pattern.
- Most places recommend punching little tiny holes all around all the edges of the pattern to transfer it to the pumpkin, with a needle or a little pointy thing that comes with pumpkin kits. You can do that if you want, but I've found it easier and faster to simply trace the pattern, relatively hard, with a ballpoint pen. However you do it, peek once in a while to make sure you're actually transferring something that you'll be able to see when you remove the paper.
- You need to outline every area that you'll be carving or peeling. If something seems to be too fine a detail to trace or carve, you can fudge the pattern a little; I certainly didn't try to get all the detail of the "Police Box" part of the sign, but I did try for some shape in the x so it looked vaguely like lettering.
- You'll notice in the pattern that there aren't any window panes -- it would be way too hard to leave tiny slivers of intact pumpkin in there. I didn't like the way the final pumpkin looked without them, though, so I made them with toothpicks on the right face of the TARDIS. There's no room for them on the left.
- I also found that the door panels on the peeled side were too narrow to outline, so I just marked lines where they belonged when transferring the pattern. (But if you do something like that, be really careful about referring back to the pattern when it comes time to carve and peel. I forgot what those lines meant a couple of times and nearly messed up the whole thing.)
- After you remove the paper pattern, you may want to outline carved and peeled areas in different colors of marker, and emphasize the parts that were too thin to outline while you were transferring the pattern.
- Once the design is transferred, you can hollow out the pumpkin. Scrape the face you'll be carving to a nice uniform 1" thick.
- I prefer to begin with the peeled areas; you need all the structural integrity you can get. And all the energy and enthusiasm. Best to get right to it.
- To peel an area, first trace the outline of it with the exacto knife, just barely getting under the skin. It shouldn't be too difficult to remove that outer layer of skin, though you might want to switch to a screwdriver once you've got it started, to avoid cutting your fingers. Having already cut into the skin around the edges of the area will help you keep from accidentally running over the lines while you're peeling. Refer to your spare pattern every time you start to do anything. Really.
- Once you have the skin off of an area, deepen the peeled part to 1/2" thick. A screwdriver is my favorite tool for this, but there are plenty of other options. Little screwdrivers are good for the tight spots around the door panels. Don't forget to leave the panel details intact when you're peeling the door area. Keep referring to the pattern.
- Before you've gone too far, take a break, stick a candle in the pumpkin, and check whether light is showing through your peeled areas properly. You don't want to go too deep and accidentally make a hole, but it's easy to leave too much pumpkin and end up having to scrape over the peels repeatedly to get them to the right depth. You'll want all the peeled areas to be uniform, so pick a depth that looks good and stick with it.
- Once you've done all the peeling, you can cut out the white areas. They will seem pathetically easy, even the fussy little ones where you need to use tiny saws. Still, be patient and use good sawing technique; don't press on the saw like a knife, use a back-and-forth motion. Remove the saw and stick it in again to go around a corner. If you're cutting out something adjacent to a peeled area, you may want to support the peeled area with your hand to avoid tearing it.
- Check again with a candle. There will probably be some unevenness in the peeling; a little extra scraping with a screwdriver will fix it.
- Break some toothpicks in half and make window panes. Six of them. I was not paying attention by this point, and I only did four, which will cause purists to point and laugh. There should be two upright toothpicks in each window, not one. If you stick the toothpick in a bit farther than necessary on the first side, you should be able to straighten it out nicely without damaging the skin of the pumpkin on the other side of the window.
- Take pictures and admire your work. Most of the pictures will look a lot better without flash, but the shutter speed will be too slow for you to hand-hold the camera; if you don't have a tripod, you can set your camera on something stable and use its self-timer. It's easy to blur a picture just by pressing the camera's shutter button, so the self-timer helps eliminate that. You might want to try taking pictures with various amounts of ambient light to see what looks best.