Hand tools and fabrication machines
Turn up the heat on your spooky Halloween yard decor this year with a fiery new twist that's bound to impress and delight trick-or-treaters of all ages by adding a blazing set of flaming jack-o'-lanterns to your front yard display.
In this "Make" tutorial you will learn; how to design and build your very own front yard flaming jack-o'-lantern display. This will include how to prepare the fuel, carve your pumpkins, safely choose and prepare a location in your front yard where the display can burn, how to safely ignite your creations, and finally how to extinguish the flames at the end of the night.
If you're a closet pyro, then this is the "Make" tutorial for you!
This "Make" tutorial involves flammable substances and should be constructed with the utmost care as to not cause bodily harm or death. It is recommended that this "Make" tutorial not be preformed by anyone under the age of 18 without adult supervision. Additionally, I will not be held responsible for any damages caused by chemicals, fire, or any other cause whatsoever. Anyone who chooses to follow and build this "Make" tutorial does so at their own risk.
In order to get started you will need a few simple materials to help you with your build. Some of these materials may already exist at your home, while others will need to be purchased. Provided below is a comprehensive list of everything you will need.
Pumpkin(s) (15 lbs. or larger): $0.29/lb.
- The pumpkins shown in the images above were purchased at my local grocery store (Smith's Marketplace) weighing in at 25 lbs. a piece.
Pumpkin Carving Kit: $4.97/each*
1 Gal. Empty Metal Paint Can(s) w/ Lid(s): $2.57/each
Toilet Paper Roll(s): $2.00/each
- Common household item
Nitrile Cleaning Gloves: $3.48/each
- Common household item
Barbecue Lighter: $2.97/each
- Common household item
Fire Extinguisher (Class "B" Rating): $18.98/each
- Common household item (if not, it should be...)
Kitchen Knife: N/A
- Common household Item
Kitchen Spoon: N/A
- Common household Item
Expo Dry Erase Marker: $4.42/each
- Common household item
Oriented Strand Board: $4.98/each
Flat Black Spray Paint: $0.97/each
- *It is not necessary that you purchase the exact brand name of the material used for this "Make" tutorial, although it may cause your final results to vary slightly.
- **The link listed below each material is provided in order to give an accurate description of the item, its approximate cost, and a vendor that you could potentially purchase it from. The costs listed are subject to change over time.
Gather together your rolls of toilet paper, empty metal paint cans, and kerosene so that you can take them to an open air environment where you won't be breathing in an excess of harmful fumes. Then, take your 1 gal. empty metal paint cans and place one to two rolls of toilet paper inside each of them. Make sure that if you are going to place more than one roll inside each paint can, that they do not reach above the rim because you are going to want to be able to close the lids later on. Next, check to make sure you are not around any open flames or potential ignition sources, and then carefully pour the kerosene onto the toilet paper rolls until they are completely wet.* Leave a small reservoir of kerosene in the bottom of the paint can, the toilet paper rolls will soak some of it up while they sit and saturate. Any additional kerosene still left in the bottom of the can after saturation may be used for soaking subsequent rolls later on. It may also be poured back into a safe kerosene storage container.** Once the toilet paper rolls have been soaked, place the lid onto each paint can and securely close it. Find a cool ventilated storage place, preferably outside of your house and away from any open flames or potential ignition sources, where you can leave your fuel to soak for 24 hours or until you are ready to use.
- *If you happen to spill any kerosene, clean it up with a paper towel or rag. Do not place paper towels or rags into a trash receptacle until they have completely dried, otherwise you risk the possibility of spontaneous combustion.
- **Each kerosene soaked toilet paper roll will typically only last between forty-five minutes to an hour, so if you plan to put on an all night display, account for how many fuel sets you will need to prepare.
This step describes the traditional method for carving a pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern. If you are already familiar with this process, feel free to skip to step 4. The only suggestions I would include are; 1. creating a large lid opening will allow the flames to reach higher and become more visible, 2. avoid intricate designs which will be quickly destroyed by the heat of the flames, and 3. choose a design to carve that has larger features such as a gaping mouth and eyes, it will make the flames more visible and your display more impressive.
While you are waiting for the fuel to finish soaking over the next 24 hours, you can begin carving your pumpkins into frightening jack-o'-lanterns. Begin by finding a sturdy surface such as a kitchen counter, table, or work bench where you can set up shop. Next, take each of your pumpkins and wipe them down with a damp cloth in order to clean away any dirt or grime. Select a pumpkin and take it over to your chosen work space. Then, take the large serrated knife from the pumpkin carving kit, and cut a lid into its crown.* Traditionally the lid is cut out as a simple circular shape, but you may choose any type of pattern that you find appealing. Creating a large lid opening will allow the flames to reach higher and become more visible. In the images displayed above, you can see that I personally chose to carve a series of zigzag shapes to form my lid. This is just one example of the many designs you can choose. Using the large orange serving spoon provided in the pumpkin carving kit, scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard them into a trash receptacle.** Then continue to remove some of the flesh on the inside of the pumpkin until you have a somewhat smooth surface.
With the pumpkin lid cut and the inside cleaned out, you can now choose a design to carve into the front of the pumpkin. The pumpkin carving kit you purchased will include several viable design options, but if they don't seem enticing, you can always search the internet for inspiration or create your own design. Try to avoid intricate designs because they will quickly be destroyed by the heat of the flames. If you choose a design to carve that has larger features such as a gaping mouth and eyes, it will make the flames more visible and your display more impressive. It is my personal opinion, that flaming jack-o'-lanterns look the best with some sort of scary grimacing face.
After you have decided on something to carve, choose the best looking side of the pumpkin on which to present your design. Take the small dry erase marker from the pumpkin carving kit, and lightly sketch an outline of your design on the pumpkin.*** This will serve as a set of guidelines to help you plan exactly where to make your cuts. The dry erase marker will be wiped off after you are done making all of your cuts. You may also opted to carve your design freehand if you prefer. Then, taking either of the two serrated blades that come with the pumpkin carving kit, carefully begin to carve along your outline. If you choose to do a face start with the mouth, then the nose, and finally the eyes. Following this process, will help to prevent breaking the more delicate areas in between the features on your jack-o'-lantern. Once you are done making all of your cuts, wipe off any dry erase marker and pumpkin viscera. Finally, replace the lid back on top of your finished jack-o'-lantern, and repeat the process for any additional pumpkins you planned for.
- *You can optionally choose to make any cuts in your design with a kitchen knife, if you feel that it suites your needs better than the tools provided in the pumpkin carving kit.
- **You can optionally choose to scoop out the seeds and fibers with a large kitchen spoon, if you feel that it suites your needs better than the tools provided in the pumpkin carving kit.
- ***You can optionally choose to sketch the outline of your design with an "Expo" dry erase marker, if you feel that it suites your needs better than the tools provided in the pumpkin carving kit. The small dry erase marker in the pumpkin carving kit can struggle a little bit.
Select a location in your front yard at least 7-10 ft. away from anything that could potentially catch fire.* This includes; the house, trees, bushes, and any other Halloween decorations you might be displaying. Additionally, make sure there is nothing hanging directly above above the location selected that could become a fire hazard if it were to ignite. Next, take a garden hose and thoroughly wet a 5-7 ft. diameter circle around the selected location. Due to the fact that the pumpkins already have a very moist interior to begin with, you won't have to worry about the fuel burning through the bottom of the jack-o'-lantern. If placing the jack-o'-lanterns directly on the grass still makes you uncomfortable, you can optionally choose to place them on top of a piece of oriented strand board.** The board will also need to be thoroughly soaked with the hose for safety purposes. Finally, place your carved jack-o'-lanterns in the chosen location and arrange them into a display you find appealing. If you include multiple flaming jack-o'-lanterns in your display, placing them at varying heights will add additional interest and variety. Any stands or props used should be made of non-flammable materials. Make sure that each jack-o'-lantern is placed in such a manner that it does not risk falling over and igniting its surroundings.
- *Your city, county, and state fire codes, may include more stringent requirements regarding open flames. The above listed, are only recommendations and should not be considered law.
- **If you would like to place your jack-o'-lanterns on a piece of oriented strand board but feel it will detract from the look of your display, you can spray paint the surface black. Just make sure that the spray paint has completely dried before you use it, and that you still thoroughly wet the board before igniting your display.
Now that everything is prepared its time to start the show. Start by bringing the fire extinguisher, paint cans with fuel, pair of Nitrile cleaning gloves, and barbecue lighter all over to the display area where you can easily access them. Before removing any of the fuel from the paint cans, put on the pair of Nitrile cleaning gloves in order to protect your hands from the kerosene. Remove the jack-o'-lantern lids and set them to the side. Then open the fuel canisters and place a single set of fuel into each jack-o'-lantern while being careful not to spill kerosene on yourself, the strand wood board, or the grass.* When you are done placing fuel into each jack-o'-lantern, remove your gloves and hang them up to dry. Close the lid on each paint can and return them to their storage location. Check to make sure you haven't spilled any kerosene on yourself or your clothes.** If you have kerosene on your skin wash it off with soap and water. If you have kerosene on your clothes, change the article of clothing prior to lighting the fuel. It sure beats the heck out of lighting yourself on fire! Finally, check to make sure that the grass and/or pressed wood is still wet; if not, re-wet it. You are now ready to ignite the fuel!
Kerosene is a slow burning fuel, so you won't need to worry about any sudden explosions. Do not light the fuel by extending your arm down into the pumpkin, as the flames will begin growing up towards you. Instead, place the tip of the barbecue lighter nozzle in through the front of your carved design. Ignite the barbecue lighter and bring the flame into contact with the fuel. Once you see the flames begin to take, remove the BBQ lighter from the pumpkin and retreat just a few steps in order to ensure that everything is safe. If everything appears fine, proceed to light the other jack-o'-lanterns one by one. Remember to continue to pause, take a few steps back, and evaluate the situation after each jack-o'-lantern is lit before continuing on to the next.*** Once your display is completely up and burning, take a moment to breath in your creation and reap the maker's reward of bringing your creation to life. You earned it Dr. Frankenstein!
If you plan on lighting up your display only once, hang around until all of the flames are burnt out and your fuel is depleted. If you choose to make your display an all night show, you probably won't want to stand outside the entire time.**** Just make sure that your display can be seen from somewhere inside your house, and that you always have someone specifically designated to periodically check and make sure everything is alright. Plan to keep the fire extinguisher in an easily visible place close to display so that it can be used in the case of an emergency.
- *If you have a particularly large jack-o'-lantern, you can choose to place more than one set of fuel inside it in order to create a larger set of flames that will fill the entire cavity.
- **Once again, If you happen to spill any kerosene, clean it up with a paper towel or rag. Do not place paper towels or rags into a trash receptacle until they have completely dried, otherwise you risk the possibility of spontaneous combustion.
- ***If an accident or mishap does happen to occur, do not attempt to douse the flames with water. kerosene is an oil based fuel and spraying it with water may spread the fire making it worse. Instead use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
- ****Each kerosene soaked toilet paper roll will typically only last between forty-five minutes to an hour, so if you plan to put on an all night display, account for how many fuel sets you will need to prepare.
When you are ready to wrap things up for the night, proper care must be taken in order to safely extinguish the flames and clean up your display. There are several methods to safely extinguish the flames. The first of which, is to continue monitoring the jack-o'-lanterns while waiting for the flames to die out on their own.* If you don't want to wait, or can't wait, you can alternatively choke out the flames by filling each jack-o'-lantern with dirt or sand. Once the flames are out, leave the jack-o'-lanterns outside overnight until they have completely cooled off. This will make sure that there is no chance of them reigniting. The next day after they are completely cooled off, thank your jack-o'-lanterns for the good times, and toss them into a trash receptacle. Although pumpkins can make for great compost, do not use your jack-o'-lanterns for this purpose. They may still contain traces of chemical kerosene that you won't want to introduce into your garden.
- *Once again, do not attempt to douse the flames with water. kerosene is an oil based fuel and spraying it with water may spread the fire making it worse.
Congratulations, on finishing this "Make" tutorial! Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, opinions, and other maker experiences in the comments below.