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Halloween Jack O' Lantern

Jack O’ Lantern

Did you know that the Halloween Jack O’Lantern is based on the legend of Stingy Jack? He was a devious fellow who tricked the devil, and consequently when he died he wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell. Instead the devil cast him out into the night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. So with that charming story in mind I decided to create my own Jack O’Lantern out of a discarded pallet.

Preparing the wood

After breaking apart the pallet I cut the wood into the following sizes:

  • 16cm x 9cm x 1.5cm (x2) – Front and back
  • 16cm x 6cm x 1.5cm (x2) – Sides
  • 13cm x 9cm x 1.5cm (x2) – Hat rim and base
  • 7cm x 6cm x 5cm (x1) – Hat top
  • 5.5cm x 5cm x 1.5cm (x1) – Hat bottom

I then did a rough assembly to check that everything was more or less correct.

And then I took the rough surface off with the bench sander, followed by some finer sanding with the orbital sander. I didn’t go too fine though, I just went to 120 grit. I planned to stain it later and I like to leave a slightly rough surface for the colour to soak into.

Carving out the face

First I used a pencil to draw the face on one of the pieces of wood. Then I used the drill press to make a series of holes following the pencil lines.

Drill holes for the face

I then used a chisel to remove the eyes, nose and mouth. You have to be careful when using this method though. My first attempt split the wood because I was too aggressive with the chisel. Next time I do this I’ll dust off the coping saw and give that a try. And finally I used a file and sandpaper to smooth the rough edges. But the great thing with this project is you don’t have to be too neat. If your cut is untidy and you end up with a twisted mouth for example, just say that’s how you designed it!

Assembling the Jack O’Lantern

Next I glued the front back and sides together, using a heavy weight to add some pressure. And then I banged in some nails, four at the front and four at the back. It’s important to precisely measure where the nails need to go. In this example, the thickness of the boards was 15mm, so I needed the nails to be 7.5mm from the side.

I then cut the piece for the base and attached that to the assembled body

Making the hat

I wanted the hat to be removeable so that you could lift it up and insert a glo-stick or fairy lights. The design I came up with consisted of 3 pieces of wood, glued and screwed together, I got a bit fancy with the hat top, but if you don’t have a bandsaw you can use a coping saw, or just go with a simple block of wood.

The completed Jack O’Lantern

After applying some exterior stain, the Halloween Jack O’Lantern was complete. I think it’s spook-tacular. Sorry.

If you’d like to make one of these, or have one made for you, feel free to contact me. Or you can receive my newsletter to get the latest news, updates and projects straight to your inbox.