Reviews of specific carving products by those who've used them.
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By Zombie Pumpkins!
After a little testing, this is my review of the 2011 Michaels pumpkin, in comparison to previous versions.

Here's the 2011 version of the artificial pumpkins available at Michaels. It's about a foot tall and about 33" around. It has a fairly flat face, meant to be the carving area. Maybe slightly tapered at the top, but mostly negligible.


I'm not sure if there were many design variations prior to 2010 when we started to see more bold changes. Size-wise, they all seem to be pretty comparable. Here are the 3 variations I currently have:


Note that the color is a darker orange than before. Looks very vivid in the above photo due to camera flash, but I think it's better than previous paint choices. Especially in natural light, it appears more "pumpkin orange" and less yellow. I like it.

Also, the stem is pretty thick, with an edge that looks cut, and it's brown, rather than green. Like you might expect to see with a pumpkin that's been harvested a while go. While I'd love to see a whimsical curling stem like my illustrated pumpkins have, I understand that they'd be more like to break off in transit. I have the same issue with real pumpkins, the cool long stems often get broken off, sadly. Anyway, here, let's compare the stems:


Another factor is how smoothly they can be cut. For the purposes of Zombie Pumpkins cut-through patterns, I mostly use a Versa Tool heated knife. Michaels also keeps PM Artificial Pumpkin Carving Tools nearby, which are basically like the usual PM carving kits, but the blades are a little pointier and have more teeth.

I cut small holes into the bottom of my pumpkins for a test. Below is the 2009 pumpkin. The saw tool results in "crumbly" edges, but that's typical. The Versa Tool hot knife made for smoother lines with no paint peel issue.


Directly below is the same test on a 2010 pumpkin. The pumpkins from this year appear to have a thicker shell. The crumbly saw cut hole was hard to clear out here. Also, the paint tends to peel back, like dried liquid latex. Their foam carving Easter eggs from 2010 had these same issues (too thick, peeling paint):


And the next photo is the same test on the new 2011 pumpkin. As with any of these pumpkins, the paint can bubble up if you leave the heated blade in one spot too long, but overall you'll notice clean lines with both tool types here. The paint stayed put and did not peel for me. Also, the shell of the pumpkin seemed thinner, which makes a cut-out pattern even easier:


To compare pumpkin shell thickness, let's compare the 2011 pumpkin to the previous 2010 version. Notice my 2011 pumpkin is quite a bit thinner:


The thickness of the pumpkin seems relative to how many support bands they place inside. These are the bane of existence for many carvers, especially those who do "shaded" designs.

Here's the inside of a 2009 pumpkin. One fat band all around the equator. Many of us have sanded this down so the amount of light glowing from inside would be consistent all over the surface:


My 2010 pumpkins have no support band inside, it's smooth as can be. But to give the pumpkin strength, my 2010 pumpkins seem thicker overall. Some might like this, but for doing a cut-out design with the short blade of the Versa Tool, this is possibly too thick:


And then we have the inside of the 2011 pumpkin below. They seem to have thinned out the shell, and added a ribcage of support bands. Smaller than the fat line of the 2009 'kins. Smaller, but more of them:


Looking at these bands inside, I'm honestly not sure if they help THAT much. I'm not too worried about crushing my pumpkins (they are somewhat flexible, which actually helps them not get crushed). I'd prefer to not have these bands, because they can show up when lit:


Don't let these images of the cross-bar shadows intimidate you though. Their appearance is dependent on how bright your inside light is, and (in terms of photos) how long your shutter is open. Here's another photo with a longer exposure time, which of course makes it look worse:


If these lines bother you, they can be sanded down. Although, for a cut-through ZP design, I don't think they will have too much of a negative effect. Sure, the shadow lines look bad when you're looking at a blank pumpkin, but once a the face is carved and pure light is pouring out, you may not even notice the "ribcage" shadows.

So here's my personal opinion:

- Deeper orange color = GOOD
- Non-peeling paint = GOOD
- Thinner shell = GOOD (appropriate for cut-out designs)
- Closed bottom = GOOD (good practice area, also you can cut a hole to exactly fit your lighting source of choice)
- Stumpy stem = FINE (but longer would look cool)
- Size/shape = FINE (although an alternate "wide" version would be nice)
- Support bands inside = POOR (seems unnecessary, in the way of carving, visually distracting when lit)

Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised and think they have made some crucial improvements over the 2010 model (the paint type). While some aspects would fall on my wishlist of "nice to have," I'm willing to take what we can get, in most areas. I'd say that the thick lines inside are the main annoyance to address.

Also, we may have differing reports on the thickness. My 2011 pumpkin seem thinner. And the desired thickness may be a slight point of debate for those who "shade" and those who "cut out." More range for depth levels helps the shader, but as a maker of cut-out designs, I think a thinner shell works easier.

And that's my 2 cents. I can't believe I spent the whole afternoon gathering this "data." Actually, yes I can. :lol:
User avatar
By St0ney
Great post Ryan !

Yes I can see you spending a day, to post about this.
We sell patterns/stencils, and need to make sure there are things to carve them on - LOL

Lots of great info and images to support this info :wink:
Really Glad you supplied all this info, and in detail !

As for the stem, I was happy with the 2010, just a slight curve.
(instead of straight up) I don't want a long stem for breaking Issues do to shipping.

I do like the new color also! = Best YET !

Glad they worked out the paint issue of last season.
I know that this bothered many carvers, for the product did not support their carving talent. So I think were all happy, this has been fixed.

The thickness - going by your photo "IS" a lot thinner.
I'm just going by what was told to me, have not carved or bought one yet.

So far ALL prior years thickness has worked for shading carvings.
we don't have to go to deep to get the 3rd tone.

And the thicker the foam - the more dremel bits will be broke.
I had more breaks last year, than any other.

So to Sum up: I think were looking to address 3 issues.

1. Get rid of all interior lines - that cast any Black line shadows.

2. I do want to menchion the Paint.
a) that the new color is more appealing.
b) So they are also aware of the huge issue last year.
and it's not repeated.

3. Just a slight curve to the stem. to give the pumpkin a little more realism. Honestly if this was a real pumpkin, I would look for one with better stem in the patch. - LOL
User avatar
By St0ney
This is a quick short post :)

I think another way to bring this to Micheal's Attention.

They have their own Forum on the Micheal's Site.
Why not bring the Issue to them on their Board?

Their Board is here: and they have 672337 Members

We get carvers to post in the thread we create.
User avatar
By Zombie Pumpkins!
St0ney, if you say that the pumpkin thickness for all previous years has worked for shading, I think you'll be satisfied with the 2011 version. While my sample seems thinner than the 2010 one, it's about on par with the 2009 and older ones. And we've already seen it shaded so we know it works.

The stem - it's only matter of personal taste I suppose, but I agree that a little curve would add some interest. Sure, it doesn't affect carving, but something more interesting than a stump would be nice.

And surely the interior lines and paint are THE biggest issues. Thankfully they got the paint right this year, and I HOPE it's because they realized that it was such an issue on the 2010 pumpkins and eggs. But in case this year's paint improvement was a "happy accident," it's worth reminding them.

The Michaels forum does look like another smart place to speak up, good call.

By the way, my old Michaels pumpkins do in fact have "Gemmy" printed on the bottom. But now it's just numbers printed there, and a "Celebrate It" tag. I wonder if the change in the pumpkin formula happened because Michaels changed the manufacturing source.

Certainly there have been many attempts at variations on this theme. Just look at my uncarved 'kin. All are from Michaels, I believe, except for the back right... that's a Funkin:

User avatar
By CorpseBride
Great review and comparison! I really like the new color, I can picture it without the flash and it definitely has a better tone. I also like the brown stem. I agree that a variety of stem shapes would be great but I understand their reasoning behind the choice to keep it small and streamline.

I am excited about the thinner foam. There are some more intricate patterns that I would like to have on a foam kin. The thinner wall will make that a little easier on the ol' hand.

I am a little frustrated with the new internal support system, blah. I can see why they might think it would be a good idea, but...yuck! I am sure that viewing it with the naked eye makes a difference in comparison to your photographs, but nonetheless still frustrating.
User avatar
By St0ney
Zombie Pumpkins! wrote: Although, for a cut-through ZP design, I don't think they will have too much of a negative effect. Sure, the shadow lines look bad when you're looking at a blank pumpkin, but once a the face is carved and pure light is pouring out, you may not even notice the "ribcage" shadows.
Hmmm, can't say I agree, think it will still take away from the overall carving.

Say the Design, is center, as it normally is placed.
Your still going to get these shadow lines, on all uncut/un-carved areas.

By not having nice even foam inside.
we are still doing a walk-around, or fix,
By changing the wattage of bulb, grinding down the lines. etc..

Example: Say the Oval is a pumpkin stencil (any stencil).


These shadow Lines are still going to take away from the carving.
you can not just look at the carving with your eyes,
You see the entire carved pumpkin, lines and all.

Edit: Also don't forget about the un-cut Pumpkin sections left inside the stencil area, the shadow lines will still be seen (inside the design).
awful, simply awful.
User avatar
By Zombie Pumpkins!
St0ney wrote:
Zombie Pumpkins! wrote: Although, for a cut-through ZP design, I don't think they will have too much of a negative effect.
Hmmm, can't say I agree, think it will still take away from the overall carving.
The lines of thick foam are certainly problematic. But what I was referring to (should have been more clear in my explanation) was the relative levels of light brightness. Particularly in terms of photography.

The photo I took that shows the shadow lines was taken with a really long exposure time (the light inside was just an LED, not a full bulb type). But once a design is cut out of the front of the pumpkin, that same exposure setting would make the cut-out holes blown out, and way too bright. So you'd lessen your exposure time or close the aperture, which would let less light in. And less light exposure means the shadow lines show less.

Hopefully your eyes would adjust in a similar way. When focused on the full-on brightness of the cut-out holes, the rest of the (relatively dark) pumpkin surface might look more-or-less the same to the average viewer who wasn't looking for for flaws. Their dilated pupils - and emotional attention - would be focused on the cut design.

At least, that's my optimistic hope. Just looking for a bright side with these dumb dark lines. :lol:
User avatar
By St0ney
I know I'm really Anal when it comes to these pumpkins.
It's just that after working on a pumpkin for so many hours.
(and counting the hours it took to make the pattern)

And the thing is not 100% Perfect,
Because of how the pumpkin is made. Just really Bites !!

I'm honesty going to try and avoid them for as long as I can.
I still have about 15 (2009's) Left and will go through those first.

I didn't Stock the 2010's because of the paint issue.
Guess my fingers were crossed for this years pumpkin.

At the end of each season - I do like to have about 20 blank kins left on the self. If someone ordered a pumpkin say in March, were am I going to find one? Yea I could pay the higher price for a funken and order online, But then I would have to take on the shipping cost also - so the blank funkin would be like $50 to $60 bucks.

Even if Micheal's bites on that post,
were pretty much stuck with this for this year.
User avatar
By snow2alike
First of all let me say this pumpkin is not perfect and I would sign a petition to Michaels/Gemmy for a carvers edition foam kin.

But, for the most part I am happy with the 2011 pumpkin. The thinner shell was easier to carve and the supports were not as thick as the single support that was in the 2009 kin. It was easier sawing thru these supports and the light was able to light up the carved area better than the thicker 2009s.

I do like the colour much better. It is a little glossy for me but after I spray a light dusting of my cinnamon paint over it will take the sheen off a little.

Now for the dark lines. (oh no) The top and bottom lines pretty much just disappear after the carving is done. The vertical line I had NO problem with either. The center line is smaller than the lines we have dealt with in the past. When you are doing a cut out PATTERN the black line is a non issue for me! After your carving is done you just don't pay any attention to it. I had already decided if the black line was a problem --- I would sponge a dark colored paint on the front of the inside of the pumpkin --- therefore making the black lines disappear. But I don't think that it was needed.

All in all I am pleased with this years foam pumpkin and can't wait to see Ryan's 2011 PATTERN crop and get started on this carving season!!!


ps --- shading has it's own set of problems. I'm doing one of those next.

User avatar
By Zombie Pumpkins!
St0ney -- lucky you to have stocked so many of the 2009 version. At least you know what to expect with those. I don't have many blank foamies at all (I usually carve more real pumpkins than anything else). Somehow I ended up with more of the 2010 foam pumpkins than anything else. Not so good for me, with the thick shell and paint issues. Well, when you make the leap to the 2011 version, you should be pretty pleased with the thickness and paint.

snow2alike -- Glad to hear more of your hands-on experience with these. While there are more thick bands inside these people, at least they are on the smaller side compared to the 2009 and older version. While they can still create shadows when lit, they seem easier to cut through than the old "black line" because they are smaller. What tool do you use to cut your cut-through patterns, by the way?

Oh, and love the Jaws carve. Happy Shark Week! :D
User avatar
By snow2alike
I couldn't wait for shark week to get here to carve this one --- love it !!

.............. V V v v , , , v v V V ................

My carving tools of choice are :

The Versa Tool ( all 980 degrees of it) I'm on my third one ! LOL

My Bionic Gloves --- made right here in Louisville by 2 world renowned
hand surgeons (Kleinert and Kuntz) you really can pick up a dime
with them on! Great support and padding so no blisters or tired
carving hand.

And of course my beloved Zombie Pro Carving Tool ---- I'm very
possessive with it. I bought one for my husband so he would not
use mine!
User avatar
By Zombie Pumpkins!
snow2alike -- Well, I certainly cannot argue with your choice of tools. You certainly are a proven pro! :)
User avatar
By St0ney
I agree the carving is fantastic,
you also picked a great STENCIL :lol:

That STENCIL is also on my list to carve this year


The jaws carving seems to be a day shot. (or flash used)
the lines in the pumpkin would not ring true.

Would like to see the same carving, lit in a dark atmosphere,
"No Flash", Just as someone would view it Halloween night.

Not saying the lines will show as God-Awful, But I do think they will be more apperant.

The first photo of the 2011 glowing pumpkin you posted (with no carving) shows a completely different beast. using a battery LED light source.

A lot of carvers use hard wired Christmas type bulbs, and that would make the lines even worse for their brighter then led lights.

Alex thepumpkingeek uses a 40 watt bulb.
I like to use a 15 watt bulb.