Quarter Scale Pumpkin House

Unfortunately, I didn't take photos during the construction of this house, but
I'll attempt to walk you through the directions with text and drawings -

You will need:

Creative Paperclay
Dry sheets of Creative Paperclay (clink on link for directions.  Size will depend on your project, it
will be used for the flooring)
plastic wrap
aluminum foil
rolling pin
wood strips in the thickness you want your walls to be (3/16" is a good
  thickness for structures like this)
craft knife
White glue (I prefer Elmer's Glue-All)
Pencils, paper, tracing paper
small drill
masking tape
fabric or paper coated florist's wire
high quality watercolor paper, minimum of 90lb.
thin wood for the stair treads, if desired.
paints & brushes
rice, beans, sand, or ?
small "keyhole" type saw and/or jeweler's saw
sculpting tools
wire brush
wire nippers
block of wood or other object that can be used to create a marking gauge (see text
& illus. below)

--Decide what scale & size you want your pumpkin to be.  It is helpful to make a rough sketch of your design, and maybe even a floor plan.  Below is the original sketch of my plans for the pumpkin house.  I didn't follow my plans exactly, as I changed my mind several times during construction, but I at least started out with some general dimension guidelines and an idea of what I wanted to create in the finished piece.  I also cut out an oval shape from scrap paper, in roughly the size of the second floor, so I would have something to gauge the size of my pumpkin with.

-- Once you have a general idea of the size you want your pumpkin house to be, start crumpling up newspaper, scrunching it and compacting it together to create the basic house shape.  Tape and continue to add newspaper as necessary until you have the size and shape you desire.  Compact the newspaper well, since the weight of the paperclay may cause it to compress.

-- Cover your newspaper form with plastic wrap and secure the wrap with tape.
--  Roll paperclay to desired wall thickness and drape over form.  Pinch off extra clay or add extra clay as necessary until form is covered.  Smooth seams with wet fingertip and/or sculpting tool.  With back of craft knife, cut out an area for the front opening, but make sure the opening is smaller than you want it to be in the finished piece (to allow for shrinkage of the clay, finishing, etc.) 1/4" to 1/2" extra should be more than enough to allow for finishing or modifications.
--  Sculpt sections into the pumpkin.  You may want to add a bit more clay to some of them if the pumpkin looks too even.  If your design calls for a stem that is straight or won't be touching the sides of the pumpkin, you can go ahead and sculpt that onto the pumpkin now.  If you want to make a longer, curved stem, like that shown in the example, leave it for later.
--  Allow pumpkin to dry.  Repair any cracks that may have developed as follows;  dip a paintbrush in plain water and use it to thoroughly wet inside the crack and out to about 1/4" beyond it on all edges.  Allow the water to soak into the clay for a few seconds (you can see a change in the clay when the water has soaked in).  Apply a small amount of white glue to the inside of the crack and surrounding area and use a bit more water as necessary to thoroughly wet the area again.
Allow to set for a few seconds, then push fresh clay firmly into the crack.  Smooth excess clay flush with the surrounding area.  Allow to dry.

-- Create base if desired.  For one that is similar to the example -
--  Place pumpkin on large sheet of paper and sketch an outline of the size of the base you want to create.  Transfer this drawing to foamcore and cut the foamcore to size.  Cut a second piece of foamcore in the same size and shape.  Glue scraps of foamcore to one of the base pieces, then glue the second piece on top.  Add a few scraps of foamcore to the top piece to give some dimension to the landscape.  Cut strips of paper to the same height as your base and glue these around the edges.

--  Roll paperclay into thin sheets (1/16" to 1/8" should be sufficient).  Apply a very thin layer of white glue to the foamcore base, allow it to become tacky, then apply paperclay.  For the edges, it may be helpful for you to trim the paperclay to the same width as the paper strips you applied earlier, and attach the clay to the edges prior to covering the top and bottom of the base.  Smooth and shape clay over the foamcore as desired.  Press dried pumpkin into position on the wet clay, leave it in place and set the entire piece aside to dry.
--  When base is dry, test to see if the pumpkin is secure.  If it is not, use glue and water to wet the base and bottom of pumpkin where they should be attached to each other.  Allow this to soak in for a few seconds.  Take enough paperclay to make a "pad" between the pumpkin and base, apply that between the two pieces, then firmly press the two pieces together again.  This will squeeze out most of the clay, but fill in the gaps between the pumpkin and base.  Press and smooth the fresh clay around the seam.
Allow to dry.

The Usual WARNING stuck in where you least expect it!
PLEASE use a DUST MASK when sawing or sanding paperclay!!

When all is dry, remove newspaper from inside the pumpkin (cut into it with your craft knife and tear out pieces).  Trim around
the opening with either the saw or craft knife and some sandpaper.

Now we're ready to make the floors -

--  Make a marking gauge:  Attach a pencil to a block of wood, large can, or any object that is heavy and flat enough on the bottom to allow the pencil to remain in a fixed position.  You can use a clamp, tape, rubber bands, or whatever else you think will work, but you want to make sure the pencil is not going to move around when you push something against it.
It also needs to stick out far enough to reach past any extended areas of the base and stay in contact with the pumpkin, so use a pencil extender if necessary.
--  With your fancy new marking gauge and your pumpkin/base placed on the same level surface, set your pencil to the height you want the first floor of your pumpkin house to be.  You can hold on to the marking gauge to keep it steady, just make sure that you aren't tilting it.  Place the pumpkin against the pencil and turn it all the way around, marking a straight, level  line around the pumpkin.

--  Drill small holes along this line, spaced about every inch or so.  Try to keep the drill bit as level with the bottom of the base as possible.
--  Using the holes as markers, use a pencil to "connect the dots" inside the pumpkin, marking the location for the floor piece.
This line is where the top of the first floor will rest.
--  Measure up from this line to the height of the bottom of the second floor.  When measuring inside a container such as this, it is helpful to transfer your measurement to a piece of scrap wood or card stock that will fit inside the container, then use that as a guide.
--  Drill a small hole anywhere along this line, from the inside of the pumpkin to the outside.  Adjust your marking gauge to this height and draw a line along the outside of the pumpkin to mark where the second floor will be placed.

--  Saw the pumpkin apart at the line you just created.
--  Place one of the sections on a sheet of paper and draw around it to create a pattern for the second floor.

--  Fill the bottom of the pumpkin with rice, beans, or sand - anything that you will be able to level off, but that will provide enough support for the next step.  With base set on a level surface, gently shake it back and forth, add or remove material as necessary, until filling has leveled to the inside line you marked for the first floor.
--  Cut a piece of scrap paper or card stock somewhat smaller than, but roughly to the shape of the bottom floor. Cut several strips of scrap paper as well.
--  Place the larger piece of paper in the center of the fill material.  You're creating a contour gauge for the floor pattern - put paper strips on the center piece of paper and slide them outward until they touch the inside wall, then tape in place. The more strips you use, and the thinner they are cut, the more accurate your floor pattern will be.

--  Remove your contour gauge, place it on a sheet of paper and trace around it to create the bottom floor pattern.
--  Transfer this pattern to a sheet of dry paperclay, then saw the paperclay to shape.
--  Now you'll want to test it to see if it fits.....but of course it won't.  The pattern you made was for the top of the floor, and since the paperclay is thicker than the paper gauge, you need to modify it for the inside slant of the pumpkin.  Do this by using a rasp or file and slanting the edges inward at an angle slightly sharper than the angle of the inside slope.
At this point, you're probably thinking "I have no idea what the angle is!".  That's ok, just slant the edges inward.
One of the great things about paperclay is that this step isn't very critical, since you will be filling any gaps with fresh clay.

--  When you've finished filing the edges of the first floor piece, dump filler material out of the pumpkin and test the fit of the floor.  File and adjust as necessary until the floor fits into place.  It's ok if it is a tiny bit smaller, as long as the top of it will line up with the inside floor line you created.

Install the floor as follows:
--  Wet around the inside line and out about 1/4" on either side with water and white glue.
--  Wet all around the edge of your floor with water and set aside while you do the next step.
--  Roll fresh paperclay into a long rod and push into place along the bottom of the line, press it slightly to flatten it a bit and assure that it is adhering to the pumpkin.  The top of the clay should be just slightly above the line at this point.
--  Re-wet the edge of your floor, then brush a thin layer of white glue around the edge and allow to soak in for a few seconds.  You want the edge to be somewhat sticky, not slick with glue.
--  Press floor into place, squeezing it onto the fresh clay.  Press around the edges until floor is level and secure, smooth seam with wet fingertip, then set aside and allow to dry.  When all is dry, fix any gaps between the floor and wall in the manner described for repairing cracks.

If your floor is higher than the opening you cut in the front of the pumpkin, you can fill the gap with paperclay.

While you're waiting for the first floor to dry, you can create the stem piece for the pumpkin -
--  Cover top section with foil and tape in place.  Smooth over top section so you can tell where you want to place the stem.
--  Lightly twist together three or four pieces of florist's wire.  Hold the wires at the top of your pumpkin, where you want the stem to start, and bend into the shape you'd like your stem to be.  Trim wire to length as necessary.
--  Cover the wire piece with glue and wrap a few strips of paper around it to hold the wires together and build up the armature a bit.  Allow to dry.
--  Place a lump of paperclay into position at the top of your pumpkin, brush a thin layer of white glue over your wire stem armature and stick it into the clay.  Draw the clay up onto the armature, then use small bits of clay to cover the armature completely.  Smooth and shape the clay as you go, and sculpt the base of the clay outward onto the pumpkin a bit.  Use a sculpting tool to create growth lines along the stem.  Allow to dry in place.
--  When stem is dry, brush along it with a wire brush, in the direction it would have grown out of the pumpkin.

Make the Stairs
follow the link above for directions on how to create stairs!
Remember to add the width of the second floor piece (your dry sheet of paperclay) to your initial stairway measurement!

When your stairway is finished, put it in place on the first floor of your pumpkin house and mark the edge of your pumpkin where the stairs meet the sides at the top.  Make your mark extend to the sides of the pumpkin. Cut the second floor from a dry sheet of paperclay, using the pattern you created earlier.  Place this on the bottom portion of your pumpkin house and mark the sheet of clay at the same point as you marked for your stairs.   From that mark on the edge, measure inwards towards the center of your floor and mark the thickness of the paperclay edge of the bottom portion of your pumpkin and mark that distance.  Add to that the width of your stairway and make another mark there.  Using those measurements as a guide, sketch the opening for the top of the stairs to go through (and for the people to walk up the stairs).  Drill a hole in one corner of this area, then use your keyhole or jeweler's saw to cut out the opening.

Sand the inside of both pumpkin pieces & your floor piece. (Dust Mask Reminder!)
Dry fit the pieces together, check the fit of the stairs, and make adjustments as necessary. 
Wet all around the edge of
top and bottom pumpkin pieces, and about 1/4" along the edge on both sides of your floor piece.
Brush a thin layer of white glue along the edge of the bottom pumpkin section.  Roll fresh paperclay into a long rod and place it along this edge, pressing it slightly to flatten it somewhat and assure that is is adhered to the edge.  Re-wet the bottom edges of your floor if necessary, then press firmly into place on the bottom section of your pumpkin.
Add a roll of clay to the top part of the pumpkin edge, as you did for the bottom, and press into place.
Use a sculpting tool or wood scrap to remove excess clay from seams, then smooth seams with your fingertip or a brush dipped in water.  Allow entire piece to dry.

When all is dry, sand the outside smooth.  Sketch the openings where you'd like to have a door and windows (use your marking gauge is you want them lined up) then cut out the openings with keyhole saw, and sand the edges as necessary.

Paint as desired, but if you have a separate stem piece, leave the area where the stem will attach to the pumpkin unpainted.  Paint the stem, then adhere to the top of the pumpkin with glue & fresh paperclay.

Return to How To Page