How great is a pumpkin?
October 15, 2013 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I need to order a container today that has to be big enough to hold 95% of jack-o-lantern type pumpkins. I'm in an office and I have no access to actual pumpkins to verify their typical size. Help?

The container I'm looking at is an open cube that is 14.5" wide, high and long.

The height of the pumpkin is not a concern, if it exceeds 14.5" that's OK, it will pop out the top.

I just need to know whether some significant number of pumpkins will be too wide to fit in that cube. Again, 95% (fake precision, I really mean "just about all") need to fit.

Any pumpkin experts here? Is there something like an ISO spec for pumpkins meant for carving?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My only experience with pumpkin sizing is that I bought several of them this weekend. With that in mind, 14.5" seems a tadbit too small for the "just about all" criterion. I'd go 18" just to be safe.
posted by Etrigan at 6:27 AM on October 15, 2013

How many pumpkins, how many boxes? Could you not simply source a couple of copy paper boxes for a couple of pumpkins? Who is carving them, and why is a box to transport them afterwards a requirement? Could you be better served by a bag?

I'd agree that 18 inches (based on what we have hanging around the office) is a good starting point. The ones I saw on display at Whole Paycheck were closer to 20".
posted by tilde at 6:31 AM on October 15, 2013

Many medium-size jack-o-lanterns will fit in that box. Many large ones will not.

A 24-inch box will hold most large jack-o-lanterns.

A 36-inch box will hold all but the largest Really Big jack-o-lanterns.

But if you visit 100 houses, how many are going to have Really Big jack-o-lanterns? Quite possibly more than 5! I guess it depends on the neighborhood?
posted by ryanrs at 6:32 AM on October 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks. tilde, I'm designing a container to hold a jack-o-lantern pumpkin so it can be hoisted via pulley to the top of a giant firetruck ladder, and then released by tugging a string that opens a trapdoor in the bottom of the container, dropping it to explode on the concrete far, far below. This is for a town celebration shortly after Halloween.

I was looking at basing this on those wire storage cubes that you buy for dorms, but maybe I should be modding a small dog crate instead, those seem to give you 18" on the short dimension.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your intended use might bias your pumpkin population towards the large end of the scale.
posted by ryanrs at 6:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

That sounds almost as awesome as the pumpkin-chunking some towns do.

I would say go bigger and a little deeper (so the pumpkin doesn't roll out the top) and if you haven't already, designate someone to get up on the ladder and poke the box with a stick if the trapdoor doesn't work or the pumpkin otherwise won't drop.

If the trapdoors were designed to slope down a bit when closed, they might also keep the pumpkin more secure/ready to drop when the rope was pulled.
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 AM on October 15, 2013


Honestly, I'd say get a heavy-duty party tub. Rig it so you can tug and flip it out. This one is only 16 inches in diameter, but I've seen bigger. Do get the ones with rope handles and not integrated handles (those are flimsier and prone to breakage!)

If you are fabricating something, then, I'd go with telling the fabricator to go for a box that is probably 18 x 18 or maybe 20 x 20 to be on the safe side and you should be okay. I thought we had rather large pumpkins around here (large for me, medium for most other people) and ours are only 12-14 inches in DIAMETER. The numbers I was giving was thinking circumference (and or I'm really really bad at sizing).
posted by tilde at 7:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about a milk crate? I'd think an average pumpkin would fit, they're sturdy, and they're made with holes so fastening to it would be easy and not compromise the integrity of the container.
posted by Kriesa at 7:49 AM on October 15, 2013

Having just bought a teeny, small, large, and gigantic pumpkin yesterday I'd vote for bigger diameter as well - many pumpkins have a larger diameter than height, for example.

Also, I know you're not here looking for design help but many people do this with a sling instead of a box for exactly this reason - a large sling is easy to fabricate, easy to drop (just release one handle), and because it's not hard sided it conforms to eclectic pumpkin populations.
posted by range at 8:07 AM on October 15, 2013

Yeah, if we're going with bag solutions (instead of fabricating a sling) I'd get a blue one ...
posted by tilde at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2013

how about a 3 cornered sling with: two sides to hold and the third to either keep it in place or to dump the pumpkin out. Now it varies its size by the size of the pumpkin.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:07 AM on October 15, 2013

Response by poster: Please don't consider design comments a derail. It's all up for grabs. Nanukthedog, how would you fasten that third corner for the ride up, and then how do you pull it away with a string when it's 150 feet up in the air? With a more rigid container like a wire frame box, you can have a latch/slide dealie that could be pretty solid closed, while at the same time not jerk the container too much when released. That last part is important because the pumpkins got a lot of distance to fall, and needs to fall straight down as much as possible. We'll lay down a big tarp for the drop zone, and keep folks off it, but we can't have someone tuggiing the release and causing the container to sway while the payload is being released.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2013

Best answer: For the sling I would try having the releasing side held up by a rope looped through a steel ring, with a pin (probably wood dowel, for safety) acting as cotter pin. Pull pin, loop falls through ring, side falls. Using the ring means at least one bearing surface is wood on polished steel (low friction, more or less incompressible) instead of wood on rope. Steel on steel would be better but then you'd be worrying about a steel pin falling, unless you also build a little tether line for the pin into the design. You can choose different rope strategies to decrease the force on the pin in case it's too hard to pull. At 150' up, pulling in almost any direction is going to be practically straight down, isn't it? Also, a three sided sling will probably create some kind of ramp when you drop only one corner; I was imagining more like a hammock.
posted by range at 6:06 PM on October 15, 2013

Response by poster: I wanted to post how this went.

In order to keep the weight down I wound up constructing a bottomless, topless cage about the size of a lobster trap, out of four sections of wire shelving you buy at Home Depot, using ziptie fasteners. For the bottom (trapdoor) I did use a panel of 3/4 inch wood, sawn in half. The wood added weight but it gave me more options as far as constructing and attaching a quick release latch on the bottom, and just providing a stiffer platform to hold closed the trapdoors against the weight of a large pumpkin while it rises into the sky.

I couldn't ever come up with an actual latch design that would both hold the trapdoor shut, but also release easily with a tug from a string down on the ground. What I wound up doing was this:

I drilled two large holes with a spade bit, like 3/4" holes, in the trapdoor panels, right next to each other in the middle, one on either side of where the panels meet. Picture where you would put knobs on a cabinet.

Then I took a piece of Romex about a foot long, tied a 100' length of twine to the middle of it, and inserted each end into one of those holes from the bottom, so they were sticking up on the inside of the cage. Take those two ends and fold them down across the gap. Press them down TIGHT, and make sure where they go in and come out of the holes you drilled is as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. The romex should be flat against the wood both on the bottom the panels and inside the cage.

Sit the pumpkin on those folded over romex ends. That was enough to keep the trapdoor closed while it got hoisted up to the top of the fire ladder via the pulley attached on the top rung. Then you give the twine a good jerk, step back, the romex pops out and falls away, the trapdoor opens, and the pumpkin falls 100 feet straight down and explodes on the ground. We did this to one pumpkin after another for almost an hour and it worked every time. Success! Thanks for your ideas.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

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