Pumpkin Carving Injuries (and how to avoid them)
From Smithsonian.com 26/10/12:
In 2004, a team from [New York] decided to investigate the potential risks of pumpkin carving, comparing the threats posed by conventional kitchen knives with those of other tools specifically intended for pumpkins.
“Even with optimal treatment, injuries from pumpkin carving accidents may leave people with compromised hand function,” they wrote. Common pumpkin-carving injuries come in a number of forms: hand punctures, resulting from instances where a knife is accidentally pushed through the pumpkin and contacts the opposite hand stabilizing it; and lacerations, caused by the cutting hand slipping off the knife handle and sliding across the blade.
Because of these risks, many companies market pumpkin-specific carving tools, claiming that they’re safer than sharp knives.
In order to find such evidence, they compared various carving instruments—a serrated kitchen knife, a plain knife and two brands of pumpkin-specific tools — by placing each one in the grip of a hydraulic press and carefully measuring exactly how much force needed to be applied to pierce into a pumpkin and to lacerate a human hand.
Ooh – I’m getting queasy here.
Since live volunteers for such an experiment might not be all that plentiful, they used six cadaver hands, harvested at the elbow.
In the first stage of the study, when the implements were tested on a pumpkin, each one was pushed into the squash’s flesh at the rate of 3 mm per second. The pumpkin-specific instruments performed as advertised, cutting into the pumpkins more easily than the kitchen knives. Theoretically, if less force is needed to actually carve the pumpkin, the risk of pushing too hard and accidentally cutting yourself should be lower.
Ah – the old “a sharp tool is always safer” theory. There’s a lot to be said for it.
In the second phase, each of the cutting tools was tested on the cadaver hands in two different ways: the researchers measured how much force was needed to lacerate the finger and to puncture the palm. In this case, the kitchen knives cut more easily into the hands, requiring less force and causing “more skin lacerations that would require suturing than either pumpkin knife.” When it comes to hands, the knives were more dangerous.
Sorry – I just fainted at my desk. I used to be fine with blood and things but in the last few years, I go weak at the knees and collapse at the mere mention of it.
The researchers’ conclusions? “Tools designed specifically for pumpkin carving may indeed be safer.
Personally, I just prefer to use chainmail gloves. That way, you can throw caution to the wind and hack it about like Michael Myers might carve a pumpkin when he’s in a rush.*
Or, as I read in a craft activity book as a kid, where there’s any cutting with a knife to be done, locate an adult to do it for you. That way, if anyone’s going to cut themselves, it won’t be you.
Sage advice if you ask me.
*Not to be tried at home.