Maybe you have had your seasonal pumpkins for several weeks or perhaps you just bought them. You may have seen lots of pictures of amazingly intricate or extreme pumpkin designs in the last month, and have probably got some ideas of what you want to do with yours.
Well, the witching hour is finally here—time to carve your jack-o-lanterns so they will look great for Halloween festivities. Here are some tips on how to carve a pumpkin to help you get the look you want:
- Decide if you are going with a traditional jack-o-lantern face, a more complex design using a stencil or an extreme design requiring more equipment and supplies. You can find many free stencils and directions for designs, easy to complicated, online.
- If children will be helping with the carving, be sure to select a design they can do safely with your supervision.
- Once you have decided, you will know what supplies you need to gather. Don’t forget to have first-aid supplies on hand.
Prepare your pumpkin:
- Check for bruises, cracks, holes or soft spots—these will lead to premature rotting.
- Do not lift by the stem; if the stem breaks off, it can cause faster decay.
- Wash well with soap and water and dry.
Gather your supplies:
- Paper/vinyl stencil, tape (optional)
- Grease pencil or dry-erase marker to draw on pumpkin
- Serrated knife or small saw for cutting a hole in pumpkin
- Large metal spoon or ice cream scoop for cleaning out insides
- Small paring or steak knife for carving designs
- Craft utility knife for detail work
- Specialty items like metal cookie cutters to cut shapes, wood chisels to thin pumpkin sides, large rug needles to transfer template designs and/or poke holes to add accessories
- Props like gourds for noses or ears, hats, jewelry or scarves, paint to enhance designs
- Lighting like-battery-operated tea-lights or pillar candles; string of Christmas lights if displayed near an outlet; (battery-operated ones are available), votive or pillar candles in glass holder or on dish
- Petroleum jelly to help preserve pumpkin
- Old towel or paper towels/newspapers for clean-up
Carve your pumpkins:
- Place an old towel around the base of the pumpkin to hold it in place and to aid in clean-up.
- Cut off a portion of the pumpkin’s bottom with a serrated knife or saw to make sure it will stand up straight, if necessary.
- Cut a six-sided hole in the base of the pumpkin just big enough to reach into. If you prefer to cut a hole in the top, cut on the slant so the top won’t fall in as the pumpkin shrinks.
- Scoop out seeds and strings. Wash off seeds to save if you want to roast them later.
- Scrape inside walls clean.
- Rub a light coat of petroleum jelly onto the interior flesh to keep it from drying out.
- Tape your stencil onto the pumpkin and poke holes through the paper into the exterior skin. Use a grease pencil/dry-erase marker to draw on a design as another option.
- Cut out the design features, starting with the most delicate parts, using a small knife.
- Reattach pieces accidentally cut off with toothpicks.
- Rub a coat of petroleum jelly onto the interior parts of the new openings.
- Cut a small hole in the top of the pumpkin, like a chimney, allowing the heat to escape, if lighting a pumpkin with a candle.
- Keep your pumpkin away from extreme heat or cold.
Halloween just wouldn’t seem as special without grinning, glowing pumpkins brightening the evening’s celebrations. Illuminate your special creation, and take lots of pictures!