It’s that time again! The orange glow of jack-o-lanterns is appearing on front porches everywhere. Since you are reading this article you are probably not a veteran pumpkin carver. On the other hand you may be looking for some new, easier ways to do what has been difficult in past seasons. Either way, to carve a really nice jack-o-lantern, it is crucial to have the right tools and the right directions.
First, these are the basic tools you need.
- A sharp, thin, flexible, and serrated knife to make a hole in the pumpkin to clean out the pulp and seeds. A keyhole saw is ideal.
- Box cutter or X-acto knife for carving the features.
- Large spoon for scooping out the pulp.
There are some additional tools that, while not required, may make the process easier and cause your pumpkin to turn out better.
- Plaster scraper
- Linoleum cutter
- Long nail, center punch, or small knitting needle
Okay, now let’s look at the pumpkin carving process itself.
1. Select your pumpkin.
In the selection step keep this in mind: Pumpkins do not have to be perfectly round. Funky shapes can make for fun designs. Let the shape of the pumpkin suggest different designs.
2. Cut a hole in the pumpkin so you can clean out the pulp and seeds.
But what kind of hole and where?
- If you plan to use an electric light, cut a hole in the back or bottom. Depending on the wattage and heat radiated by the selected bulb you may not need to cut a hole in the top.
- If you plan on using a candle do cut off the top. Cut the top hole with a serrated knife, slanting the knife slightly inward so the bottom of the “plug” will be narrower than the top so it won’t fall into the pumpkin.
3. Scoop out pulp and seeds.
Start scooping with a big spoon. You might want to save the seeds for roasting and eating if you like. If the scraping of the flesh gets tiresome use the plaster scraper if you have one. Scrape until the walls are of a uniform thickness but be sure not to make them so thin that you compromise the strength of the walls.
4. Choose a design.
As mentioned in step 1, differently-shaped pumpkins can suggest their own designs. You can draw free-hand, choose a template, or just start carving. If you’re using a template, transfer the design to the pumpkin by poking small holes with a nail or knitting needle along the edges of the design.
5. Carve the design with an X-acto knife or linoleum cutter.
A linoleum cutter is very good for details or partial carving, where you don’t go all the way through the pumpkin wall. Use a toothpick to stick broken pieces back into place.
6. If you can’t get the candle to stay lit, cut more vents or holes.
In addition to pumpkin carving, you might have fun painting pumpkins. This is a safe fun activity for the kids that involves no sharp tools or cutting and can be learned by anyone at any age. Take a look at Easy Pumpkin Painting!
Here are more great resources for pumpkin carving and pumpkin carving parties.
A Child-Friendly Way to Carve a Pumpkin
If you have small children who want the fun of making their own Jack-o-lanterns, but you’re concerned about them using sharp knives, Allen Smith has a method that will let them get into the spirit of the holiday without the danger.
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