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5 Tips for Carving the Perfect Pumpkin

It’s that time of the year. The leaves are changing colors. Birds are preparing to fly south for the winter and an extremely difficult Halloween decision needs to be made.  Is it what type and size of candy to hand out to kids?  No.  Is it which costume my kids and/or I should wear?  No.  The biggest question is…what design should be carved on my pumpkin?! 

This is a very important decision.  In my family, I get to prepare and carve five pumpkins.  However, this year I will only need to carve three of them because the kids should be old enough to carve their own this year.  Fortunately, my kids and wife only require basic carving skills to complete their designs.  I, on the other hand, like for my pumpkins to be a bit more advanced.  Regardless of how advanced the design you want on your pumpkin, there are several basic steps that need to be followed to create a Gourd-geous work of art.

1. Have a plan:

I usually plan to carve our pumpkins the night before Trick or Treating.  If Trick or Treating is on a weekend, I would generally wait until the morning of. Not only does this add to the excitement of the holiday, but if you carve your pumpkin too early, it may rot before Trick or Treat night.

 It’s also important to have Make sure you have all the tools for the job. My go to pieces for Pumpkin Artistry are:

  1. Serrated saw/knife
  2. Scraper
  3. Poker (typically a sharpened plastic or metal piece that allows you to create a series of “connect the dots” which you can use to map out your design)
  4. Magic Marker
  5. Toothpicks

The first three items can be bought in a kit at a Halloween store or big box retailer. Personally, I find a metal scoop works much better than the small plastic versions that typically come with pumpkin carving kits.

  

  2. Prepare the pumpkin:

This is typically everyone’s least favorite part of carving the pumpkin but taking the time to properly prep before carving makes all the difference in the final product.

  1. Cut a hole in the top.  I usually include a notch (at a minimum) to easily align and place the lid back on the pumpkin.  This needs to be large enough for your hand to fit inside the pumpkin.
  2. Clean the string and seeds off the lid and inside the pumpkin.  Instead of throwing the seeds out, look for recipes online to cook the pumpkin seeds, they are delicious!
  3. Scrape the inner walls to reduce the thickness.  If using a metal scoop, it has jagged edges, so be careful.  I don’t actively measure the thickness, but I would say on average I try to get the wall to about a half an inch thick.  If you scrape the walls too thin, the pumpkin will rot faster than you might want it to.
  4. Wipe off the pumpkin and ensure it is dry.

 

3. Design and carve your pumpkin:

It’s all about creating a plan of attack. Whether you are freelancing, or working on an intricate design, taking time to form a plan of what you’re intended design will be is vital to the process.

  1. Determine your design and obtain a copy of the template (as applicable).
  2. Stencil or poke the design onto your pumpkin.
  3. Remind yourself which part of the design you want to remove (where the light will shine through) versus which part should stay attached to the pumpkin.
  4. Use your saw/knife to follow your markings and carefully remove cut pumpkin pieces.
  5. More advanced carvers may use sharper knives or power tools to carve, shave, or shape a pumpkin.  I would not recommend this for children.  Always use caution and wear personal protective equipment that are appropriate for the tool you are using.

 

  1. Recover from a mistake:

Mistakes are bound to happen.  Do not be afraid of them.

  1. When you make a mistake, use a toothpick to cover up the mistake and reattach parts of the pumpkin that you didn’t mean to remove.

 

The most important thing is to have fun. The mess, the mistakes, they are all part of the experience. If you focus on the fun (and safety) you’ll create fun Halloween memories for years to come.