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Pumpkin Carving - A How-To Guide

Updated on September 30, 2012
Learning how to carve a spooky jack-o-lantern can add fun and atmosphere to your Halloween.
Learning how to carve a spooky jack-o-lantern can add fun and atmosphere to your Halloween. | Source

Carving a pumpkin is an easy and fun activity around Halloween. Done on a Saturday, it makes for great family time. Carve the pumpkin, toast pumpkin seeds, and enjoy the afternoon or evening. But if you're carving with the kids, exercise caution and good judgement. Younger children should not handle the knife and older children should carve only while supervised, if then.


  1. Well, ya gotta get into the pumpkin, right? Cut the lid. The cut should be about 2\3 the diameter of the pumpkin. Angle the knife at a 45 degree angle towards the middle. This will ensure that the lid remains in place on your jack-o-lantern.
  2. Scoop out the pumpkin guts...errr, seeds and such. Yes, you'll have to reach in there and get your hands dirty. It's really not so bad. Save this mess. You can toast the seeds while you carve for a tasty treat after.
  3. Scrape. If you're using a pumpkin carving kit (which I highly recommend), it'll come with a scraper. If not, use a large spoon or ice cream scoop. The idea here is to scrape the inside walls of the pumpkin until they're about an inch thick. Anything thicker will make carving difficult. Get the walls too thin and they'll shrivel more quickly. Plus, the small intricate carvings will be difficult as the wall won't be firm enough to withstand the knife or saw actions. Now wash the pumpkin thoroughly.
  4. Draw your design. You have a couple of different options here. A) You can freehand your design. As I'm not artistically inclined, I don't do this. If you're going to freehand it, use a grease pencil or dry erase marker, both of which can easily be erased if you make a mistake in drawing. B) Use a template. This is the option I prefer. It takes the guess work out of what to draw and there are literally thoudands of templates available online. Tape the template to the side you'll be carving. Using either a small paring knife or the poker tool included with the kit, score the design into the pumpkin. Remove the template.
  5. Carve the design. Use your knife or kit-included saws to carve the design. It's easy - just follow the score marks or drawn lines. Push cut pieces, like eyes and nose out from the inside. Depending on your design, this step can take quite a bit of time and patience. More intricate designs require a slower and more precise hand so that small details aren't lost.
  6. Remember those pumpkin seeds? Hopefully you washed, seasoned, and toasted them. Enjoy a handful now.
  7. Soak your pumpkin in a water and bleach bath up to overnight. Use 1 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. This step hydrates the pumpkin which keeps it firm and kills off any germs which could cause it to mold prematurely. Now coat all the cut edges with petroleum jelly to help seal in the moisture and prevent the edges from shriveling.
  8. Light your pumpkin using a battery-powered candle or a good quality votive in a clear glass holder.
Carving pumpkins is a fun family activity that gets everyone into the Halloween spirit and adds a personal touch to your outdoor Halloween decorations.
Carving pumpkins is a fun family activity that gets everyone into the Halloween spirit and adds a personal touch to your outdoor Halloween decorations. | Source

Congratulations! You've carved a beautiful/scary/funny pumpkin. Enjoy it and Halloween!


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