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Carving Pumpkins for Halloween

Updated on November 5, 2012

How to Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween

When I was kid we carved pumpkins with a kitchen knife, no special carving tools and no stencils. I always enjoyed Halloween and I always enjoyed carving pumpkins and putting different faces onto the pumpkins. When I started working I didn't have time to carve pumpkins and forgot how much fun it was.

At one of the companies I worked for they had a pumpking carving contest. They brought in the pumpkins and we could take them home to carve them. It was a lot of fun carving the pumpkin, except for cleaning out the inside, I never did like that part :-) When I took my prized pumpkin into work I was suprised by all of the elobrate designs and carved pumpkins.

Needless to say I didn't win the competition, but I was intrigued by how so many people could design these awesome pumpkins. That is when I started doing some research for next year and found out about pumpkin carving stencils and special tools for carving pumpkins. Next year was going to be a different story in the carving competition.

Pumpkin patch - photo credit Kam's World
Pumpkin patch - photo credit Kam's World

What is the Best Pumpkin to Pick for Carving?

You want to make sure you get the perfect pumpkin for carving. Not any old pumpkin will do for your art work this year. You can purchase them at a grocery store, but it is a lot more fun if you pick them at a your local pumpkin patch.

This is especially a lot of fun if you have kids of any age. Make sure you take your camera to get a few photos that you will enjoy and cherish for years to come.

Here's a few tips to make sure you get the perfect pumpkin this year:

  • Make sure it is big enough for your stencils - over the years I've found that bigger is better.
  • Pick a pumpkin that is ripe and completely orange and the stem looks healthy and still attached - similar to picking vegetables at teh market.
  • Make sure it is fresh and in good shape - you don't want any soft spots or blemishes on your pumpkin.
  • Get an extra back up pumpkin - just in case something happens to your first one.
  • If you are picking them in a patch, make sure you wear appropriate foot wear because the garden may be muddy and soggy this time of year.

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Marking the outline of the face, as per step 7 below
Marking the outline of the face, as per step 7 below

How to Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween

I recommend that you get a pumpkin carving kit. This will provide all of the necessary tools to make it fun and easy and it may also include free stencils.

The kit I purchased came with a CD with 25 patterns for carving pumpkins and I can print out the ones I like. The picture to the right is one of the stencils that came with my kit. This is a classic pattern for carving a pumpkin.

Here are the steps that I follow to carve a pumpkin:

  1. If there is a long stem cut it off so you have about 2 to 5 inches. The stem gives you a handle to take off the lid.
  2. Clean the pumpkin of any dirt or bugs that might be on it. You can use a garden hose and dry it or do it in your kitchen sink.
  3. Put down newspaper on your table. This will protect your table and make for an easy clean up once you are done.
  4. Cut the top to make a lid. You can do a round cut, but I like to make a jagged cut to make it look a little spooky.
  5. Clean out the inside of the pumpkin with a metal spoon. Scrape the sides so you get rid of all of the wet stringy bits.
  6. Tape the pattern to the outside of your pumpkin. You may have to cut the stencil so that it will fit and follow the round shape of the pumpkin.
  7. Using the pointed tool poke holes in the lines of the pattern about every quarter of an inch. This will be the guidelines to cut out the pattern.
  8. Remove the stencil from the pumpkin, but don't throw it out. You will want to reference it as you carve it.
  9. Start carving with a knife or one of the saw like tools if you have a kit. You just want to go from point to point and make sure that you follow the pattern. Make sure the saw or knife is going all the way through the skin and fleshy inside of the pumpkin.
  10. Remove the sections as you carve them out. Be careful if you have an intricate design, you don't want to damage it.

Stencils for Carving Pumpkins

As I mentioned it is really helpful to use stencils to get a great design for your pumpkin. I've included a few below that you can order from Amazon.

Pumpking Carving Video from YouTube

How to carve a pumpkin using a marker to outline the shape and two knives to carve the pumpkin.

Special Tools for Carving Pumpkins

Another thing that will make pumpkin carving easier and make you look like a pro are pumpking carving tools. Here's some awesome tools from Amazon.

Do you like carving pumpkins?

Any special tips or ideas for carving or decorating pumpkins?

Please add your comments and feedback

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Love your easy instructions.

    • deckdesign profile image

      deckdesign 5 years ago

      @JerseyJames: Thanks, I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed my lens.

    • profile image

      JerseyJames 5 years ago

      Great lens! Looking forward to carving my pumpkin this year!