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How To Carve A Great Pumpkin

Updated on September 18, 2014

The Origin Of Carving Pumpkins

The origin of the term jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to Irish folklore. According to legend, an Irishman named Jack was doomed to wander in darkness with a lantern made from a hollowed-out turnip until Judgment Day.

Jack of the lantern, or jack-o'-lantern, became the symbol of a damned soul. Many people believed that spirits and ghosts left their graves on All Hallows' Eve to seek out warmth in their former homes. Villagers, fearful of being visited by the ghosts, would dress up in costumes to scare the spirits away.

People also began to carve or paint faces on hollowed-out turnips. They placed lighted candles inside, hoping the image of a damned soul would scare away the spirits.

Irish immigrants brought their traditions of Halloween and jack-o'-lanterns with them to America, but turnips were not as readily available. ThePumpkin was a more than adequate replacement, and an American icon was born.

pumpkin carving
pumpkin carving

Selection Of The Pumpkin For Carving

Choosing the perfect pumpkin will depend on the design you wish to carve, but there are several things to look for. Make sure the pumpkin is firm, with no rot, mold, or bruises.

If you have your heart set on a particular pumpkin but there is a scratch or imperfection, position the design so you can cut away the damaged part. At least on side should be as smooth as possible to ease the transfer of a pattern from paper to pumpkin.

Preparation Of The Pumpkin For Carving

Wash the pumpkin in soap and water to remove any soil, this will also make the pumpkin easier to work with. Decide whether you want to cut a lid in the top or a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin. When cutting a lid, don't cut a circle; it will be difficult to line up the lid when you want to replace it. Instead, cut a pentagon or hexagon.

Use a saw or knife with a serrated blade, and cut at an angle so the lid does not fall into the pumpkin. This is difficult and dangerous for children, so an adult should always complete this step. Cutting a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin is a great way to straighten a crooked pumpkin. Set the pumpkin on top of an empty coffee can or cooking pot.

Position the pumpkin so it sits the way you want it to, then use a pen to trace the top of the can or pot on the bottom of the pumpkin. Cut along the line with your saw or knife, and discard the bottom.It is time to dig in and get messy. Reach in and comb through the strings with your fingers, removing just the seeds. Set the seed aside for roasting later.

When you have removed all the seeds, scrape the bottom and sides of the pumpkin with a large spoon or pumpkin scraper. After you clean out the pumpkin, continue to scrape the inside front of your pumpkin until the wall is 1 inch thick or less.

Carve A Great Pumpkin
Carve A Great Pumpkin

Carving Your Pumpkin:

Never let a child use a knife to carve a pumpkin. Pumpkin carving tools, which are inexpensive and available at most discount stores, are great for kids. If you will be doing the carving and want to use a knife, good choices include a paring knife and a fish boning knife. Make sure the knives are sharp; this will give you more control and make cutting much easier.

To begin, hold the carving tool in your hand as you would a pencil. Press the tip of the tool straight into the pumpkin at one of the pattern's lines. Plunge the tool up and down in a sewing machine motion. The key is to be careful and take your time.Work on the design one section at a time. To turn sharp corners, do not try to twist the blade. Instead, pull out the tool and reinsert it from the other direction. When you have finished a section, leave it in place until you have carved the entire design.

Carve sections in the center of the design first, working your way out. This will give the pumpkin more strength as you work. When you are done carving, push the pieces out from the inside. Cut large or complicated pieces into smaller pieces so they are easier to remove.A pumpkin is a fruit and must be treated as such. If you take care of your carved pumpkin, you can increase its life span. To keep cut edges from drying out, rub petroleum jelly on them hour after carving.

When using a candle, cut a small hole in the top of the pumpkin to act as a chimney to vent the heat.When not displaying your pumpkin, place it in a plastic garbage bag and store it in the refrigerator. To bring a shriveled pumpkin back to life, rehydrate it by soaking it in a tub of cold water overnight.

Carve A Great Pumpkin
Carve A Great Pumpkin

Patterns For Your Pumpkin:

The design you carve into your pumpkin can be as simple or as fancy as you like, but it will be easier if you work out the design on paper first.To transfer your design onto the pumpkin, trim excess paper from the pattern.

Be sure the pumpkin is dry, then position and fasten the pattern to the pumpkin with masking tape. Use a pushpin, nail, or ballpoint pen to trace the outline of the pattern by poking a series of small holes through the paper onto the skin of the pumpkin. The closer you place the holes to one another, the finer the detail you can achieve.

When you have finished poking all the holes, remove the paper and set it aside for reference. To better see the design, rub flour into the holes. If you are still having trouble visualizing the design, use a pen or marker to connect the dots.

Pumpkin Carving Patterns


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