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Learn how to carve a pumpkin like a pro with these tips
You won’t believe how cool this “how to carve a pumpkin” tutorial is.
After years of painting pumpkins, and carving them from pumpkin carving patterns, carving an authentic jack-o-lantern can kind of feel trite. Learning how to carve a pumpkin is a rite of passage. And sure, a pumpkin carving party with the family, complete with fun themes, is a great way to start getting excited about Halloween, but how many years have you been hosting those? If you’re ready to push your pumpkin carving skills to the max, try carving a pumpkin with your power tools. Yes, you heard us right, your power tools.
Thanks to Mr. Handyman, you can ditch the dollar store carving kit and make a fun pumpkin:
- Cut Off the Top: Using a jigsaw blade is just like using a kitchen knife, but with more power. Plunge the blade into the top of the pumpkin at a 45 degree angle, move in a circular motion and watch how quick and easy it is to open up the pumpkin.
- Gut the Pumpkin: The Pumpkin Gutter tool saves 20 minutes of digging out the gooey center. Simply insert the gutter into your drill, tighten, and make mincemeat of your pumpkin guts.
- Mini Pumpkin Bats: After spray-painting mini pumpkins black, use a chisel to cut slips for wings and drill holes with bolts as eyes. You can put a screw up top so you can hang a dozen of these around your front door.
- Advanced Carvers: One of the biggest raves in pumpkin carving is to chip away the flesh of the pumpkin into a carving. Large woodworking chisels are a good for removing the top layer of skin, or for removing larger areas of a design. Smaller sized chisels work well for carving intricate designs in your pumpkin.
- Perfectly Circular Eyes: Coring bits are a great way to make perfectly circular eyes. Simply insert the coring bit into your drill, make marks on the pumpkin so that the eyes are spaced evenly. You can also use coring bits in combination with spade bits to make intriguing circular patterns.
Easy pumpkin carving ideas
Try our simple Halloween pumpkin ideas and get the kids involved with creating these fun designs. Use our easy templates, then make our top leftover pumpkin recipes.
Decorate your house this Halloween with our simple pumpkin carving ideas. Fill your home with flickering lights, spine-chilling shadows, ghostly faces or sweet, seasonal creatures. Host your own family carving competition and see who can create the most perfect pumpkin.
For even more spook-spiration for ghoulish gourds, check out our printable pumpkin carving templates. Set yourself a challenge and try our haunted house motif or a daring Dalek.
Make sure you use up your pumpkin innards with our roasted pumpkin seeds recipe and our top 10 ways to use up leftover pumpkin.
Before you’re elbow-deep in pumpkin, check out our video on how to carve a pumpkin for more expert techniques and tips:
Every job is made easier by the right tools. A kitchen knife is not the best — or safest — thing to use for pumpkin carving. You can get a set of pumpkin carving tools at many hardware or drug stores around Halloween, but you can also use items already in your possession — power drills, awls, wood gouges or even cookie cutters. Don’t forget a big spoon to scoop out the guts!
Rather than giving your jack-o’-lantern a cap by cutting it at the top, draw a circle on the bottom of your pumpkin and cut your opening there, making sure to angle your blade toward the center to create a ledge for support of the finished cut area. Clean out the guts (save the seeds and roast them for your post-carving snack!) and scrape the insides of your pumpkin until they are about an inch thick in the areas you plan to carve. If you’re using a pattern, tape it on and transfer it by tracing with a poking tool. Then you’re ready to carve! If you’re using a pumpkin saw, it’s easiest to keep the pumpkin on your lap, holding the saw like a pencil and using a steady up-and-down motion. Saw at a 90-degree angle with gentle pressure.
Illuminating a Pumpkin
The candle-free options are nearly endless for showcasing your pumpkin designs. Check stores for color-changing strobe lights, battery-operated tea lights and rainbow LEDs that are made specifically for pumpkins and are safe for use in fresh or foam pumpkins. Battery-operated tap lights are a great option for a small pumpkin or gourd or use several in a larger pumpkin.
Make a carved pumpkin totem pole for outdoor Halloween decor.
Carve and stack pumpkins onto a fence post to make an unique pumpkin totem pole.
Carve the Pumpkin
First, start with a pre-made pattern, draw your own, or trace someone else’s design on the pumpkin. For fast, accurate tracings, tape down your pattern and use carbon tracing paper to easily transfer the pattern onto the pumpkin.
If there are any circular patterns on your design, such as eyes, use your drill to create those before carving any other parts of the pumpkin. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or you might crush your pumpkin. To cut out the large sections of the pattern, use a jigsaw. The jigsaw is perfect for all sorts of intricate cuts, it can cut large areas quickly and can turn corners precisely. You can use any type of jigsaw blade since pumpkins cut easier than both wood and metal. For patterns that need you to remove the top layer of the pumpkin without going all the way through, use a Router or a Rotary Tool with a small grinding attachment. For embellishments and small details, use a Rotary Tool with a small grinding or stylus attachment.
Last step before serving. Time to add some extra flavours and vitamins.
First, roast the almond flakes and sesame seeds. They will add a nice roasted flavour and bite to your dish, but more important, also some vitamin B, vitamin E and essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Put a pan on high heat and when it is warm, throw in the seeds and flakes. It takes only a few moments before you smell the nice flavours and see them changing colours. If that happens, throw them into the large bowl that we will use later to mix everything.
Second, add some vitamin C and sweetness by slicing an orange into small cubes. If you like your food a bit sweet or if you are in desperate need for vitamin C you can even add a bit of orange juice to the quinoa.
Throw in some fibers with the raisins and chop down the feta cheese and parsley to add flavour.
At this point you will have everything you need for serving on your chopping board and the pumpkin in the oven should be ready, unless you have ninja-chopping skills and did this step incredibly fast.
A Great Starter Kit
This toolkit is similar to the one I use (which is sold out, sadly), with a few extra tools. It includes everything you need to get started on carving pumpkins for real. Not one of those itty bitty kits you pick up at the grocery store. This one includes high-quality tools including a couple serrated saws, some pokers, and a good scooper. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to up your pumpkin-carving game.
For Parents: This kit is pretty kid-safe. None of the tools are dangerously sharp and none of them have long exposed edges. The scooping tool is great for young kids to scoop out the seeds and goop, while the saws and pokers are good for older kids to get involved in the carving without handling anything too dangerous.
How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro
It's an old tradition, but these tips will hopefully make things go smoothly and safely.
The arrival of autumn brings with it cooler weather, colorful foliage, apple picking and, of course, Halloween, which includes everyone&rsquos favorite fall pastime: carving pumpkins.
Although carving a jack-o'-lantern from a fresh pumpkin isn&rsquot particularly difficult, there are ways to make the process go more smoothly and safely. Here are a few pumpkin-carving tips and techniques that will ensure you&rsquoll have the best and spookiest-looking jack-o'-lantern in the whole neighborhood.
Choosing the Right Pumpkin
The very first step is to find the right pumpkin for carving. There are lots of different types of pumpkins out there, but they&rsquore often divided into just two categories: pie pumpkins and carving pumpkins. Pie pumpkins, which are often called sugar pumpkins, are small and round and ideal for baking. Carving pumpkins are larger in size, but have thinner walls and fewer guts, making them easier to cut into and clean out.
Before purchasing the pumpkin, rap on it with you knuckle in several spots to ensure there aren&rsquot any soft spots, which indicate rot. And remember, the very freshest pumpkins last the longest, so consider buying your carving pumpkin at a &ldquopick-your-own&rdquo farm.
Use the Right Carving
You can carve pumpkins with various kitchen knives, but to step up your game, consider using clay-sculpting tools, such as wire-end ribbon tools, stainless steel scalpels, or wood-carving gouges. Execute cuts with a serrated knife, keyhole saw or compass saw. And to create round holes in the pumpkin, try using a cordless drill and spade bit.
💡A 1-inch-diameter bit makes perfect eyeholes.
Rudimentary pumpkin carving sets are sold everywhere this time of year, but most are a pretty flimsy&mdashthough they&rsquore great for kids. And if you want to add speed and power to the project, get a pumpkin-carving rotary tool, which comes with lots of different attachments for cutting, engraving, and carving jack-o'-lanterns.
Use a pen or marker to draw a circle around the top of the pumpkin. Use a serrated knife or saw to cut along the line to create a removable lid. Lift off the lid and use a large metal spoon, or similar tool, to scrape out the interior guts. And if you&rsquod like, save the pumpkin seeds for roasting in an oven.
Next, mark the remaining cutouts onto the pumpkin, including eyes, nose, mouth and teeth. Make the cutouts with a small paring knife or narrow saw, such as a keyhole saw. If you&rsquore having difficulty holding the pumpkin steady as you cut into it, get a large bowl, line it with a double-thick terrycloth towel, then set in the pumpkin. The bowl will secure the pumpkin and the towel will keep it from sliding around as much.
💡If the pumpkin dries out and gets tough, mist the flesh with a 50/50 mix of lemon juice and water.
The technique described above is the traditional way to carve a pumpkin, but there&rsquos another popular method of making relief cuts into the pumpkin. Instead of cutting holes, this technique uses various ribbon sculpting tools to carve facial features&mdashcheekbones, eye sockets, nose, wrinkles, and mouth&mdashinto the skin of the pumpkin. Then, when a candle is placed inside the pumpkin, the light will radiate through the flesh, lending an eerie glow to the pumpkin.
Let There Be Light
To illuminate your jack-o'-lantern, place a tea-light candle in a glass votive holder and set it in the bottom of the pumpkin. Use a long match or lighter to light the pumpkin and replace the lid. And drill a small hole, about ½ inch in diameter, in the lid to act as a chimney to allow heat to escape.
💡If you&rsquore having trouble lighting the candle, try going through the mouth of the jack-o&rsquo-lantern instead of down from the top.
If using candles, place the pumpkin outdoors and away from anything flammable. To illuminate indoor jack-o'-lanterns, use either battery-powered flameless candles or remote-controlled LED pumpkin lights.
A Rotten Ending
Your completed jack-o'-lantern will last longer if you dip it in an ice bath with a cup of bleach. And rub petroleum jelly on the edges of the cutouts to seal in moisture.
But don't get too attached to your Halloween handiwork. Ultimately it'll rot away, get eaten by squirrels, or be smashed to pieces by an angsty trick-or-treating youth. So is life.
15 Pumpkin-Carving Tools That’ll Help You Carve the Most Kick-Ass Pumpkins Ever
You’ve picked perfect pumpkins. You downloaded the most crazy-badass carving templates ever, and you have spent literally hours working on your Halloween creations &mdash so how come your jack-o’-lanterns are still a huge disappointment? If you’re plagued with lackluster pumpkins, you may just need to level up on your carving tools.
Whether you prefer the old-fashioned handheld variety or efficient electronic options, these tools will take your pumpkin designs to places beyond your wildest dreams. Seriously, ditch the kitchen knife.
1. For the lid and simple cuts: keyhole saw
Image: All About Pumpkins
The simple keyhole saw is invaluable for basic pumpkin cuts, such as the picture above. Cutting the lid at a 45-degree angle slanting inward, with the top of the lip larger than the bottom, will keep the lid from falling into the jack-o’-lantern. (Lowe’s, $9.98)
2. For pulp removal: scraper
Scraping out the pulp is perhaps the most unpleasant &mdash but necessary &mdash step in pumpkin carving. A serrated-edge scraper spoon by Pumpkin Masters makes the job a whole lot easier. (Target, $10)
3. For perfect circles: hole cutters
Image: We Are Heavy Duty
Perfect holes of different sizes are a snap to accomplish with Kemper hole cutters. The fun, free-form polka-dot design pictured above is just one way to use them. (Dick Blick, $3.62-$3.95 each)
4. For smaller holes: power drill
Image: All About Pumpkins
For smaller, uniform holes, nothing beats a power drill, such as the Black and Decker model shown above. Chances are, you already have one. You can plot out with pencil where you want to drill the holes, or take a more free-form approach. The polka-dot pumpkin pictured above makes a fun addition to a display of more traditional jack-o’-lanterns. (Home Depot, $54.56)
5. For shaving designs into the shell: chisels