Published September 17, 2010
Jack-O-Lantern carving has become an art in recent years. The artistry and innovation people are coming up with is amazing. There are new tools, stencils, and designs coming out every year for pumpkin carving enthusiasts. But if you’re not an artist, don’t despair. You can still carve your pumpkins the old fashioned way simply and with beautiful results. Here’s how:
- Choose a pumpkin that is firm and regularly shaped. Avoid any with damage or a flat side. Your Jack-O-Lantern won’t look as good if you start off with a lopsided pumpkin. However, if you want to do a cute variation of the standard pumpkin, then you might want to go with oddly shaped or colored specimens.
- Don’t carry your pumpkins by the stem as the stem could break off. If it does break off, you can always carve it from the bottom and still have a lovely finished product. But if you have your heart set on the traditional pumpkin, be gentle with the stem.
- Decide what you want your pumpkin’s face to look like. Are you going for the triangle eyes and wide, toothy grin? Are you aiming for a more serene or sweet looking end result? Plan it out on paper first. You can then either draw freehand on the face with a permanent marker (water based markers will wipe off the pumpkin’s skin) or you can cut out the individual pieces from your paper and trace around them.
- You’ll need a sharp knife. More injuries happen with dull knives than sharp ones. With a duller knife, you’ll have to press harder and may slip. Don’t let children do this part of the carving unless they are closely supervised. Kid-safe tools are now available that allow them to punch and scoop out the pumpkin’s design, and there are no sharp edges to worry about. These tools usually come in kits that can be found in grocery and discount stores during the Halloween gift season.
- To carve your pumpkin, start by cutting out a circle around the stem of the pumpkin. Lift the top of the pumpkin off. Reach in and scoop out the pulp and seeds. You’ll want to use a heavy metal spoon to scoop down the sides and bottom to really clean it out. If you want, place the seeds in a bowl and wash them off so you can toast them later in the oven for a nutritious snack. Make sure you get out every bit of the pulp as it will make the pumpkin decay faster if you leave it in.
- Now you’re ready to cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth you drew on. Insert the knife and make short cuts, doing a little of the design at a time. Don’t make large, broad strokes as this can lead to cutting off more of the pumpkin than you meant to. Pop out the cut material and continue on until the whole design is cut out.
- Decide on how you will light your Jack-O-Lantern. There are many choices on the market today, some of which were not available in years past. You can buy flame-less flickering votives in white or color that run on batteries. You can also get flashing strobe lights designed especially for pumpkins. Glow sticks also work well. If you want the traditional look, you’ll want to go with votive candles. You will, however, have to keep an eye on them if you have an open flame.