How to Carve the Perfect Halloween Pumpkin

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How to Carve the Perfect Halloween Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving is an old Halloween tradition that has become much more elaborate in recent years. The traditional jack o' lantern with triangles for eyes and nose has been superseded by pumpkins featuring more detailed portraits or life like scenery. If you want to carve a pumpkin you can be proud of, follow this step-by-step beginner's guide to making your own Halloween masterpiece.

Get a stencil

There are hundreds of printable pumpkin templates on the web. Just do a search for 'free pumpkin carving stencils' and download your favorite. You can also create your own template from simple black and white Halloween clip art. Use an image manipulation program to resize the picture so that it takes up most of a sheet of printer paper.

Pick a pumpkin

Take your printed template with you when you go pumpkin shopping. That way you can choose a pumpkin won't be too big or small for your design. Look for a pumpkin that stands up without wobbling and has a sturdy stem that is long enough to get a grip on. Check it over for soft spots, bruises or insect damage.

Gather your tools

Inexpensive pumpkin carving kits are available in discount stores during the Halloween season. Look for ones designed to be used with templates. These include a poker wheel for transferring the pattern. They also contain one or more saws designed to cut through pumpkin flesh. Some sets come with plastic scoops, but a metal spoon tends to be more effective at removing pumpkin guts.

Remove the lid

Cover your work area with newspapers or a plastic tablecloth. Cut around the top of the pumpkin angling the blade inward. (If you cut straight down, the lid will fall into the pumpkin once it begins to dry out.) Remove the lid and slice across the bottom to remove any seeds or membranes attached to it.

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Gut the pumpkin

Stick your hand inside the pumpkin and remove all the stringy plant fibers and seeds that you can easily get a grip on.Use a tablespoon or serving spoon to scrape down the walls of the pumpkin and release any fibrous strands clinging to them. Once the cavity is empty, scrape down the inner wall on the side that you plan to carve until it is approximately one inch thick.

Transfer your pattern

Use paper towels to wipe any guts from the outside of the pumpkin and dry off the skin. Attach your template to the pumpkin with masking tape. (You may need to trim it to fit.) Using your poker wheel and firm pressure, trace around the outline of the pattern. Remove the tape and stencil. The design should be clearly visible as a series of tiny holes.


Carve your pumpkin

Hold your mini-saw tool like a pencil and push it into the pumpkin flesh along one of the transferred lines. Carefully cut along the pattern using an up and down sawing motion. When you get to a corner, remove the saw and reinsert it. Once you've cut around a piece, poke it out gently. You may find that some pieces are easier to remove by pushing from the inside and others are less resistant when you push from the outside. When you've finished carving the pattern, go over the design and clean up any rough edges.

Keep it fresh

All jack o' lanterns will inevitably rot, but you can help yours to stay fresh a little longer. Soak your newly-carved pumpkin in a tub of cold water for three hours, then dip a cotton bud in petroleum jelly and coat the edges of the cuts. Fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of bleach and mist the pumpkin daily to keep it moist and discourage mold growth. Don't display your masterpiece near a radiator or other heat source.

There are two popular options for lighting your pumpkin: traditional wax candles or battery operated LED candles. Battery operated lights have several advantages. They're a safer alternative, they won't blow out in the wind and they won't burn the lid of your pumpkin. They're also easier to use, just switch them on and drop them in. Buy flickering lights for a realistic candle effect or choose color-changing lights for a dramatic display.

About the author: Seth Gowdy is the Sales Manager for Pivot Insurance and holds multiple insurance and securities' licenses. He has been part of the financial services industry for nearly 20 years. In his free time he enjoys being outdoors fishing, hiking, and geocaching with his wife and two children. Seth most enjoys helping clients with Pivot’s customized process and needs' calculators. You can reach Seth at 1-800-651-1953 or


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