Carving a pumpkin is pretty easy. Whether you are completely new to this fun Halloween tradition or a near pro, there are some tips and tricks in this article that might help you out. Either way, after reading this article, you’ll be well on your way to knowing how to carve a pumpkin like a pro.
How to Carve a Pumpkin Step By Step
Get an Idea for Your Pumpkin Carving
I like to get an idea of what I want to carve even before I select my pumpkin. Certainly, you can select a pumpkin first and then decide, but if I have it in my mind to carve Frankenstein, then when I go to select my pumpkin, I might be on the look out for tall skinny pumpkins in the shape of Frankenstein’s head.
Select a Pumpkin
The next thing you need in determining how to carve a pumpkin is…. wait for it… yes, a pumpkin! There are several factors to consider when selecting a pumpkin for carving.
Where to get your Pumpkin
There are several options on where to get a pumpkin. First, you can grow your own. You need to think about this well in advance because a pumpkin can take 110 – 140 days to mature – or four months. So if you are not going to grow your own pumpkin you can buy one from a store or a pumpkin patch.
Buying from a store is generally convenient and inexpensive. Buying from an actual pumpkin patch where you get to go out in the field and literally pick your own can add a lot of value to the experience for your whole family. It’s definitely a memorable experience for a child to see where pumpkins actually come from. As a general idea, the more work that goes into a project, the more satisfaction comes out.
Which Specific Pumpkin to Get
Next, there is shape, size, and color to consider. A pumpkin that is too small can be difficult to carve and a pumpkin that is too large can be a lot more work. That’s not to say you shouldn’t choose an extreme size, just be aware of the extra difficulties this can pose.
Specialty pumpkins, like ghost pumpkins, can be fun for carving specific patterns like say, oh… a ghost! If you are looking for a specialty pumpkin, then it may be best to call ahead, because not all store and patches will have such items.
Finally, it is worth noting, that sometimes you will find an almost perfect pumpkin, but there is a dent or small blemish on one side. This often happens because pumpkins grow on their side. Keep in mind that generally, a pumpkin is viewed from only one side, so a small blemish on only one side doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rule out an otherwise perfect pumpkin.
Finalize your Pumpkin Pattern
Transfer the Pattern to the Pumpkin
Once you have the pattern scaled perfectly, tape the pattern to the pumpkin. If the pattern isn’t fitting well as a flat paper on a round surface – either making small cuts in the edges or wetting the paper first can help. If you wet the paper – make sure you go over your pattern in permanent ink so it does not run or smudge the pumpkin. Also, if you wet the paper – let it dry before proceeding.
Next, use a small nail or a specific pumpkin carving kit tool to punch little tiny holes along the pattern’s lines. These little holes will be visible on the surface of the pumpkin.
Again, if you are going freehand, you can skip the patterning process and draw right on the pumpkin.
Set up Workspace
Now that your pattern is ready to go and has been transferred to the pumpkin, things are about to get messy. Find a big open space on a table or on the floor and cover it with newspaper. Pumpkin guts are a messy affair. Also get yourself a sharp knife – serrated blades seem to work best, a large metal spoon, two large bowls. One of the bowls is for the seeds if you wish to keep them, another for the guts. Make sure not to leave the knife in reach of children.
How to Carve a Pumpkin Designs
Caution – this should be done by an adult or under close adult supervision.
The next step is to cut the top off. Just like everything else, there is a trick to this too. This one is important. Drawn a line with a pencil or use the nail used to transfer the pattern to draw a circle around the stem. In the circle, draw a V shaped notch. The notch will help you line up the lid when it’s time to put it back on. Now, using either a pumpkin carving knife or a serrated blade, cut into the pumpkin at an angle. The at an angle part is the important part. If you cut straight through – your lid will fall into the pumpkin when you’re all done. So you should end up with a beveled top that is wider on the outside than on this inside. I shoot at about a 45-degree angle.
What to do if you don’t cut an Angle or Otherwise Mess up Carving the Pumpkin?
This is a good time to mention that all is not lost if you make a mistake carving. Even if you know how to carve a pumpkin, mistakes happen. In the case of a lid that falls into the center of the pumpkin, you can insert tooth picks into the sides of the hold to prop the lid on. If you do use toothpicks, consider using a small battery operated pumpkin light over a candle so you don’t burn them!
Likewise, if while carving any other parts out you make an unintentional cut that chops a piece of you did not intend, you can use toothpick stuck into the flesh of either side to reattach it.
Scoop out insides
Using your hands and or the metal spoon scoop out the pumpkin guts. At this time, if you wish to keep the seeds to eat, you can start the separation process into the two bowls – putting the most guts in one and the mostly seeds in the other. You can clean the seeds off later.
Once most of the guts are cleaned out, use the metal spoon to scrape the insides to get any remaining guts.
Cut the pattern
Now to make your pumpkin come to life. Insert the knife straight into one of the lines of the pattern. I generally start on a simple portion of the pattern to get into it and have a few “practice’ strokes before getting into and intricate carves. Slowly saw through the pumpkin flesh along the line, working slowly and carefully. If you get to sharp corners in your lines or separate lines, you’ll need to pull out the knife and reinsert it. Cut out all the lines and that’s it, you’re done carving!
Light it up
When your pumpkin is finished, it is tradition to set a small candle or battery powered lamp on the inside to create an eerie glow. Consider using glow sticks or colored lights for different effects.
And that’s how to carve a pumpkin like a pro! In our upcoming post, we will come up with topics like how to carve a pumpkin without cutting through and how to make Halloween pumpkin with paper so stay tuned or check our website for more.