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8 Essential Pumpkin Carving Tips

by Will / October, 27 2014 01:30
Lit jack-o-lanterns

© Petr Kratochvil /

Pumpkin carving might not have a lot to do with sun care but it's darn fun!  However, seeing all those wonderful carved pumpkins and not having a clue how to do one myself has always been a frustration.  The best I've ever done is a simple smiley face with a jagged tooth or two.  So I set out to figure out how the pros do it.  After reading, watching and listening to everything I could find, here are the eight consistent and best tips I found.

  1. Choose a Pumpkin Shape That Matches Your Design

    Are you going to carve a human face? Maybe a pumpkin that is taller than it is wide because human faces are that way.  Have a complex design in mind?  Choose a large pumpkin, it'll be easier to carve. Also, consider a flatter pumpkin as a flat surface is easier than a round one.
  2. Cut the Top out at an Angle

    Cut at about a 45 degree angle when cutting the top out.  This will ensure the top will have a place to rest rather than falling straight through.
  3. Use a Serrated Knife

    The best way to cut a pumpkin is with a serrated knife and a sawing, not cutting, motion.  Don't force it, let the sawing motion and the blade do the cutting.  Do this slowly and patiently and you'll get great results.
  4. Cut From the Center of Your Design out Leaving big Pieces for Last

    The more you remove of the pumpkin, the weaker the pumpkin gets.  Thus cutting from your design's center and/or cutting the small parts first will make it easier.
  5. Print out a Design/Stencil to Make it Easier

    Cutting freehand is difficult.  Using a printed design is much easier.  Do an internet search for pumpkin carving designs and you'll find a ton of sites with free templates to print out.  Once you have your printed template, tape it to the pumpkin, score the design into the pumpkin with a knife or use a push-pin to make small holes in the pumpkin along the design, remove the template and then cut along the scored line / connect the punched holes.  I've never tired this before but everyone ensures me it's the best way to get good results.
  6. Consider Preserving Your Pumpkin

    Pumpkins tend to wilt, get moldy and generally look mushy within a few days.  There are a few things you can done.  One is coating the inside and cut edges with petroleum jelly.  This will keep the moisture in.  The other is to spray or dunk the pumpkin in a mixture of bleach and water to keep bugs and mold away.
  7. Light the Pumpkin

    Whether it's an electric light or a candle, a lighted pumpkin looks best.  Your design will really shine through.  If you do use a candle, be sure to take safety precautions like using a candle in a glass or metal holder.  Some even recommend removing the top if you are going to to use a real candle.
  8. Have Fun!

    No matter what you do, remember that the main purpose is to have fun.  You don't need a perfect design or perfect pumpkin, just the willingness to give it a try.

Are you carving a pumpkin this halloween?  If these tips inspire or help you, we'd love to know.  Just leave a comment below. Also, if you are looking for other Halloween info check out our Spooktastically Fun Halloween Stats and things to do around Rhode Island / Block Island


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