Carving Halloween Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving holds a special place in many hearts. Whether you are attempting a jack-o-lantern for the first time or are using elaborate, carving skills honed after years of pumpkin carving, this is a time-honored tradition that can be shared by the whole family. There”s something about carving pumpkins with a sharp knife and scooping out (and roasting) the seeds that just catches the whole spirit of Halloween.

Some people turn pumpkin carving into an art form, others are firm believers in traditional jack-o-lanterns. Some scout the pumpkin patch in search of the ideal (dare I say the great?) pumpkin. Others dig through the big box of potential jack-o-lanterns at the grocery store. The truly devout plant their own pumpkin patch, cultivating their own, homegrown jack-o-lanterns.

Picking a Halloween Pumpkin

Whether you”re at the grocery store or in the pumpkin patch, pumpkin choosing is easier if you already have a pumpkin carving design in mind. Are you looking for a tall, thin pumpkin or a squat, round one? Remember to look for a smooth surface and a consistent color. Also, ditch the pumpkins that show any hint of mold or rot on the body as well as the stem. Jack-o-lanterns carved with an already-molding pumpkin will not last as long.

Smaller, light-colored pumpkins are good starter pumpkins for kids: the smaller size is better suited for small hands, and lighter color usually means the jack-o-lanterns flesh is easier to cut.

If your pumpkin carving plans include the use of stencils, medium to large pumpkins are better than smaller fruit (yup, the pumpkin is a fruit, not a veggie).

Tools for Pumpkin Carving

Your jack-o-lanterns will look better if you chose your pumpkin carving tools with care. Most stores selling Halloween supplies also sell kits for carving jack-o-lanterns. Carving kits are fairly safe for kids, although adult supervision is still required.

You can also construct your own pumpkin carving kit. Try a homemade kit that includes a small paring knife, a larger knife, a nail, and an old ice cream scoop. The large knife is for cutting the top off the pumpkin. The paring knife is for carving and detail work. The nail is for stencil use. And the ice cream scoop? No better tool exists for scooping out jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

Many people try to cut a circle around the top of jack-o-lanterns, using the Halloween pumpkin”s stem as the center. If you are feeling a bit more creative, try cutting a five-sided pentagram, with the knife angled slightly towards the stem. You”re left with a cleaner cut, and the pumpkin top fits snugly.

If you”re carving traditional jack-o-lanterns, you can carve the face freeform. Or, if you”d prefer a guideline as you cut, draw the jack-o-lantern”s face on the pumpkin first with a water-based marker.

Using Stencils on Halloween Pumpkins

Although the glowing orange faces and toothy grins of traditional Halloween pumpkins are fun, those with an artistic bent, can take pumpkin carving to another level entirely with stencils.

You can design your own Halloween stencils for carving pumpkins, or purchase ready-made stencils. Either way, transferring a stencil onto a pumpkin is a bit of a challenge. One of the best ways is to tape the stencil directly onto the pumpkin.

Use a nail, the one from your homemade pumpkin carving kit, to poke out the stencil design, following the lines. You”ll be left with dotted lines on the pumpkin outlining the stencil. Yes, this does get a bit messy as Halloween pumpkins tend to ooze as you poke them.

Once you have your dotted lines, dispose of the by now soggy stencil, and cut along the dotted lines. Think of it like one of those reality plastic surgeon shows, only for jack-o-lanterns. Surgeons mark out where they”ll cut before they start operating: would you do anything less for your Halloween pumpkins?

Visiting the Pumpkin Patch

A trip to the pumpkin patch to select Halloween pumpkins can be a family affair, especially as many pumpkin patch owners really get into the spirit of Halloween and offer pumpkin-related games and activities. You may be able to find a pumpkin patch with a haunted house, or one that offers lessons on carving pumpkins.