It’s pumpkin carving time! So you’ve got thoughts rolling through your head with wild ideas on the perfect pumpkin design. Now, you’ve just got to figure out how to make it happen. Hopefully, these tips will help guide you through the process so you can have a perfectly carved pumpkin.
1. Choose the perfect pumpkin. It may seem obvious but honestly, you’ll get no where if your pumpkin isn’t right for the design you have in mind. Keep your picture in your head when you look for your pumpkin and choose one of the relatively same formant. For example, if you’re wanting to carve a tall tree into your pumpkin, pick one that is long and tall instead of short and fat. Also, watch out for bruises and imperfections. No pumpkin is perfect, but try to choose one that has relatively few defects. Texture is important as well. If your design has many intricate portions for carving, it would be wise to choose a pumpkin that is smoother rather than full of deep ridges.
2. Buy a Carving Kit. These kits are inexpensive at any retail store as they run around five dollars. Feel free to choose one of the patterns in the kits but what we’re really going for are the tools. Buy the kit that has at least the following: large knife, small knife, wheel and scraper. If you can find one with the “drill” tool, go for it! It does make a huge difference.
3. Make a template. If you aren’t using a pattern from the kit, make your template on paper first. You can either draw it out by hand or print off a design from the computer. Once it’s on paper, find the best spot on the pumpkin for the carving placement and make a mental note on where on the face on the pumpkin you will be carving.
4. Clean it out well! This is by far the most time consuming part of pumpkin carving. By this point you just want to get to the carving and may be tempted to rush through this part, however a well cleaned and shaved pumpkin will provide a much better end result for carving. Cut a hole for the lid at the top of the pumpkin with your knife held at an angle so that the tip of the knife points towards the middle of the pumpkin. This will make a ledge for the lid to sit on without falling inside later.
With the pumpkin cut open, scoop out all the guts. It’s easier, and more fun to simply use your hands here. Scoop out all of the seeds and goop until you’re no longer able to do so with your hands. Grab that handy scraper that came in your pumpkin carving kit and get to work! Rake the scraper up the sides of the inside of the pumpkin to remove all stringy material.
Focusing on the side of the pumpkin that will be carved, scrape continuously until the wall thickness is down to an inch, or better yet, a little less. Depending on the particular pumpkin, this will take some time. In the end however, a thin wall is much easier to carve especially on a design with small details.
5. Attach your pattern and trace it out. Using the wheel that is provided with the kit, trace around the larger portions of the pattern onto the pumpkin. Don’t stress too much if the score marks from the wheel are deeper in some areas than others. If they are difficult to see when you take the pattern off, simply brush some flour on the surface of the pumpkin to make them more visible.
For the smaller details of the pattern, use the drill tool. The instructions with the kit say that the drill is to be used for round holes, eyes and other small puncture marks but it also makes a great tool for transferring the pattern by using a stippling method. Simply poke small holes into the skin of the pumpkin following the pattern.
6. Start carving! Personally, I prefer to use the small knife that comes with the carving kits. Other knives will work fine but these are exceptionally good. It is important to realize here too that a dull knife is not necessarily a safer way to go. A dull knife is harder to use and can actually cause more injury than a nicely sharpened one.
Hold the pumpkin in your lap and always carve out the tiny details first. Any small, thin or intricate areas will be more difficult to cut out later so get them over with first. Start all carving from the center of the design and work your way out. For example, for a simple triangle shape, poke the knife into the middle edge and work your way out and around the shape.
7. Light it, sit back and enjoy! Using a candle, flameless device or other light will show the best result from your carving. Many designs look horrible during the day but when lit, they can look awesome!
Just have fun with your pumpkin and be safe. Kids should be closely monitored at all times when carving a pumpkin but can still have fun with it. Whether you’re carving a silly face, ghosts and goblins or a memorable movie character follow these simple steps and you’re sure to have a perfectly carved pumpkin in no time!