With Halloween approaching it is time, once again, to think about pumpkin carving. Carving a pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern has been a tradition ever since the first Halloweens way back when. In this day and age carving a pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern is done for decorative purposes. But that wasn’t always the case. It used to be that carved pumpkins with a candles inside, known as a Jack-o-lanterns, were set out on porches and in house windows on Halloween as a sign of welcome to the deceased souls of loved ones. But what is the best way to carve a pumpkin?
Traditional Pumpkin Carving
If you are only interested in carving a pumpkin into your basic Jack-o-lantern style consisting of two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a removable top then you will only need a few basic tools. A thin bladed knife, a large spoon or ice cream scoop and some newspaper should about cover it.
- Lay out newspaper
- Use the knife to cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin around the stem. The hole should be big enough for you to fit your hand inside of the pumpkin when scooping out the stringy membrane and seeds.*hint* as you cut the hole you should angle the knife inward a bit so that the hole is not perfectly circular, this will keep the top from falling in when you put it back on.
- Start scooping out the inside of the pumpkin making sure to keep the pumpkin on the newspaper to make as little a mess as possible. Continue this until all of the insides are removed
- Decide which side of the pumpkin would look best with a face on it
- Begin carving the eyes, nose, and mouth.
- You should also shave the bottom of the pumpkin where necessary to make sure that it sits level
Not So Traditional Pumpkin Carving
If you are looking for a less traditional approach to your pumpkin carving you can use pumpkin carving stencils. A pumpkin carving stencil is basically a drawing which you will attach to your pumpkin which has shaded areas that let you know where to cut the holes. If you use a pumpkin carving stencil with a pretty simple design on it…this will be a breeze.
The tools that you will need when carving a pumpkin with stencils include all the tools needed for regular carving which were listed above plus a carving saw, transfer took, and a carving stencil.
- Prepare the pumpkin for carving as is listed above
- Cut excess paper off the sides of the stencil making sure to leave at least a 1/2 inch border of paper around the actual stencil design.
- Attach the stencil to the pumpkin using tape
- Use the transfer tool to begin poking holes on the outline of your stencil design. The holes only need to be deep enough to go through the paper and the outer skin of the pumpkin and they should be spaced about 1/8 of an inch apart
- Remove the stencil from the pumpkin and make sure that your outline is clearly marked with holes
- Now you will be using the carving saw to basically connect the dots on the pumpkin, you will stick the carving saw in one of the tiny holes as a starting point and cut along the holes until complete
- Once you remove all of the cut pieces you want to go back and shave down all of the inside edges of the pumpkin for a neater, cleaner appearance
How To Turn That Carved Pumpkin Into A Jack-O-Lantern
Now that you have your pumpkin carved up it’s time to turn it into a Jack-o-lantern by adding a little light to the situation. There are a few ways in which you can add light to the inside of your pumpkin…some safer than others.
Candles And Holders – This is the most classic way of lighting up that Jack-o-lantern. Simply get a clear votive candle holder, put a candle in it, light it and place it inside the pumpkin. This will last a long time and it looks very authentic but you really can’t leave candles unsupervised so this approach isn’t the most practical.
Pumpkin Lights – This is a newer way of lighting up the inside of those carved pumpkins. There are many places that sell battery operated lights that are made specifically for lighting the inside of a pumpkin. They have lights that flicker just like a candle and you can ever get rainbow colored lights. Plus, this option lets you “set it and forget it” since you don’t have to supervise the pumpkin like you do when using a candle.
Glow Sticks – Another option for illuminating your carved pumpkin is using a simple glow stick. You know, the same kind that you strap around your body to go trick or treating with. Since glow sticks aren’t very bright you should use more than one in each pumpkin and try to keep the pumpkins in a dark area to get the greatest effect. This is probably the safest method of lighting up your Jack-o-lantern.
Now, if you want to get real fancy with your pumpkin carving…the possibilities are endless. Check out the video below, it’s amazing what you can turn an ordinary pumpkin into. It’s not clear to me if this was done free hand or with the use of a stencil (I’m leaning toward stencil).
Whichever pumpkin carving method you choose and whichever Jack-O-Lantern lighting method you use always make sure to do one thing…Enjoy yourself. Halloween only comes around once a year, enjoy it while it is here.