Pumpkin Carving Made Easy

Although carving the annual Halloween pumpkin can be a messy, and sometimes frustrating business, there are tricks that may treat you to a more enjoyable carving experience. Once you have picked the perfect pumpkin from the patch, take a look at some of the various carving kits for purchase, and you may be able to come up with your own unique method of creating the perfect jack-o-lantern. If you’d rather just buy the kit and be on your way, let me introduce you to a simple way of using the kit method that leaves the kit on the shelf.

Before the pumpkin carving gets underway, it is important to create a useful carving station. While many people may use newspapers for tablecloths while carving, it may be more helpful to add a garbage bag to the mix or lose the newspapers altogether. Newspapers are almost just as messy as carving the pumpkin directly on the table or countertop. A garbage bag, however, makes for easy clean up. Simply open up a bag and put your pumpkin in the center so you can pull the sides up over the mess when you are done. If you are worried that your pumpkin may use the plastic as a slip & slide, or you are partial to the newspaper, put some of the paper between the bag and the pumpkin itself. This will allow the paper to soak up the liquid that comes from removing the flesh without leaving a wet pile on the table. Once you are ready to carve, gather these materials and follow these steps to a creative and unique pumpkin:

Materials:

1. Pumpkin

2. Large plastic garbage bag preferably with ties

3. Several sheets of newspaper (optional)

4. Serrated knife (adult supervision if necessary)

5. Ice cream scoop

6. Pen/marker/pencil

7. 1 sheet of paper (optional)

8. Tape (optional)

9. Corn on the cob holder

10. Small paring knife (or other easy to maneuver knife)

11. Small candle or battery powered candle

Directions:

  1. The first step to achieving the most spectacular pumpkin on the block is to remove the “guts” from the pumpkin. The best way to accomplish this is to use a serrated knife to cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin (around the stem) after first drawing a guide line around it. Because this is the first cut, it may prove to be the most difficult. Most people create a circular lid (although something like a triangle may be unique and a bit easier to carve) and you are contending with the flesh of the pumpkin, which is still attached to the shell. Once you have created and removed the lid to your pumpkin, remove any flesh attached to its underside. Then, remove the remainder of the pumpkin flesh using an ice cream scoop. An ice cream scoop is a good choice for removing the flesh and seeds as it is sturdy and its shape is more helpful in yielding a large scoop than a big spoon might be. If you enjoy roasting your pumpkin seeds, then be sure to put them aside in a bowl or lay them directly on a cookie sheet to start drying out.
  2. The second step to making your one of a kind pumpkin is to decide what you want it to look like. You can create something unique, silly, spooky, or downright scary with a little bit of imagination. There are two ways to get your idea onto the pumpkin. One way is to draw the image directly onto the pumpkin. The other way is to draw your idea onto paper and then use tape to keep it in place while you begin the carving process. If you want to draw directly onto the pumpkin, make sure its surface is clean and dry. It is also important to ensure that the marker or pen you write with will adhere to the pumpkin. It may be a good idea to find a test spot on the bottom of the pumpkin before you get down to business. If you are nervous about drawing directly onto the pumpkin, try using a pencil first and then going over it with a ball point pen once you are happy with the design you have created. It is important that your pen or marker be dry before you begin carving, otherwise you may wind up getting the ink on yourself or accidentally smearing it. If you prefer to attach paper to the pumpkin, remember that pumpkins are round, and therefore, your paper will be a bit bent when you tape it down. Although this can make carving a tad bit tricky depending on how complicated your design is, it is still far easier than the typical freehand carve. You may also want to consider drawing a circle, the size of you carving surface, onto the paper before you begin drawing your design. The circle should help ensure that your design will fit onto the pumpkin. If you keep your drawing inside the lines then you should have nothing to worry about.
  3. Once you have your design on the pumpkin, use your corn on the cob holder to poke small holes on the paper/drawing. Corn cob holders are a great tool for pumpkin carving because they are easy to hold and they are strong enough to poke holes. Every once in a while, you may find it helpful to wiggle your fingers to give them a break! Make sure to push the holder in far enough that it leaves a fairly deep hole. If the holes are deep enough, they make removing the pieces of pumpkin pretty easy. After you poke the first hole, continue poking holes all the way around the design. If you are poking your holes though paper, make sure that the paper is staying in place so that your holes line up correctly once it is removed. The paper is essentially your stencil, so it is important that you follow along the pattern that you have made accurately. It is important that the holes are close together. Again, this is to ensure that the pieces you have carved into the pumpkin will come out easily later.
  4. After you have finished poking holes over your entire design, check to see if there are any spaces where an extra hole should be. The more holes you have, the easier it will be to remove the pieces. It is also helpful to cut the pieces in half (or smaller) before removing them. For example, if you have a circular or square shape outlined in the holes, use your paring knife to cut a line down the middle and split it in two. If you used paper to create a stencil, remove it and follow the above instructions to make sure that you have enough holes.
  5. Once you have determined that you have enough holes, it is time to remove the pieces of pumpkin. Use your paring knife and cut along the holes. This should be much easier than trying to carve directly into a pumpkin with a knife. If you find that it is still difficult, you may want to add more holes and make sure that you push the corn cob holder in far enough to create a deep hole. Then go back over your holes with the paring knife and the pieces should pop out with little to no additional cutting.
  6. After you remove the pumpkin pieces, use your paring knife to clean up any small cuts made earlier. Smaller shapes are a bit more difficult to remove than larger ones. Also, the paring knife is helpful in trimming away any excess flesh that you can see through the holes.
  7. Now that you have carved your pumpkin and cleaned up or added small details, you are ready to put it on display. Make sure that before you put a candle or any kind of light into the pumpkin that there are not any pieces of flesh hanging down inside and that the inside of the pumpkin is flat so that your candle will not tip over. Small candles or battery powered candles are the best choice for creating a nice glow. You may want to put sand in the bottom of the pumpkin before placing a real candle. Not only will this help keep the candle in place, but any melted wax will go into the sand and there will be less risk of hot wax going outside of the pumpkin. Place the lid on top of the pumpkin once the small candle or light is in place. Also consider leaving the lid off if your pumpkin is small or your candle is on the large side.
  8. Don’t forget the clean up! If you used your garbage bag, then clean up should be easy. Simply make sure that everything is sitting on the inside part of the bag and pull the sides up over the mess before tying the bag up. Now all that is left is washing off your carving tools and taking a picture of your creation.

Now that you know a trick to the pumpkin carving trade, start thinking of what you want your pumpkin to look like and dig out your corn cob holders! If you still want to go out and buy a kit, remember that do-it-yourself can sometimes be easier, and will always give you more creativity. No matter how you choose to carve your pumpkin, be careful, have fun, and have a happy Halloween!!

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