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How to Carve a Pumpkin Like an Expert

Carving pumpkins is a fun Halloween tradition. There are many great designs available. Following are some tips on how to carve a pumpkin like an expert.

Choose the perfect pumpkin and follow advice on pumpkin carving safety.

Clean the Pumpkin

The pumpkin needs to be clean and dry. Use a wet paper towel to remove soil and dry it with another as your first step. A dirty or wet pumpkin may cause knife slips and injuries.

Cut the Lid

Cut your lid at a 45° to prevent it from falling into the pumpkin. Cutting a 6 sided figure will be easier than trying to cut a circle. Make the hole big enough to reach the hand in to remove the strings and seeds.

If you are planning to use an electric candle, cut off the bottom of the pumpkin. Keep your cut even so the pumpkin doesn’t tilt.

Clean Out the Pumpkin

Use a large spoon, ice cream scoop, or the plastic scraper from your pumpkin carving kit to scrape strings and seeds loose. Working from the top, scraping to the bottom works well. Remove the loose pumpkin guts and save the seeds for roasting.

Sculpt the Inside of the Pumpkin

If you are going to light the pumpkin using a candle, scrape the bottom flat. Look at the sides of the pumpkin. If the walls are thicker than an inch, you may want to scrape some of the excesses from the inside of the pumpkin. Thinner walls are easier to carve.

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Clean Pumpkin and Work Area

Rewash the pumpkin and dry if the outside got soiled while removing the pulp. Wash and dry your hands and the surface you will be working on too.

Choose a Pumpkin Carving Pattern

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Pumpkin carving kits come with stencils you can use. You can also find free pumpkin carving patterns at BHG and The Pumpkin Lady. Print out the stencil you want to use. Tape your pattern to the pumpkin. If it doesn’t lay flat, make small tears around the edge of the stencil about every three inches.

Mark the Pattern

Use a push pin, a nail or the poker that came with your pumpkin carving kit. Pierce the outline of your pattern onto the pumpkin every 1/8″ to 1/16″. These punches do not have to be deep. Remove pattern and connect the dots with a pencil.

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How to Carve Pumpkins

Hold your carving tool at a 90° when cutting. Angling into the non-cut space will remove some of the flesh, making the area weak. Angling into the open space will block the amount of light showing through.

Remove the knife when switching directions. Move the pumpkin as necessary to make cuts smooth. Turn the pumpkin as you cut curves.
Cut fragile small pieces first.

Work from the middle out. Avoid resting your hand on already cut areas.

Light Your Pumpkin

The safest candle to use is a votive candle–less apt to tip. Better yet, use glow sticks, battery operated flicker candles or wrap a battery operated light string around a jar per Martha Stewart.


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