By: Mark H. Stowers
How To Carve The Best Pumpkins
A visit to any retail store lets you know Halloween is coming quickly. Spider webs, coffins,
creepy ghouls, goblins, skeletons and pumpkin spice are all out in full force. As well as the
monster bags of treats and sweets that satisfy even the pickiest Trick or Treater. Pumpkins
are also flooding grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands. It’s about this time
that everyone thinks they’ll be a Davinci, Monet, Rembrandt or possibly Vincent Van Gough
and chop off a few ears all in the name of carving a pumpkin. But even if you have some
skill and ideas, here’s how to carve the best pumpkin on the street, circa Halloween 2021.
First, decide just how many and what sizes you’re thinking of carving. Do you need a
whopping Jack O Lantern for the front sidewalk followed by a few smaller but feisty looking
fellows behind him? Now, let’s go shopping. You’ll need some great looking, firm pumpkins
and the proper carving tools, depending on just how artsy your scary pumpkin will be.
Look for a solid pumpkin with no soft spots, cuts or any other type of damage. Make sure
the base and stem look good and don’t be tempted to carry the artwork to be by the stem.
Grab it on the sides or at the base. Look for a mature pumpkin that has thick, puncture
resistant skin. If you can cut it with your fingernail, then it’s not ripe enough, keep digging.
It’s best to go shopping with a few of your designs in mind. Odd-shaped pumpkins may fit
your design better than one that is nearly perfectly symmetrical. Be creative and give an
odd-shaped gourd a scary makeover the kids will love.
Look for some carving tools that will suffice. Don’t spend a fortune if you’re only doing this
once. The tools can be as intricate as a trip to your favorite tool outlet. You may have what
you need right at home in your cutlery drawer. But take a look at your tool bench. A
keyhole saw or any wood cutting tool and even your power drill accessories can be used.
Cookie cutters can make incredible designs as well.
Once home with your prized pumpkin “canvases,” wash the outside of them and dry them
off. If you have a design in mind, you can draw it on paper and then trace it out on your
pumpkin. A quick Internet search will bring a treasure of templates that can be printed out
and traced on your pumpkin. It’s best to carve a day or two before Halloween but it’s totally
up to you.
Some experts recommend cutting the bottom off the pumpkin to start cleaning out. This
will also allow an easier access for whatever lighting method you choose. If the top is cut,
do so at a 45 degree angle to the top doesn’t fall back in the pumpkin. Also, cut a “chimney”
access in the back of the pumpkin. When you start to clear the insides, measuring cups
work well for this task as well as ice cream scoops and melon ballers. Serrated knives work
well for carving but an array of the above mentioned tools will help with the intricate
designs you find. There are plenty of pumpkin carving kits available online and in stores as
well. Work from the middle out of your chosen design so that it will not collapse inside.
A few other tips, if you want to try and “preserve” your pumpkin art, give the inside a douse
of one tablespoon bleach mixed with a quart of water and clean the inside. Bleach kills
bacteria and rids dirt and will prevent mold from growing too quickly. Also, spread a coat
of petroleum jelly or WD-40, vegetable oil, olive oil, spray paint or white glue on the cut
edges to seal in moisture. And add a dash of cinnamon inside it before lighting it up. That
gives your creation a special “pumpkin pie” smell that will bring smiles to those nearby.
You can even roast the pumpkin seeds and for those culinary types, save the insides and
make a fresh pumpkin pie. Here’s a quick Pillsbury recipe.
If you don’t want to go through all the worries and details of carving, simply paint your
pumpkin and clear out all that glitter glue and art supplies you’ve been building up from
your kids elementary school years. Be creative and have fun. Happy creative pumpkin
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