Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks

Being artistic can help when you’re carving a pumpkin but it isn’t everything. If you have the right tools and some patience, you can make something really cool.

First, find a good pumpkin. The larger it is, the easier it will be to carve. Be sure it isn’t soft, there are no bruises, and the stem isn’t moldy. You don’t want it to go bad before its time.

Now it is time to get to work. Using soap and water, wipe down the pumpkin. Carefully cut the top off with a sharp knife. It’s better to cut it at an angle. It will prevent the top from falling into the pumpkin when you put it back. Get all the goop and the seeds out of there.

Once the pumpkin is empty, you need to start scraping. Use a metal spoon or even an ice cream scoop to clean the inside. The bottom needs to be flat so that when you add a light, it can sit flat. The walls also need to be scraped. They will need to be between 1”-1 ½” thick. That gives your design some support but will make it easy to carve.

After scraping down the sides, the real fun begins. Choose a design for your pumpkin. You can find something online, or freehand it with a marker onto the pumpkin itself. I find paper to be easier. Tape your chosen design to the front of the pumpkin. Use a pushpin or other sharp, pointy tool to make an outline.

Remove the paper stencil from the pumpkin and you should have dotted guidelines for you to follow. Use a serrated knife and carefully follow the dots to create your jack o’ lantern. Go slowly and follow your guidelines until your design is complete.

Quick tips to make your hard work last a little longer:

  • I know some people who soak a hollowed-outpumpkin in bleach for a few hours before carving in order to “preserve” it a little. You can also rub the inside with petroleum jelly to prolong the mold set in. Others use a vegetable oil spray.
  • You can also make a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach per quart of water) and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray down the inside of the pumpkin and any cut surfaces. After 20 minutes, rinse the pumpkin down with cool water. Wear gloves for this part so you aren’t touching the bleach.
  • If it starts to shrivel, a soak in cold water can help.
  • The hotter it is, the faster your pumpkin will rot. Keep it out of the sunlight and consider refrigerating it during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Keep in mind that no matter what you do, your creation is going to shrivel, rot, and collapse. That’s just what happens. Mine typically last about a week.

Lighting tips:

  • If you are using a candle, be sure to put it on something non-flammable. Or use a tealight. Keep the lid OFF the pumpkin when you have the candle lit. Never, ever leave a lit pumpkin unattended.
  • As an alternative to open flames, they make battery powered LED tea lights you can put inside the pumpkin. Some even flicker like real candles. These are a much safer option, and they are not very expensive. Plus, you can leave the lid on.
  • As another fun option, you can use glow sticks. They don’t last nearly as long as the LED lights, but you can get them in all kinds of colors and they can give your carving a really cool look.

Hope you enjoyed these tips, and happy carving!