5 Simple Steps for a Carving a Showstopping Pumpkin

posted: 10/28/15
by: Blythe Copeland

Make this year's jack-o-lantern the envy of everyone in your neighborhood with these easy pumpkin carving tips from the pros. From picking the right shape to lighting the finished product, here's everything you need to know for a creative, classic carve.

1. Choose the right pumpkin.

For the best carve, you want to start with a firm, fresh pumpkin that has no soft spots. The shape can vary -- a perfect sphere may be the obvious choice, but as Marc Evan from Maniac Pumpkin Carvers told Mental Floss a pumpkin that looks a little strange to start with "can inspire some unique designs." He also suggests choosing a pumpkin with a thick, green stem: This indicates that the pumpkin hasn't started drying out, and will have solid inner walls that make carving easier.

Pumpkins all done! #pumpkins #jackolantern #halloween #pumpkincarving

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2. Scoop it out.

This seems like such an obvious tip that we almost didn't include it, but experienced pumpkin carvers stress the importance of making sure every last seed and string is out of your pumpkin. Cleaning out the inside will help prevent the pumpkin from getting moldy, and it also lets you see the thickness of the shell: If yours is more than an inch thick, keep scraping the side you plan to carve until it's thin enough to work with.

#pumpkin #pumpkincarving #creativescholarsacademy #Halloween #halloweenfun #handsonactivities #artsandcrafts

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3. Plan your design.

Before you start cutting apart your pumpkin, take a few minutes to plan your design on a separate piece of paper. This can mean drawing several sets of eyes, noses, and mouths and letting the family vote on the best combination; printing a stencil to help you make a more intricate carving; or creating your own design and taping it to the pumpkin to act as a guide. It's much easier to perfect your design on paper than it is to fix a cutting mistake.

4. Try a new technique.

Pumpkins will last longer -- up to a week -- if you shave the skin instead of carving all the way through. Use linoleum cutters to peel away the bright orange, exposing the inner rind, which will allow light to filter through. It won't be as bright as the traditional version, but you will get to enjoy it longer, and you'll have more flexibility in the designs you can create since you won't have to keep each piece connected to the whole. If you do choose to cut all the way through, apply petroleum jelly to the cut surfaces to prevent browning.

My masterpiece #PumpkinShaving #Mummy

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5. Swap out the candles.

The candlelit jack-o-lanterns your parents always made may be tradition, but votives aren't the only option anymore. Try blinking holiday string lights for a spooky twinkle or battery-operated candles for a safer glow. Look for bulbs that stay cool -- like LEDs -- since an open flame or hot bulb will start to slowly cook your pumpkin and prevent it from lasting as long as it could. (If you plan to have it out for just one night and want to stick with candles, try sprinkling a little cinnamon on the inside for a scented burn.)

Or, you can just skip the lights altogether and show off your painting skills.

#BB8 #pumpkin #jackolantern #halloween #starwars #BB8pumpkin #trickortreat

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