How To Carve A Halloween Pumpkin

Halloween is generally thought of as a holiday for kids, but it is also my favorite holiday of the year.  For the past several years, I've helped celebrate the holiday by carving Jackolanterns with unusual designs.

Hangman & Spider
The traditional design is a pumpkin carved with the face of a demon or devil.  Nothing wrong with that I suppose.  But while the traditional toothy-grinned face is certainly easy to carve, it is a bit boring in my opinion. 
Although more work, it's a lot more fun to carve pumpkins if you kick the design up a notch or two. I find that more interesting jackolantern designs draw more kids to your door.  And after all, that's the fun of Halloween for us adults -- seeing happy, excited, sugared-up kids.
You can make some amazing pumpkins if you're willing to put a little thought into it and make a template for your design before you plunge into it.
Abandon Hope Tombstones


Tombstones with Kid's Names

Grim Reaper

Design Ideas
If you want to stay within the traditional themes of Halloween, here are a number of potential pumpkin design ideas to consider:
  • Tombstone
  • Black cat
  • Witch
  • Hangman
  • Ghost
  • Spider
  • Raven
But there's nothing that says you must stay within the bounds of these themes.  I've also carved pumpkins in the shape of a dragon, a crane and other animals. You might do a chicken. My hen "Road Runner" is kind of nasty at times. Perhaps she could become a "Chicken from Hell" pumpkin design idea.
Road Runner - Chicken From Hell?

Making Your JackoLantern
The first thing you need to do is to find an interesting design from which you will create a template.  You can draw one yourself, use Halloween decorations from your local craft store, or search the Internet for interesting images from which you can draw inspiration.
While you can transfer this design to your pumpkin by drawing it freehand, I find my drawing skills aren't good enough for this so I create a template.  I do this using a photo, scanned image or other source material that I then adjust using image editing software.   I then print out the template on my home printer and transfer the design to my pumpkin.  For example, below are two templates that I used to create Grim Reaper and Spooky Cat Pumpkins.

Cat & Moon Template

Grim Reaper Template

To effect the transfer, I place the template on the pumpkin using masking tape.  I then use a ballpoint pen to trace over the design.  This transfers the image to the pumpkin.  You should apply a good amount of pressure when you trace the image so that the lines dig into the surface of the pumpkin skin.  I then use a permanent marker to trace over these lines to make them easier to see when carving.
Transferring the Design To the Pumpkin

Now you just carve the pumpkin as you would with any jackolantern:
  • Cut a hole in the top
  • Scoop out the seeds
  • Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the pumpkin.  Actually, I use a Japanese keyhole saw that I purchased from a woodworking store.  The thinness of the blade makes it easier to cut intricate shapes into the pumpkin. (see below)
Other Tips
  • Pumpkin carving is messy business.  Do it outside if the weather permits this.
  • The serrated blade of your knife will deposit pumpkin flesh onto the surface of the pumpkin as you carve.  Have a few dish towels on hand so you can wipe this away during carving.
  • If you live in a very temperate environment like I do, your carved pumpkin will begin to sprout mold fairly quickly once it's carved; so plan to carve your pumpkin as close to Halloween as possible.
Zombie Rising From Grave


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