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Traditional Pumpkin Carving Techniques

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Oh, the tradition of carving a pumpkin! If pumpkin carving is your tradition, you’re not alone. This Halloween season, 64 million Americans will carve a pumpkin.

There’s a new book, Easy Pumpkin Carving: Spooktacular Patterns, Tips & Ideas that are ready to help you make the best jack-o-lantern on the block!


Here’s a look at Traditional Pumpkin Carving Techniques By Colleen Dorsey

Here they are, the very essentials of pumpkin carving! By following these steps that you probably had down pat when you were a kid, you can get carving with any traditional pumpkin carving pattern.

You’ll need a little elbow grease and a tolerance for the mess to use this technique, but it’s totally worth it.

Easy Pumpkin Carving book cover

Pre-Carving Pumpkin Prep

1 Clean the Pumpkin

Prep the pumpkin first by rinsing it in cold water and using a scrub brush to remove dirt.

If you want, you can spray the entire pumpkin with a mild bleach and water solution to kill mold and bacteria.

Pumpkin carving remove the top


2. Cut out the Lid

Use a sturdy knife to slowly and carefully carve out and remove the lid of the pumpkin, going in at an angle rather than straight down in.

Alternatively, you can cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, which will mean you can sit your pumpkin on top of a light rather than placing a light inside the pumpkin.

Use a scoop to completely empty the inside of the pumpkin of flesh and seeds.


3. Clean Out the Guts

Use a scoop to completely empty the inside of the pumpkin of flesh and seeds.

Keep scraping away at the inner walls of the pumpkin until you only have about a 1” (2.5cm) thick pumpkin wall that is nice and smooth.

4. Attach the Pattern

Transfer the pattern using your desired method.

Check out Easy Pumpkin Carving for tons of patterns to choose from.

Pumpkin jack-o-lanterns


Pumpkin Carving Tips

Actually carving your pumpkin is simple enough. Here are some tips to make carving easy and effective:

Saw steadily with a continuous up and down motion, and don’t press too hard or try to go too fast.

When you’re finished cutting out a standalone piece (like an eye), pop it out of the pumpkin wall with your finger, not your carving tool.

To cut clean, sharp corners, remove and reinsert the carving tool. 

Carve starting from the inside of the design and working your way outward.

Resist the urge to put your free hand inside the pumpkin while carving. Only do so if you can clearly see where all of your hand is.

If you accidentally break off a part of your carving as you work, such as a protruding tooth, stick it back on with a toothpick!

Pumpkin happy Halloween


Preserve Your Pumpkin!

Keep your carved pumpkin cool and out of the direct sunlight (you can even put it in the fridge).

You can also coat the interior and all cut edges with petroleum jelly to help lock in the pumpkin’s natural moisture, or purchase special preservative sprays for pumpkins.


Colleen Dorsey is a writer specializing in the craft and hobby industry, and an editor at Design Originals and Fox Chapel Publishing. Colleen has edited books on many topics, including foam and paper crafts, jewelry making, and children’s crafts. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in creative writing, and in her spare time, she enjoys writing fiction, making jewelry, and upcycling findings into crafty new items.

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