How to carve the perfect pumpkin

Photo by Ranger Staff

By Nikki Larkan
After reading this story, anyone should be able to carve the perfect pumpkin as long as you have the perfect tools.

Many people start getting in the Halloween spirit by picking a pumpkin to carve. Many choose a large, hearty-sized pumpkin or a smaller, yet carveable, version. Before picking your pumpkin, you may need to choose the pattern you want to use.

Many people begin with store-bought stencils and kits. They can buy them at Walmart starting at $3 and at other department stores.

You also can purchase stencils online or download free patterns.

Lisa Berberette at offers both. Berberette has directions for each stencil and changes her patterns weekly. With more than 500 original patterns, there are simple versions for beginners and detailed versions for experts.

Many carvers start their pattern on a pumpkin by pushing pins through the stencil.

Nora Duncan, a self-proclaimed pumpkin carving master, said she uses a charcoal pencil, traces the pattern, applies Speed Stick to the pumpkin and lays the traced pattern upon the flattest surface of the pumpkin. “It’s like a tattoo,” Duncan said.

She said she began with the kits bought in stores but that she always would break the tools. Now she finds her patterns online and uses her own directions.

Duncan said that before beginning on the pattern, you need to cut the lid out. Make sure the pumpkin has a stem; this is to help pull the lid off the pumpkin. She uses a sturdy nail file and cuts a diagonal star shape in the top. She advises not cutting straight up and down but at a 90-degree angle so the lid doesn’t fall in.

Duncan said she uses a metal ice cream scoop to scrape the inside out and leaves about an inch of wall inside the pumpkin. She uses a rotary power tool with the smallest bit for the actual carving.

Duncan drills a small hole in the back for flashing Christmas lights for the glow of the jack-o’-lantern. When her masterpiece is complete, she uses a spray varnish on the exterior and interior of the pumpkin to ensure that her art will last through the season.

The History Channel offers free stencils as well as facts about Halloween. Search “pumpkin” at for interactive pages on Halloween, pumpkin carvings and video tips from carver Steve Clarke.


Originally published: Thursday, October 20, 2011

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