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Everyone has carved a pumpkin at some point... right? You snatch a pumpkin, stab it with a knife, and pull out its guts. In case you need a refresher, below is a step-by-step guide to pumpkin carving. It takes a little longer than you think and it's messy but the result is a satisfying tradition that just may save your soul on Halloween night. Having good tools on hand will make the process easy – review the pumpkin carving tools page for our recommended supplies. At minimum you'll need a sturdy serrated knife and some sort of scoop. If you are using a pattern, you'll also need tape and some sort of poking tool (toothpick, awl, or even a ballpoint pen). Happy carving!
 

STEP 1
Start by making a hole at the top of your pumpkin. Angle the knife at a 45 degree angle to create a lip for the lid to sit on top. You can also make a hole at the bottom of the pumpkin to keep the top pristine.

 

Step 2
Create a "V" shaped notch at the back of the pumpkin. When replacing the lid, you'll know exactly where it fits.

     

Step 3
Gently raise the lid, avoiding too much pressure on the stem which can break off.

 

TIP
The membranes will insist on holding tight - insert your knife and cut those carefully, making sure not to dig into your wrist.

     

Step 4
Using a scoop begin cleaning out the membranes and seeds. A pumpkin gutter attached to a cordless drill makes this effortless.

 

Step 5
Pour the membranes and seeds out to a waiting bowl - yes, your hands will be a sticky, slimy mess so have a towel handy.

     

Tip
Don't throw out all those seeds! Clean them up and roast them in the oven for a great treat or use those seeds to plant your own pumpkins. It's very easy to grow your own.

 

Step 6
Depending on the intricacy of your design, you will need to thin the walls of the face. A thinning tool (or scoop spoon) can help tremendously.

     

Step 7
After washing and thoroughly drying your pumpkin, attach your pattern with some tape. Keep in mind that you can enlarge or reduce the print size to best suit the pumpkin size. The flat paper will not fit precisely on the round surface so crinkle the page to best fit.

 

Step 8
With a poking tool, trace the entire pattern by poking along the edge of the black parts. Make sure to keep the poking holes close to one another. Do not remove the pattern until you have traced the entire design.

     

Step 9
After completing the outlining, carefully lift one edge of your pattern. Your pattern should be recognizable on the pumpkin. If not, your hole tracing might be too sparse.

 

Step 10
Trim out the features of your pumpkin with a smaller knife. Start with the smallest details (like the nose and eyes) and work out the largest (like the mouth).

     

Step 11
As you cut out a section, push it out gently from the inside. It it doesn't give easily, trim the section again. Never force out a section or you could break the thinned wall.

 

Step 12
Your initial cut may be rough, so go back in and fine tune your cuts from the outside and inside. Trim away any excess flesh to really clean-up those details.

     

Tip
When cutting out large details (like the mouth), work in smaller sections but leave the pumpkin in place. This will lend support to neighboring thinned walls of the pumpkin. After you've completed cutting out the entire area, then push out all of the pieces, section by section.

 

Step 13
After you have completed cutting out the design, think about your lighting. Candles are traditional but if you're putting the pumpkin near sidewalks where children or pets will be walking by, consider using glow sticks or battery-operated lights. Safety first! Replace the lid and set out your Jack-o-lantern!

     

Tip
If you are carving this ahead of time, store in a cold place, let dry a couple hours, then rub Vaseline on all the soft, exposed pumpkin flesh. This will keep it fresh longer and avoid some of that gnarly green mold (which sets in within 2-3 days).

 

Tip
When getting ready to photograph your gourd, set up a little "mood" lighting and avoid using the flash. Set your camera on a tripod (or a stack of books), set the timer, and take the picture making sure not to touch or shake the camera. You'll get awesome results.

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