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A Pumpkin-Carving Primer

Nothing embodies the spirit of Halloween better than a brightly glowing jack-o'-lantern. Whether you opt to carve an elaborate design, or a simple — yet equally charming — pattern, here are some tricks on how to do it easily and safely.


While many people are adept at using their own kitchen utensils, you may consider wearing inexpensive slash-resistant gloves while carving, especially if you have a young assistant. Once the carving begins, the pumpkin surface can become quite cheap generic Cialis slippery, which increases your risk of injury. You may also choose to give young carvers saw-toothed plastic knives instead; these should slice through the pumpkin with ease.

Some craft and department stores carry pumpkin-carving kits in a range of prices at this time of the year. With their short blades, craft knives work well and are more easily controlled than a kitchen knife.

A dry-erase marker is perfect for tracing your design onto the pumpkin's surface. You can simply wipe off any traces of ink after completion.

The traditional pumpkin-carving method involves cutting a tapered circle around the pumpkin stem, removing it and then scraping out the pulp and seeds. Carving pierces through the rind, all the way to the pumpkin's interior. This method is referred to as hollow carving. If you choose to surface carve the pumpkin, you do not pierce all the way through the rind. 

The method you choose will influence how you illuminate your jack-o'-lantern. To light a hollowed-out pumpkin, place the light source in its interior. However, this does dry out the pumpkin rapidly. Exterior lighting is used for surface-carved pumpkins. The light source should be placed at an oblique angle to cast strong shadows. Positioning the light overhead will produce less shadowing and, in effect, a less ominous-looking jack-o'-lantern. Placing the light below the pumpkin will result in strong shadows, which can give the finished piece an eerier look.

If you incorporate a combination of surface and hollow carving, you may require both methods of lighting.

You've gathered a plump, firm-skinned pumpkin and an assortment of tools; now you need inspiration. An image search on your Web browser will provide dozens of examples, or simply stimulate your artistic talents. 

Take into consideration that a sphere isn't the easiest shape to control while carving, even if the design is a simple one. The pumpkin should be stabilized beforehand. To do so, twist a small towel and shape it into a circle by tying the ends together. Place the pumpkin in the middle of the towel loop. 

The next step is to transfer the image onto the surface of the pumpkin. You can sketch it freehand, but an easier alternative is to print the template, affix it to the pumpkin in the appropriate position and then trace around the design using a piercing implement, such as the tip of your knife, a fine sewing awl or a large pin. You do not have to poke deeply—through the template and the surface of the pumpkin skin should be sufficient.

You are now ready to carve. The skin can be tough, so cut carefully, using good control. Be sure to never place fingers in front of the blade. Start with small cuts, removing v-shaped slivers; grow bolder in your cuts as your confidence increases. 

Don't be too hung up on your design—these things tend to take on a life of their own during the carving process. 

Make It Last 

The life of a carved pumpkin is rather short—it begins to dry out and discolor almost immediately. To slow this, keep the jack-o'-lantern in a cool, dry place. It helps to cover it with a paper bag to reduce the drying effects of moving air. Don't use a plastic bag since mold will grow in less than a day. The carved surface can be sprayed with a polyacrylic finish, which is available at craft stores. 

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