Carving Jack-O-Lanterns

jack o lanternWhat is harvest and Halloween without jack o lanterns? One of the best things about Halloween is decorating your home or yard for the holiday, or a fall party festival. From large to small, pumpkins make great decorations to get into the Autumn spirit.

Whether you want your jack-o-lantern to be cute, creepy or downright scary, here are some pumpkin picking and classic carving tips for some great jack-o-lanterns. Make sure you take a picture of your masterpiece when you're finished for unique Halloween memories.

How to Pick a Perfect Pumpkin

  • Take your camera along to capture the moment.
  • If possible, go straight to the pumpkin patch and hand-pick your pumpkins right off of the vine. Some farms offer unique varieties such as miniatures and ghost white pumpkins.
  • Grab some gourds and Indian corn while you're at it and you're all set for Halloween decorating. Not only is it fun, your pumpkins and gourds will be fresh and last longer.
  • Look for a well-balanced pumpkin with a steady base.
  • Make sure the stem isn't broken.
  • Choose a solid, not soft or mushy pumpkin.
  • The color should be dark and even, with no fungus.
  • Check the pumpkin for flat spots and molding.
  • Never pick up a pumpkin by the stem, it may break off.
  • If you plan on carving your pumpkin, make sure it's not too small. You will need ample room for carving out the face.
  • After you've brought it home, leave it in the garage for the night if a freeze is in the weather forecast.

Carving a Jack-O-Lantern

  • Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds.
  • The rind should be about 1" thick so it doesn't collapse.
  • Map out your pumpkin face on a piece of paper ahead of time for some ideas.
  • Draw the lines for your lid before carving. Make a special "notch" so the lid is easy to put on.
  • When using a stencil, pick a pumpkin that is similar in shape to the pattern you are using.
  • Use a knife long enough to cut through the rind, but not so long that it cuts the other side.
  • When you carve out the lid, angle your knife slightly towards the center of the pumpkin. This keeps the lid from falling into the pumpkin.
  • If the base of your pumpkin sets crooked, consider cutting out the bottom to straighten it out and provide a sturdy base for a candle when you set it down.
  • Draw the facial features on the pumpkin ahead of time with a pencil or use a stencil pattern specifically for jack-o-lanterns.
  • Don't cut out the features on your jack-o-lantern too closely together or it's face will probably weaken and cave in.
  • Your pumpkin will last longer if you use an electric or battery operated lighting device instead of a candle.
  • If you choose to use a candle, insert an appropriate scented one, such as cinnamon, spice or "baked pumpkin pie".
  • Coat the edges of your carving with petroleum jelly to reduce shriveling.
  • You don't have to carve your pumpkin. Consider using a stencil to draw on the face. Fill in the features with markers or acrylic paint made for crafts.

More Decorating Guides