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How to Carve a Creative Pumpkin

Simple tips for fun and easy pumpkin-carving, plus a free downloadable stencil.

Allrecipes and Better Homes & Gardens are teaming up to help you have a happy Halloween!

Step 1. Choose a Pumpkin Design

What's your pumpkin's personality--sweet, scary, silly? You'll find lots of free pumpkin stencils at for you to download and print.

Step 2. Choose a Pumpkin Shape

Pick a pumpkin that’s the right shape for your design.

Tip: A clean pumpkin will last longer so wash it and let it dry thoroughly. Before you start carving, let your pumpkin sit at room temperature for a while.

    Step 3. Cut Out the Top

    Using a sharp knife, cut a circular hole in the top of the pumpkin at an angle toward the center. This will create a support ledge for your lid.

    Or, if you prefer to keep your top in one piece, cut a hole straight up through the base.

    Tip: Before you remove the lid or bottom, make a mark or notch on the pumpkin and the cut piece so it's easy to match them up afterwards.

      Step 4. Scoop the Seeds

      Using a metal spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds. For easier cleanup, do this over several layers of newspaper or the kitchen sink. Scrape the walls of your pumpkin until it is clean and the areas to be carved are about 1-inch thick.

      Tip: Toss the pumpkin innards in the trash, not the disposal. Or save your pumpkin seeds for these delicious snacks:

      Step 5. Trace Your Design

      For a freehand design, draw an outline on the pumpkin surface with a washable marker.

      If you’re using a stencil, enlarge or reduce the design to fit your pumpkin’s size. Print the stencil and tape it to the surface to be carved. Follow the design lines with a rotary tracing wheel or use an awl or thin screwdriver to make holes along the design lines about 1/8-inch apart. Remove the stencil pattern when finished.

      Step 6. Get Carving

      Use a crafts knife or fine-toothed saw to cut out the design. Work from the center of your design outward to avoid putting pressure on areas already carved. Keep your saw perpendicular to your pumpkin as you saw in an up-and-down motion. Apply gentle pressure, and remove and reinsert the knife to make corners; don’t twist the blade. Use your finger to carefully push out cut pieces from the inside.

        Step 7. Interesting Extras

        After you have cut out all the openings, create interesting effects with color and light by removing the skin of the pumpkin with wood-carving gouges or a citrus zester The depth of removal will cause the variation in color when the pumpkin is lit.

          Step 8. Light It Up

          Illuminate your fresh pumpkin with a battery-powered light or candle. To use a candle inside, place it and light it after all the carving is complete. When the candle smoke has blackened a spot on the lid or the top, use a saw to cut a 1-inch-diameter hole at that spot for a chimney.

          Tip: To reduce shriveling over time, coat the cut edges of your carving with petroleum jelly.

            Get ready for Halloween fun!

              Oct. 26, 2012 5:53 am
              I find the pumpkins easier to light when you carve out the bottom instead of the top. Also no worries about fitting the top back on.
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