It’s pumpkin season yet again and we all practically picture all the fun projects that we want to do with them. The most iconic of ideas would of course be to make a jack-o-lantern. You’ve probably done it before and you’re probably familiar with the process or you can at least assume what the main steps are but just in case you need a little bit of help or some tips that can make everything easier, we’ve prepared a short tutorial and some inspiring projects for you to take a look at.
How to carve a pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin is not difficult and shouldn’t be dangerous if done correctly. It’s a fun activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family or a little project that you can occupy your time with on a weekend. Let’s go over the supplies that are needed first:
- medium knife
- small knife
Before you get started, prepare your work area with a newspaper. Cover the whole surface do you don’t make a mess while carving the pumpkin. This will make it a lot easier to clean up when you’re done.
The next step is cut out the stem of the pumpkin. This is how it’s generally done. You can first draw a circle with the marker to use as a guideline. Make sure you cut at an angle towards the stem and also that the hole is big enough for your hand to comfortably fit through. If you don’t cut at an angle, the step will fall inside when you place it back on.
After you’ve removed the stem you have to hollow out the pumpkin. Use the spoon to take out the seeds and pulp and everything inside. Put everything in a bowl and make sure you don’t leave any of the stringy material in.
Once you have a nice and hollow pumpkin to work with, take your marker and sketch the design on one of the sides. The most common option is to make a face with two eyes, a nose and a scary mouth. Don’t make the design too intricate because then you’ll have a hard time cutting out the bits.
Take the small knife and cut along the sketched lines, then remove the extra pieces of pumpkin. Cut at a perpendicular angle so it looks clean. When you’re happy with how it turned out you can erase the marker lines if they’re still visible.
At this point your pumpkin is done. You just have to take a candle, light it up and place it inside in order to turn the carved pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. There are of course a few things that you could differently that how we described it here. For example, you could get special pumpkin carving tools if you don’t want to use a knife or if you want to make it easier to carve out the desired design. You could also search for patterns and print them out and use them as stencils rather than drawing your design by hand.
Pumpkin carving tips
Make a hole into the bottom of the pumpkin: Although it’s very common to cut out the stem of the pumpkin in order to make an access hole, that’s not the only way. If you want to preserve the stem intact or if you don’t want to have to drop your candle from the top, another option if to make a hole into the bottom of the pumpkin. This means you won’t be able to hang it. It also means it will be easier to put the candle in and take it out without burning your hand and you won’t have a visible line all around the stem for everyone to see.
Thin the side that you’re carving: This is a useful trick that you can use to make it easier to carve out the desired design, especially if it’s a more intricate one. First, you need to pick the side that you’ll be carving. It’s usually the one that has an even surface without imperfections. Then you can either use a scraper tool or an ice cream scoop to thin this side a little bit so the pattern shows better on it.
Print out the pattern and secure it with tape:It’s a lot easier to follow a pattern when it’s secured onto the pumpkin rather than having to recreate it by hand. Go ahead and print it out on paper making sure the proportions are right for the pumpkin. You can make copies so you also have this next year. Take the paper and secure it with masking tape. You can also use some pins if you want to. Just make sure you insert them along the lines that need to be carved.
Make dots along the lines: Instead of carving your pumpkin by making long cuts along the lines, try punching a bunch of dots to trace the lines and then cutting along them. This gives you more control and makes it easier to create more intricate designs. Once all the dots are in place you can remove the paper pattern. Use either a punching tool or just a nail or something thin and sharp for this part.
Use flour to make the lines visible: Sometimes it can be difficult to see the actual pattern with all the dots but there’s a very easy trick that you can use to make them more visible. Just take some flour and sprinkle it over the pumpkin. It will fill the holes and it will make your pattern easier to see. You can also easily clean it when you’re done carving.
Secure broken pieces with toothpicks: Sometimes you can make mistakes and cut along a line that you shouldn’t or your knife can slip. Either way, you may end up with a few broken pieces. Not to worry because your design isn’t ruined. You can secure those pieces back in using a toothpick. It won’t look perfect but it will hold.
Reflect the light with aluminum foil: In case the light from your candle isn’t very strong or you feel that your design isn’t visible enough, you can use a bit of aluminum foil to reflect the light and amplify the effect. If that’s still not enough, it may be the case that your candle needs a bit more oxygen. Try to cut out a hole at the top to make a little chimney and bring more oxygen into the pumpkin.
Help your pumpkin to last longer: It’s quite disappointing when you’ve worked really hard to make a cool-looking jack-o-lantern and the pumpkin only lasts a couple of days. You can make it last a little longer by using a mixture of ice water and bleach. Add a teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of water that you’re using. Soak the pumpkin in this mixture. It helps to kill some of the bacteria. You can then also rub the inside of the pumpkin and the carved out edges with petroleum jelly just so it looks fresh a little bit longer.
o lantern Design ideas
If you want a design that’s not your usual spooky face for this year’s jack-o-lantern, how about this pattern? It’s basically just a bunch of Boos carved out in a fairly random pattern. You can use a drill to make the holes once the pumpkin is ready, with the step cut out and the inside hollow and clean. Check out the tutorial on handmadecharlotte to find out exactly how it’s done.
Another idea is to add a bit more depth and character to the design of your jack-o-lantern. Even if you decide to carve out a face, you can make it interesting. Focus on the eyes and make them stand out. Check out how suggestive this design is and how much personality this lantern actually has. It’s a design that we found on reddit.
Rather than using a regular pumpkin, consider a butternut squash instead. It will give you a more elongated and smooth surface to work with which is perfect is you want to create an alien-like face or a minion-inspired design. There’s plenty of inspiration that you can find on reddit in this regarding, like this spooky design for example.
Forget about all the cliche designs and ideas associated with jack-o-lanterns and pumpkins. Come up with a design or a pattern inspired by something that you really like. For instance, this is a music-inspired pattern and it’s really nice as well as easy to make. You can use a drill to get the round sections for the music notes and a small knife or some other tool to carve out the lines. Check out handmadecharlotte for more details.
You can also carve pumpkins for reasons other than to make jack-o-lanterns. One really nice idea that stands out in this case is to make a pumpkin vase. It’s really simple. You start out just like you would when making a lantern and you cut out the stem and hollow out the inside. But then you don’t carve out a face into the side of the pumpkin. Instead of you just fill it with beautiful flowers. This idea is inspired by a project from thecraftedlife.
Printing out patterns and designs is a nice trick that you can use when carving pumpkins. You can transfer the designs onto the pumpkin and then use various tools to carve it. Some designs are more intricate and require more attention and effort, like this one from younghouselove for example. Both the monogram and the ornate design are really beautiful and inspiring.
There’s a lot more that you can do to a pumpkin than just carve a face into it. A cool idea is to paint the pumpkins. For Halloween, a black-and-white combo would look really nice. There’s a few interesting design ideas on whipperberry that you might want to check out. Some involve some carving and others don’t but they’re all beautiful.
This is a pumpkin ice bucket. It’s a pretty easy and straight-forward project as you can probably imagine. A few things to consider is choosing a suitable pumpkin for this. It would be ideal for it to have a fairly flat side so it can stand on a table without wobbling. It should also be big enough to hold a bottle and sufficient ice around it. For more details, head over to everydaydishes.
You can also make a jack-o-lantern without actually using a pumpkin. Instead of that you can use a glass bowl. To make it look like a pumpkin you need orange paint or food coloring. For the face you can use bits of tape cut into the various different shapes. The idea is to paint the whole bowl except for the face sections which is why you need the tape.
Using a candle to light up your jack-o-lantern is the classical choice but not the only one. Another option is to use string lights. You can drill out holes for each of the little bulbs to poke through. They can form the outline of a face or something else, depending on what design you prefer. Either way, it’s a pretty simple project and you can find out all about it on instructables.
There are not really pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns but they sure look cute. They’re pieces of wood which have been cut, painted and decorated to look like jack-o-lanterns. They’re easy to make out of 4×4 wood blocks and you can have a lot of fun coming up with the different designs for each of them. Check out the details on scrappygeek.