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Pumpkin Carving Know-how

Carved pumpkins, also known as Jack O’ Lanterns are a traditional Halloween decoration – the custom originated in the UK and Ireland back in the 1800s when many types of vegetable were cut into lanterns around harvest time. Carving a Jack O’Lantern takes perseverance more than it takes skill – here are a few step by step pointers to carving your own Halloween pumpkin.

Decide on a design – This will give you an idea of the size and shape of the pumpkin you’ll need to buy. For example at Pumpkin Carving Templates you’ll find the best Halloween pumpkin designs as well as instructions and videos on how to carve pumpkins.

Gather your tools – For a standard eyes, nose and mouth design made of triangular shapes, you can carve your pumpkin with knives you already have in your kitchen. However, more complex designs require extra tools and extra time. For example the Dremel Pumpkin carving kit makes carving intricate pumpkin designs as easy as tracing drawings.

Pick your pumpkin – Pick yourself a nice pumpkin in a shape and colour you like Some people like tall elongated pumpkins while others like ‘fat’ squat round ones. Pick one without bruising, nicks and cuts and ensure that it is ripe too. Tug the stem and push in the area around it with your finger. If this area feels soft or if the stem pulls away, the pumpkin has begun to rot – so choose another. If you can, chose a pumpkin with a long tem as this will be your ‘handle’.

Prepare your pumpkins – As soon as you get your pumpkin home – give it a good wipe with a clean damp cloth and pat dry. Get to work – Working on a flat surface protected by a thick layer of newspaper, draw a circle on top of the pumpkin to make an opening large enough for your hand to reach through. Using your hand and / or a large spoon, remove all the filling and seeds – the more your remove, the better.

Save the seeds – Wash the pumpkin seeds and soak them overnight in salty water- the next day pop them in the oven on 350F for 15/20 minutes for a yummy snack. Draw the design – Using dry eraser / whiteboard – markers (because they’re easy to wipe off and start again if you mess up) draw your design on the pumpkin.

Mark it out – Using a sharp nail or a thumb tack, prick the design along the lines and hrough to the punpkin’s skin. Pumpkin carving kits usually contain a pricking / perforating tool made especially for this purpose.  Follow the outline with the nail and space the marks half a centimetre apart ( or less so if the design is intrictate). When you take the paper away you’ll see rows of holes that are your cutting guides.

Use a template – Alternatively, use one of the Jack O’Lantern patterns on the site above. Simply print the design and tape the paper to the front of the pumpkin. If your pumpkin is not smooth, wet the paper with oil (not water) and ‘stick’ it onto the pumpkin – The ink will run a little, but not as much as it would had you used water.

Carve – {Using a sharp knife, carving tool, or a dremel tool, carve your design. Using a carving tool from your kit or a sharp knife, start carving your design.}Try to  remember when cutting that on templates the black usually represents the area to be cut out while the white represents the pumpkin. Push the cut-out pieces gently from the inside out – and discard the pieces.

Light – When the sun sets, place a candle or a battery operated LED light inside the carved pumpkin and watch it glow. Leave your carved pumpkin outside in the cool air – if you live in a cool climate -because doing this ‘refrigerates’ it and extends the life of the pumpkin.