6 Steps to Carving the Perfect Pumpkin
The fall weather is here again – time to pull out the hoodies, sweaters, and gloves as we embrace the crisp nip in the air. It’s also time to turn on the oven for our favorite comfort foods, not to mention the only thing people actually think about come October – pumpkin carving.
You’ve seen all the designs, from the scary to the cheerful to the comical, and more complex carvings are appearing more and more. Now, you can find stencils of almost anything, namely pop icons for the most complex pumpkin designs. But what’s a person to do when they’re faced with such a task for the first time? Thankfully, Cedar Creek is here to help you with the process, from tool selection to giving it light. Plus, your next St. Louis weekend getaway can be a pumpkin carving expedition at Cedar Creek.
Step 1: Invest in the Right Tools
You might find a lot of the pumpkin carving tools lying around your house. Expert favorites include a paring knife, a scraper or spoon, an X-acto knife, a linoleum cutter, and a fine line drawing marker.
Pro tip: grab yourself a nice warm beverage like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee, and queue up your favorite horror movie. This will give you the inspiration you need to carve the most perfect pumpkin.
Step 2: Drawing the Design
Using a thin waterproof marker is the best way to sketch or trace your design onto the pumpkin. Reason being, it’s the easiest way to wash the design right off the skin when you’re finished carving. When choosing the pen, be sure to choose a color that will hide easily. Cedar Creek lodge likes to use brown, but almost anything will work aside from the common mistake of using a black Sharpie.
There are also a lot of designs you can print and transfer over to the pumpkin. To do this, pin the design on the skin of the pumpkin and use a sharp object to puncture holes through the design into the pumpkin. Your traditional wooden skewer will do the job.
Step 3: Cutting Off the Top
Before attempting this step, grab some newspaper and place it over the surface of the table to avoid too much of a mess. Use your knife to cut a large hole in the top of the pumpkin. Make sure it’s large enough to place your whole hand in comfortably, ensuring that you’ll be able to reach the bottom with ease. Also, cut at an angle toward the center of the stem to create a shelf that will hold the top of the pumpkin.
When the lid has been removed, you can start to remove the goopy stuff and save the seeds for roasting in the oven. Next, take a spoon or your scooping tool and scoop around the inside of the pumpkin. A little elbow grease will clean out any of the leftover goopy stuff while providing a thin enough wall (about an inch or so) for carving.
Step 4: Carving
Carefully carve out your design using different sizes of X-acto blades and linoleum cutters. You can get the best effects of shading and value differences by carving at different depths of the pumpkin walls.
Start from the center of the design and work your way out, finishing with the larger areas. Consider the area of the design that is the most difficult and start there. When you’re finished, you can go back and decide which areas you’d like to carve a bit deeper – eyes and teeth always look great fully removed.
Check the progress as you go by dimming the lights and shining a flashlight through the inside of the pumpkin. This will help you get a much better idea of what needs additional shading or carving.
Step 5: Preserve Your Masterpiece
At the end of the day, your pumpkin is a piece of fruit that will eventually become garbage, but there are a few things you can do to extend its life. First, apply lemon juice to the cutting surfaces to fight oxidation and mold. Then, spray a light coat of vegetable oil to hold in moisture on the surface. Store in a cool place and wrap in plastic when not on display.
Step 6: Give it Light
Using a candle to light your pumpkin? Consider carving a bit deeper through your design. Also, poke holes in the top or leave a small opening for the candle smoke.
Cool Pumpkin Designs
Have any additional ideas for designing the coolest pumpkin on the block? We’d love to hear them. Aside from that, good luck in your efforts! Below are a couple of Cedar Creek’s most favorite pumpkin designs for some more inspiration.