Here is the best way to quickly open, gut, and preserve your pumpkin.
Step 1: Gathering the Tools
a big pumpkin about one foot in diameter
light weight rubber mallet
two inch paint scraper
masonry trowel (not totally necessary)
pet shedding blade (awesome)
avocado scraper with wire removed (pretty sweet)
The Pumpkin Gutter (spectacular)
big bucket (optional)
or thick plastic bag
Step 2: Cutting the Lid
Decide which side of the pumpkin you want to become the face of your jack o' lantern and how high on the face you want to start the lid. Point the tip of the trowel against the pumpkin at an angle so that the lid will have a beveled edge. Holding the trowel "up side down" will let you see where you are aiming. Pound the handle's end with the rubber mallet to cut through the wall of the pumpkin. Once you have your first incision, continue the line with the paint scraper to punch a polygon around the top of the pumpkin. You can push the blade slowly across before you pull out to extend the cut and save time. The cuts will be clean, precise, and deep enough to make the top come out easily. You don't really need the trowel, but it's fun.
Step 3: Removing the Guts
Scoop the string and seeds out of the pumpkin with the cat shedding blade. The teeth gather the slimy strings just like it does fur on a sleepy kitty. Follow with the avocado slicer (original metal wires removed) to peel away a thin layer of flesh where any stringy clumps remain. Make sure you remove all the threads so that they won't wrap around The Pumpkin Gutter. If you do not have a Pumpkin Gutter, then the cat shedding blade or avocado slicer is sufficient. Quick light pressure scraping vertically against the grain will knock skinny chunks out of the wall. More pressure peels slivers. You may see a splinter big enough for you to grab with your fingers that you can tear right out like pulling a belt out of a belt loop. This can be fun, but don't get carried away because it could thin the walls unevenly.
The best part about the avocado slicer is that you can angle it perpendicularly from the bottom of the pumpkin to level the inside to create a spot for your light source. Can you tell I really like gutting pumpkins?
Step 4: Thinning the Walls
Attach the Pumpkin Gutter to a power drill. Point the ball end into the pumpkin and turn on the drill. Carefully apply pressure to the pumpkin walls while "drawing" parallel groves, smoothing more delicately as you go. The Pumpkin Gutter will shave the surface very rapidly, so be careful not to overdo it. Reduce the wall depth to no less than one inch to retain integrity as well as leave ample carving tissue. You can always remove more later.
Step 5: Soaking the Pumpkin
Fill the pumpkin with clean water, replace the lid, and let it soak overnight. Cover it with a thick plastic bag to protect from curious squirrels. If you have a clean bucket that is big enough, you can submerge the pumpkin and lid entirely. Soaking with water, before you carve the face, is the best way to make your jack o' lantern last up to a week especially in cool dry weather. If you soak after you carve the face, the thinnest bits may break off of the pumpkin. You don't need petroleum jelly or pumpkin saver spray. I tried both and don't use them. Drain the water and pat the inside dry when you are ready to carve the face. Leave no standing water in the pumpkin.
Now you have a happy pumpkin that is ready to become an even better jack o' lantern!