For many years now I have been using patterns to carve pumpkins. And I wanted to share some of the things that make carving from a pattern easier.
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Step 1: Pick a Pattern
There are many different places to find excellent patterns to use.
Pumpkin Masters has been making outstanding stencils for years and they also have great toolkits that make carving really easy. Websites like www.pumpkinlady.com or www.freestencilgallery.com just to name a few.
This year the pattern I decided to use was a free giveaway from the band Disturbed. It is the unmistakable smile of their mascot "The Guy".
No matter what pattern you choose to use, the first thing you want to do is save a copy.
If you are getting the pattern from an online source, save a copy of the file.
If it is a hard copy, like from a pattern book, make a photocopy.
This way if you ever want to make that particular pattern again you have it available.
A good idea to prevent using your pattern without having a spare is to label one as the master copy. Then you know to make a copy of it to use, not to use the master.
Step 2: Tools
Pumpkin Carving Tools: you can get by with Ye Olde Fashioned tools (a kitchen knife and a spoon for gutting your pumpkin) or you can splurge a few bucks and get a set of carving tools that include several saws for carving and a scoop made for cleaning out the insides of your pumpkin with ease.
Newspaper: Pumpkin carving can be a jolly messy event .. so laying out a good layer of newspaper on your work area will make clean up very easy when you are done.
Pumpkin: because you'll feel silly trying to carve a cantaloupe for halloween
Flour: to make the pattern easy to see
Step 3: Apply the Pattern
Choose what side of the pumpkin you want to carve.
Tape you pattern onto the face of the pumpkin. Don't be afraid to cut the paper to contour to the face of the pumpkin.
Grab your poker of choice for applying the pattern to the pumpkin. you don't have to poke very deep .. just enough to break the skin of the pumpkin.
Any black parts of the pattern are places that will be cut out of the pumpkin. Using the poker you want to poke holes all along the edges of any black parts of the pattern. For long straight lines on the pattern you can space the holes a little farther apart, but on curves and smaller parts of the pattern you want the holes really close together so it is easier to tell where to cut.
Before you remove your pattern from the pumpkin make sure you have outlined all of the parts of the pattern. It is much easier to spend a few moments to verify all sections have been traced than it is to try to realign the pattern on the pumpkin if you notice you missed a spot after the pattern is removed.
Step 4: Lobotomy Time for Mr. Pumpkin
Time to de-gut the gourd.
I like to carve an index shape into the top of the pumpkin so that it is easy to tell how it fits onto the pumpkin when it is done.
when cutting the lid it is a good idea to cut the lid at an angle so that as the pumpkin dehydrates the lid will not fall into the pumpkin.
Use your scoop to get the inside nice and clean. Don't forget to set the seeds aside if you are going to roast them for a snack.
Step 5: Flour Power
Your pattern is applied, the insides are out, now it is time to get carving.
To make the pattern easier to see on the pumpkin grab a little bit of flour and rub it onto the face of the pumpkin. The flour will get caught in all the little holes you poked into the pattern making the pattern much more visible.
Start with cutting out the smallest pieces first then work from the center of the pattern out towards the edges to reduce the risk of breaking any carved parts of the pumpkins.
Step 6: Smile .. a Job Well Done
place a candle or LED light into your masterpiece and bask in the soft orange glow of success.
to help your carving last longer, you can apply petroleum jelly to all the exposed flesh of the pumpkin. This will slow down the dehydration process.