Halloween is synonymous with costumes and dark festivities. However, no tradition tests your creativity and knife-wielding skills more than carving a jack o’lantern. If you’re looking to carve the perfect jack o’lantern either to scare your neighbors or enter our pumpkin carving contest, here are a few important tips.

Pick the right pumpkin

The first step is actually picking a healthy pumpkin from the patch. In order to pick the right shape, you can go about it two ways. You can go in with a design already planned, so you can get a pumpkin that fits your plan. For example, if you want to carve a screeching cat, you might want a taller one. Or you could simply go in without a plan and pick the most uniform pumpkin with no scratches or bruises. You also want to make sure that the skin is firm.

Select a unique design

This one is entirely up to you, but you should be fully aware of your limitations and avoid something too ambitious for your skill level. You can create your own on a piece of paper or scour the Internet for inspiration.

Opt for a serrated knife

Now on to our favorite part: the knife. A number of pumpkin-carving kits are for sale, but if you want to use one of your knives, always go for the serrated blade with small teeth. A straight edge might pierce the pumpkin easier, but it will be extremely difficult to carve. If possible, get a few different sizes to work on the smaller details.

Thoroughly remove the innards

This one is pretty straightforward, but after you cut around the stem at a 45-degree angle (so the top doesn’t drop in), it’s essential to thoroughly remove everything from the inside. Even a few extra strands of pumpkin on the inside could create problems.

Lightly sketch your design on the pumpkin

Unless you’re truly gifted, you should sketch your design on the pumpkin. This will minimize your mistakes while carving. After you have carved it, you can also used a wet paper towel to remove any remaining lines.

Lighting is everything

Finally, the key to really bring your jack o’lantern to life is light. LED lights specially designed for pumpkins are on the market, but you can also just use a traditional candle to give it an old, creepier feel.


Timothy Martinez Jr. is the community director for Knife Depot and the editor of The Cutting Edge. If you have any questions or ideas for The Cutting Edge, you can contact him at Tim@knife-depot.com.
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