8 Pro Tips for Carving A Killer Jack O' Lantern

Pumpkin season is here and, if you’ve been to Packard Farm recently, you know that we could not be more excited! We don’t mind admitting that we’re cuckoo for all things pumpkin and support them being decorated in any way imaginable. But as pumpkin purists, our favorite thing to do with a pumpkin is a good ol’ fashioned jack-o-lantern carve up. Though most of us have been doing that for years, it’s always a good idea to get a refresher course in best practices for safety and artistry. Read on for our best, time-tested tips.

1. Choose Wisely

The first step to carving a great jack-o-lantern is buying a great pumpkin. Here’s what to look for:

Always pick a pumpkin with the stem still intact and look for stems that are greenish in color. No stem or a dried-out, brittle stem indicates that the fruit has been handled too much or isn’t very fresh. A nice, thick stem means the pumpkin will be great for carving.

Don’t rule out pumpkins that are not perfectly round. Depending on what you plan to carve, an unusual shape can help contribute to a unique, spooky design.

Compare the weight of pumpkins of equal size and opt for the heaviest. If your chosen pumpkin is heavier than others that are close to the same size, it will have thicker flesh and be easier to carve.

2. Safety First

Whether little ones will be part of the pumpkin carving or not, safety is the first priority. Take your time and use caution when handling sharp carving tools. And if children are involved, adults need to be present at all times and closely monitor the kids’ involvement.

3. Ditch the Carving Kit

The classic pumpkin carving kit that you find at the grocery store is OK if you’re going for a very simple design. But if you want to go beyond the basic, head to the art supply store to pick up some extras, like ribbon tools for pottery. These more specialized tools will help you to achieve more detailed and subtle designs.

4. Scoop Out

When beginning, it’s very important to make sure you fully clean out the inside of the pumpkin or the remaining goop left behind will start to get moldy and gross.

5. Plan It Out

When carving a pumpkin, there’s no such thing as erasing or going back. So, it’s best to draw your intended design on the pumpkin before even picking up a cutting tool. This will help ensure that the finished product matches the vision in your head.

6. Wait till the Last Minute

In most things, this is terrible advice. But for pumpkin carving, it’s exactly what you should do. Keep in mind that a pumpkin is just a giant piece of fruit. So, the minute you start cutting into it and exposing it to air, it will begin decaying. We wouldn’t recommend carving your jack-o-lantern before 2-3 days prior to when you want to display it.

7. Don’t Break on Through to the Other Side

To achieve an artistic design that looks truly spectacular when light from within, don’t make all of your cuts go all the way through the pumpkin wall. Keep in mind that the deeper you cut, the lighter that part will look. This is helpful to remember when trying to create a shading effect.

8. Think Outside the Candle

Instead of lighting your finished jack-o-lantern with a real candle, consider using LEDs or CFLs, which give off a bright light but no heat. This way you avoid accidentally cooking your pumpkin, which will speed up the decaying process more than you’d like. Now that you’re briefed on the best way to carve, it’s time to get your perfect pumpkin. At Packard Farm, we have a huge selection of pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and colors and we’re ready to help you choose the right one for your needs.

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