By Nancy Mattia, CTW Features
Whether you get your pumpkins from a pick-your-own patch, a farmers’ market, or the produce section of your local grocery store, you can have fun during the fall season with a DIY-carved jack-o-lantern for your home. Pumpkins with sweet or scary faces make a colorful statement whether in your front yard or on your living room table. The best way to learn how to carve a pumpkin is to watch an instructional video on YouTube for the step-by-step. But first, look at the tips below that will make carving a pumpkin an enjoyable experience to do alone or with kids:
- Pick a beauty
Look for a pumpkin with a symmetrical shape and fresh, smooth, bruise-free skin that’s firm to the touch.
- What tools you’ll need
The pros rely on a serrated knife to cut through the thick skin, a paring knife to cut out the eyes, teeth, etc., a big metal spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the inside, seeds and strings, and a dry-erase marker to draw the graphics on the pumpkin either freehand or with a template.
- How far in advance you can carve it
A not-carved pumpkin can last a month or two; once you stick a knife into it, however, it lasts only three to seven days, depending on the weather conditions, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- Wash it with water and a sponge.
Cleaning the pumpkin lets you start off with a smooth surface to work on, free of debris.
- Avoid a big mess
Spread out a newspaper or plastic tablecloth on your work surface to make cleanup easier if things get messy.
- Cut it out
Use a serrated or sharp knife to cut a wide hole in the pumpkin’s top or bottom. The hole should be big enough to allow you to access the insides.
- Take the insides out
You can use a big metal spoon or an ice cream scoop to remove all the insides—seeds, stringy pulp, and a thin layer of flesh. Light will reflect best on a clean, smooth interior. It will also reduce decay, extending the life of your pumpkin.
- Make your marks
Use a dry-erase marker to draw where you want the eyes, teeth, or other images to go on the pumpkin. This will make it easier and more precise when you cut out the shapes later.
- Light it up
While it’s traditional to light candles and place them inside the pumpkin, it’s safer to use battery-operated lights, which give the illusion of a flickering flame but without the fire danger. If you want your pumpkin lit for weeks, use LED lights. Another super-safe choice: glowsticks.