Right tools can help you carve up a great pumpkin

  • By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008 4:06pm
  • Life

I’m not that crafty.

And, yet, every Halloween I can’t resist trying to carve a cool pumpkin.

Intimidated by patterns and unsure of my knife skills, however, I’ve usually ended up with a jack-o’-lantern cliche — a couple of triangle eyes, a weird nose and a random-toothed mouth.

This year, I vowed to take my carving to a new level with the help of inexpensive, plastic-handled pumpkin-carving kits.

Do those things really work?

I’m happy to say the answer is yes, if you read the directions and buy the right kit.

I bought two basic kits, a power carver and a special scoop. All but the latter proved useful.


I used two cheap plastic scoopers from the basic kits, one large, one small, and both worked great. Their hard, contoured edges were ideal for scraping out the foamy interior flesh and the hairy guts that goes along with it.

I also tried The Monster Scoop, a metal, bowl-shaped blade with serrated edges. The $9.99 giant tool looked promising, but I was sorely disappointed. The long handle made it awkward to maneuver inside the pumpkin and the serrated edges had no effect on the goop.

Pounce wheel

This tiny tool came with Pumpkin Masters’ 12-piece Pumpkin Carving Kit ($6.99). Similar to a tracing wheel used for marking a sewing pattern, this tool neatly marked a subtle dotted line through the pattern. This isn’t a must have, but it’s a great way to transfer a pattern. The Ultimate Pumpkin Carving Kit ($2.99) from Home Logic didn’t have a pounce wheel, but came with a marker and sturdy stencils.


This tool, I now believe, is the secret to easier pumpkin carving. Once you’ve traced an outline of the cuts you want to carve — either with a pencil, pen, marker or the aforementioned pouncer — you can use this tool to poke a dotted line along those lines. By creating a series of small holes, breaking through the leather flesh of the gourd, you’ll make it much easier to cut with a saw or knife, especially if you make those holes close together. One of the kits called this tool a drill because it could be poked all the way through the flesh to make for even easier cutting.


Though the notched saws that come with kits are typically flimsy, they work fine if you poke enough holes ahead of time to make for easier cutting. That said, it’s was difficult to cut particularly clean lines using any of the manual saws. Using a kitchen knife is difficult, too, because it’s hard to get a back-and-forth motion going. If you want to create a pumpkin design with any kind of complexity, be sure your kit comes with a fine-toothed detail saw.

These saws may be too short if you end up with a particularly beefy pumpkin, with flesh more than 2 inches thick.

Power tool

When it came to cutting clean lines, I had the best luck with the Pumpkin Masters Power Master Power Poker and Saw ($8.99). Though the device requires four AA batteries and still requires a bit of elbow grease to get moving, it worked surprisingly well on the dotted lines I had created, especially on the curves.

There were a couple downsides to the power tool: Its poker attachment did not work for me. Thanks to a plastic guard on the device, I couldn’t get it to poke through. It did more to deface my pumpkin than my own lack of skill. I took the tool out of the drill and used it manually with success. Second, if you are using the power saw, always be sure it is fully inserted into the pumpkin before you start sawing. Otherwise, you’ll end up power-stabbing the face of your pumpkin.

Use stock on hand

Raid your kitchen or garage instead of investing in kit.

Scooping: Look for a wide, sturdy spoon or a dough scraper to get out the goop. You need something with a handle that will not bend under intense pressure.

Carving: Knives are typically recommended for cutting out your jack-o’-lantern lid, even if you are using a store-bought carving kit. Try a boning, paring or steak knife. Longer blades can be unwieldy for pumpkin carving.

Other tools: Some things you might have lying around the house include an electric drill, an X-Acto knife, a melon-ball scooper, a small keyhole saw, a linoleum cutter, a chip carving knife, or tools used for carving, ceramics and even stamping.

Share your talent

Do you have pumpkin-carving skills? Send a digital photo of your completed jack-o’-lantern to best@heraldnet.com by Oct. 29 and we’ll publish them on our Web site.

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