10 Tips for Perfect Jack-o’-Lanterns

Pumpkin carving secrets to help make this ritual as easy and fun as can be.

Need a stencil for your Jack-o’-Lantern? Print one of our 27 pumpkin carving patterns.

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”1. ” image_url=”” title=”Never carry your pumpkin by the stem.” ]It’s part of the visual allure, and if it snaps, it can accelerate the pumpkin’s rotting. Always carry the pumpkin from below.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2. ” image_url=”” title=”Store your uncut pumpkin in a cool, dry place.” ]Once pumpkins ripen, they will deteriorate fast, and heat and light speed up the process.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3. ” image_url=”” title=” Wash the exterior of the pumpkin well before carving.” ]Use a solution of 1 gallon water and 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach. This will help prevent mold.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4. ” image_url=”” title=”Draw your pattern on paper, or use a pumpkin-carving template.” ]This is easier and cleaner than drawing right on the pumpkin, and makes revisions a snap.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5. ” image_url=”” title=” To transfer a pattern to the pumpkin,” ]cut it out and adhere it to the pumpkin with masking tape. Then either use pinpricks to mark the shapes and lines on the pumpkins, or use a craft or utility knife and cut through the design to score it on the surface.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6. ” image_url=”” title=”Don’t just think of face designs.” ]Moons, stars, cats, and witches are all fun and easy to do. Using a drill to make patterned light holes is a wonderful idea as well.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”7. ” image_url=”” title=” Seriously consider buying a pumpkin carving kit.” ]Often they can be found for just a few dollars. Kits usually contain small scoops and serrated saws that aren’t commonly found in the typical toolbox. They work terrifically well when doing detailed carving work.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8. ” image_url=”” title=”When cutting out your shapes, always use a sawing motion.” ]Go slowly and gently. A small serrated saw is best for the detail work. Never try to cut your pumpkin with a straight-edge razor, using force; you’ll damage the pumpkin, hurt the knife, and possibly cut yourself![/step-item]

[step-item number=”9. ” image_url=”” title=”The more pumpkins in your display, the better.” ]Four or five small pumpkins in a row have much more visual impact than one large one.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”10. ” image_url=”” title=”If scraping out a pumpkin is too much hassle for you,” ]consider buying a hollow acrylic or craft pumpkin. These are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to their realism and their ease in carving. Yes, you carve those soft plastic pumpkins just like a real one; most are made to be about 1/4 inches thick, with inside colors that match a real pumpkin. And they last forever, meaning jack-o’-lanterns for next year![/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

Step-by-Step Pumpkin Carving Guide

Free Pumpkin Carving Stencils to Take Your Jack-o’-Lantern to the Next Level

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest