Oct 17, 201208:45 AMDaily News
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Tips and tricks for awesome pumpkin carving
Trick-or-treating is overrated; pumpkin carving is really the best part of Halloween.
Carving pumpkins is constructive, creative and challenging yet a great project for children and adults. Whether you’re carving a simple jack-o’-lantern or attempting a difficult pattern, there’s something about cutting up that big orange fruit that is exciting and fun.
Growing up, my family carved pumpkins and I was able to start carving by myself in middle school. My mom would often insist on a simple face, but I wanted something cool—like something from Pokemon (again, I was in middle school) or a sports team logo.
In college I met Matt Rydzik, one of my best friends and easily the best pumpkin carver I’ve known. Matt taught me how to use shading to create a three-color effect as well as other tips. He has carved many famous people (including presidential primary candidates in 2008) and beloved cartoon characters ranging from Garfield to Winnie the Pooh.
Last weekend, I met up with Matt and asked him for some pointers. (We also carved a few pumpkins ourselves and chronicled our endeavor in the following short videos.)
Be sure to check them out to see our final results at the bottom of the page.
- SAFETY FIRST: This should be a no-brainer, but it’s so important it merits repeating. Pumpkin carving tools are very dangerous and can be hazardous to children of all ages. I still routinely end up with a scratch or two from carelessness with the knives. Parents, watch your kids very closely. Also be careful with candles.
- Cut from the bottom: Most people cut out the top of the pumpkin first, then gut it and scrape out the insides. But as time wears on, the top begins to mold and gets worn down and soon can’t hold the stem up anymore. The top just falls through. To avoid this, cut the hole from the bottom. It works just as well and helps you avoid issues later.
- Cut slits in the patterns before taping to the pumpkin: Patterns are simply sheets of paper, so basically stiff rectangles. Pumpkins, of course, are round, so trying to tape a pattern to a pumpkin without messing it up can be a hassle. To simplify, simply add a few more cuts in the corners and on the edges (not into the pattern itself, but along its edge) to make it easier to form to the round pumpkin. Also use enough tape to keep it secure.
- Use tracing paper: One of the most challenging parts is keeping a pattern together while carving it. With every incision you make, the pattern gets more crinkled and messed up, making the rest of it a challenge. One way to avoid this is using the little poker included in most kits. Poke holes along the pattern, remove it and then it’s engrained in the pumpkin itself. Another way is tracing paper. Tape tracing paper between the pumpkin and the pattern and trace the pattern. You can then remove it and see the pattern directly on the pumpkin.
- Choose large pumpkins with a flat side: The bigger the pumpkin, the wider your surface area and easier it is to carve. Make sure it’s not a completely round pumpkin, too, because a flatter surface is easier to carve.
- Double up: You don’t need to buy tons of pumpkins to try lots of patterns. Depending on the pumpkin, you can usually carve two patterns into each pumpkin. Make sure you don’t carve them on opposite sides though; the light won’t reflect as well if there’re holes on the other side of your carving.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent. His favorite masterpiece is one of Sonic the Hedgehog.