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There are those who can transform a normal pumpkin into an impossibly good-looking piece of slowly decomposing art — and there are those like myself and reader Kevin L. who can’t.  This Halloween, Kevin is giving pumpkin-carving a shot, and he asks the Toolmonger readership how best to create an impressive pumpkin.

Here in the Toolmonger shop we can do many things with pumpkins — blow them up, crush them with power tools, fling pumpkin guts at each other, and even make them into pies — but carving is not among our talents.  What tools should Kevin use, and how should he go about it?  Let us know in comments.


16 Responses to Reader Question: Best Way To Carve Pumpkins

  1. Rick says:

    jigsaw, no question, its easy and fast. its also WAY safer than using a knife. You are just going to just cut yourself with it. I use a jigsaw and drill. Maybe its not good for detail work, but I am not doing detail work (go get a dremel).

    if you dont want to screw up your good skill jigsaw…. use a cheap harbor freight one! Help work on that national defecit.

    2 cents…

  2. apotheosis says:

    I use a broken scroll saw blade, with e-tape wrapped around one end for a grip.

  3. Dave says:

    Has anyone ever thought about using a Dremel tool? They make a pumpkin carving kit that comes with bits that removes the skin, versus cutting through the entire pumpkin. This allows shading as shown above in your picture. I recently saw these at Lowe’s.

  4. Jim K. says:

    My personal combination of tools include a couple of different knives (different widths and lengths) and my trusty dremel with an assortment of bits. I use the knives for any of the cutting and most of the carving, and the dremel for removing skin to various depths for a translucent effect. A few other tips: after cutting the pumpkin open, soak it in cold water for a period of time to firm up the flesh of the pumpkin to make carving intricate details easier. After carving, coat exposed areas with lemon juice, petroleum jelly or white glue to slow decay. Finally, if you want an area to glow a different color, line the inside of the pumpkin with colored tissue paper pinned in place (but watch that it’s not at risk for catching on fire from the candle flame). Have fun!

  5. Dremel! If you don’t have a Dremel already, you can pick up the carving one for less than $ 20. I think I’ve seen it for about $ 10.

  6. Chuck says:

    You know, I’ve used a jig saw blade and a pair of vise grips for as long as I can remember. Works really well. We get one of the safety kits for the kids. I suppose a dremel would work, but it seems like it would throw a lot of pumpkin everywhere.

  7. Bren R. says:

    I use jigsaw blades that are ground down to be thinner in width and in depth both… leaving only a few mm behind the serrated edge and thinning the cutting edge.

  8. Baron says:

    Check out the FAQ on this site:
    He is the jr. high art teacher where I went to school (though, not teaching when I was there, so I sadly missed getting first hand pumpkin experience) and he does an amazing job with pumpkins.

  9. ChrisW says:

    I do very simple designs with Forstner bits. I like the nearly perfect holes. Once I spelled “happy haloween” using a 5×7 dot matrix.

  10. Stanley L says:

    I found that a drywall saw was best for the coarse cuts and detail chisels like these: http://toolbug.co.uk/5pc-wood-turning-chisels-set-p-34.html for well, details. I used those tools to make this last year: http://picasaweb.google.ca/stanley.lui/Halloween2007#5158150577972455826

    I tried the dremel, but wasn’t really happy with the results. The pulp just clogged up whatever bit I tried to use.

  11. Jim says:

    I always wanted to try a sandblaster – mask out what I want to stay, and turn the rest into pulp!

  12. CyberKender says:

    I’ve used a combination of one of those ‘pumpkin cutter’ saws, an Exacto knife set, and my Dremel to pretty good effect.
    Last year’s work: http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y16/CyberKender/?action=view&current=Chernabog.jpg
    The year before’s pumpkins: http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y16/CyberKender/?action=view&current=pumpkins.jpg

  13. Scout leader says:

    I use a blunted down knife as you don’t want to cut your fingers. SAFTEY COMES BEFORE PERFECTION. I once cut my finger half a cm. I was in agony so please be careful. It’s best to use a butter knife and give your child a spoon to dig into. This takes a while but you bond with your child. Happy Halloween!

  14. SerenityChef says:

    Sharp knives are safer than dull ones because you don’t have to press as hard with a sharp knife. Also, sharp knives are more likely to go where you intend them than dull ones, which the small nicks and grooves that make it dull also send it off track.

  15. Scout leader says:

    Yes but lets per-say that my kid using a ‘sharp knife’ and he accidently moves suddenly. Will whats gonna happen next ?? I’ll have to take him to hospital because of your advice of using a ‘sharp knife’. If he had used a blunted knife he would be fine, so i say safety is first. USE A BLUNT KNIFE. If you say it not very good at cutting then you can always get a spoon to dig into it. Problem solved.

  16. zale says:

    I know I’m way late on this but I use a dremel to transfer my pattern and linoleum cutters (the ones for printmaking) for the detail.

    I also use a keyhole saw to cut my lid (remember to angle your cut so the lid doesn’t fall in).

    I use a compact fluorescent lightbulb in an Ikea hanging light socket (the ones for their hanging paper lights) as a light source (safer than candles and it doesn’t speed up the drying/rotting of the pumpkin).

    It’s also important to scrape the inside of the pumpkin to a thinner, even surface so the light shines through brightly.
    This is important too if you are carving the traditional way (entirely through the squash) because it makes the cuts easier to make and you don’t have an inch of flesh showing through each cut. When I used to carve this way I would spend ages “backcutting” the flesh exposed by each cut so that the lines were crisp and bright… especially the thinner cuts.

    Some hints for making them last:
    Once you are done, wipe all the moisture out of the inside of the pumpkin then, using a paper towel really wet with bleach, wipe down the inside of the pumpkin – this will help prevent rotting. Place a few slightly crumpled paper towels inside the pumpkin to absorb any moisture that collects and change them daily. Also a good spraying with Lysol can help keep the rot away.
    If the pumpkin dries out you can soak it in cold water for a few hours to rehydrate it.

    Hope this helps

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