Food Services San Diego – How to Carve a Pumpkin – Simple Instructions

Posted on October 30, 2023
Carve a Pumpkin

What would Halloween be without a carved pumpkin sitting on your porch or at the window looking out at all the trick or treaters? Make this Halloween special by carving your own pumpkin.

Tools and Materials you will probably use:

  • Pumpkin
  • Keyhole saw
  • Plaster scraper or fleshing tool
  • Sharp awl, needle tool, T pin or thumbtack
  • Miniature saw
  • Linoleum cutter
  • Petroleum jelly

STEP #1: Choose pumpkin. Choose a pumpkin that’s large and smooth with a stem of at least 2”. If you plan to put a candle inside, choose a ground that’s at least 9” tall.

QUICK TIP: Pumpkins with smaller stems rot quickly.

STEP #2: Draw circle or hexagon. Draw a circle or hexagon on the top of the pumpkin an inch or two below the stem. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, but make sure it’s a little bigger than your fist.

Pumpkins for your Autumn Wedding


STEP #3: Carve through pattern (circle or hexagon). Carve through the pattern with a sharp knife or the keyhole saw – this requires less force, and is therefore safer. Angle your cut so the top of your circle is wider than the bottom, which will ensure that the top fits snugly in place.


STEP #4: Remove top & clean out. Using the plaster scraper or fleshing tool, remove the top and clean out the pumpkin’s seeds and stringy membranes with a scooper. Continue scraping the inside until the walls are about half an inch thick – otherwise it will be hard to carve.

After you scoop out and carve your pumpkin, dip it in a large container of bleach and water (use a 1 tsp: 1 gal mix). The bleach will kill bacteria and help your pumpkin stay fresh longer. Once completely dry, (drain upside down), add 2 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a quart of water. Brush this solution onto your pumpkin to keep it looking fresh for weeks.

QUICK TIP: For a delicious – and healthy – treat, wash and    sprinkle the seeds with salt and then toast them in the oven on a baking sheet

STEP #5: Draw face. Draw the eyes, nose and mouth – or any other pattern you want If you use a template, tape template to pumpkin. Trace design onto pumpkin by poking holes with the awl, needle tool, T pin or thumbtack.

QUICK TIP: If you’re not good at drawing, find a carving template online or at a store. Fasten it to the pumpkin and use a thumbtack to poke holes along the lines.

STEP #6: Cut through pattern. Use a miniature saw or knife to cut through the pattern you’ve just drawn. Remember that cuts that connect to each other will remove the entire piece in between, so cut around anything you want to stay intact, like teeth or a wart on the nose. Use the linoleum cutter to carve details into just the surface of the pumpkin.

STEP #7: Make cuts & scrapes. Make disconnected cuts and scrapes to allow the light from inside the pumpkin to shine through without removing whole pieces, a good technique for drawing outlines or scenes, or for creating more definition in a face – like glowing pupils.

QUICK TIP:   To keep the pumpkin edges from browning before the big night, dab on a little petroleum jelly to lock in moisture.

STEP #8: Place candle. Place a small candle and light it when you’re ready to show your work. If there’s a large opening level with the candle, like a mouth, light the flame through it so you don’t burn your hand.

QUICK TIP: If your flame is weak or keeps going out, it’s not getting enough oxygen.  Cut a small opening in the top of the pumpkin, hiding from sight behind the stem.

STEP #9: Use glow stick or battery-powered light. If you’re not keen on having a real flame, use a glow stick or battery-powered light.

 DID YOU KNOW??? Because pumpkins weren’t common in Europe, early Jack-O-Lanterns were made out of turnips.