Pumpkin carving style: Old school freestyle or with stencils?

Examples of some new fangled pumpkin carving tools. (Kimberly Smith/staff)

Examples of some new fangled pumpkin carving tools. (AJC staff)

Example of a pumpkin stencil. (Kimberly Smith/staff)

Example of a pumpkin stencil. (AJC staff)

The final product!  (Kimberly Smith/staff)

The final product! (AJC staff)

When I was a kid, our mother took a gigantic butcher knife and carved two triangles for eyes, a round nose and a mouth and that was your Halloween pumpkin.

There were no cute pumpkin carving kits with tiny saws that even kids can use without losing a limb. I didn’t know anyone using drill bits to delicately carve into the pumpkin pulp without busting through the pumpkin wall or anyone using stencils or templates to create fancy characters or designs. I am fascinated by all these pumpkin carving “advances.”

Last year I tried using a template of Minnie Mouse on our pumpkin. It turned out OK. I had a hard time differentiating between her ears and the big bow. I’m pretty sure though nobody who came to our house could have guessed who it was supposed to be.

The best luck we’ve ever had with pumpkins was painting them and using props on them. One year we did a pumpkin for each family member. Michael’s had glasses and we used a real pacifier in the mouth of a little pumpkin to make it look like a baby.

There are tons of links on the Internet with carving ideas. Here are a few I liked:

The AJC’s photo guide to carving a pumpkin.

FamilyFun “easy” carving ideas

Martha Stewart links to 46 printable templates!

Martha Stewart pumpkin projects for kids

Martha Stewart Photo Gallery of pumpkins (My favorite is the pumpkin snake!)

More ideas

Filed under “stuff even I can make!”

Pumpkin that’s lollipop holder

Pumpkin birdfeeder

What kind of carver are you? Do you use the little carving kits? Do you use the templates? Have you ever used drill bits to carve out just parts of the pumpkin? Do you have a plan for what you will carve this year?

Our 5-year anniversary Momania flashback will pop up at 1 p.m. today. But you can see more Momania Flashbacks here.

32 comments Add your comment

[...] Pumpkin carving style: Old school freestyle or with stencils?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Michael's had glasses and we used a real pacifier in the mouth of a little pumpkin to make it look like a baby. There are tons of links on the Internet with …and more » [...]

[...] Pumpkin carving style: Old school freestyle or with stencils?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Michael's had glasses and we used a real pacifier in the mouth of a little pumpkin to make it look like a baby. There are tons of links on the Internet with …and more » [...]

DB

October 25th, 2010
1:00 am

I’m pretty much of a free-styler, but I play with different kinds of knives and a deluxe vegetable peeler to get some interesting effects. Mine have eyebrows, sometimes curly mustaches, etc. I like to carve an “iris” into the pumpkin eye, and the mouth is always snaggle-toothed in some way. I used the vegetable peeler to etch in some wrinkles one year. I’ve never used a stencil, but at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago, I almost bought a “Pumpkin Saw”, a battery-operated unit the size of an electric toothbrush with a 2″ saw at the end of it. Cool!!

nurse&mother

October 25th, 2010
1:04 am

Call me old fashioned, but I still freehand my carvings. no templates. I do like to see the unique designs of the templates, though. I suppose I may be a bit intimidated by the templates and fancy gadgits. I’m afraid mine wouldn’t turn out very good. Maybe I should give it a try.

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mom of 3

October 25th, 2010
7:05 am

The new designs are beautiful and I love to see them glowing at night. However, I still do the old fashioned ugly one because I love to remember doing it with my girls.

JJ

October 25th, 2010
8:09 am

I’m a firm believer in Pumpkin Masters and all their patterns. I have no eye for this kind of stuff, no artistic ability whatsoever. However, I don’t use all the tools, I don’t put the pattern on and stab little holes, etc. I tape the pattern on, and use one of my good knives and can carve in less than two hours, start to finish.

We have a gathering of neighbors on my driveway and we all carve together. The kids just love this and we have a great time. This saturday, my driveway, BYOP and BYOB…..

motherjanegoose

October 25th, 2010
8:58 am

Pumpkin carving is a Dad and Daughter event here. My husband has used the templates and is REALLY good at it. I am not! I came home last night to find that they had put up the rest of the decorations and they looked good. Hubby had called our daughter to see if she wanted to go to Taste of Atlanta and she came home from college to do it. They had fun!

Lori

October 25th, 2010
9:33 am

I usually don’t use a stencil. I usually look at pictures for a cute design, then I draw it on the pumpkin using a sharpie then cut it out. Last year, I did Zero (the flying ghost dog from the Nightmare Before Christmas). It came out really cute. I do use the pumpkin carving kits, because the small sawing knives are really good and easy to use for making small cuts and turns. My husband does the stencils, He generally uses his rotary tool for cutting out the parts of the pumpkin that you aren’t supposed to cut all the way through. He can achieve some pretty complicated and delicate designs with the rotary tool.

JJ

October 25th, 2010
10:09 am

Does anyone still roast pumpkin seeds?

TechMom

October 25th, 2010
10:20 am

I use the Pumpkin Masters templates and have had great success. The poking of the holes to transfer the pattern is tedious but the designs turn out great. I have zero artistic ability so there’s no way I could draw a design and then make it look good. It usually takes a couple of hours including the cleaning. That’s the part I dislike so I’ll usually cut the top and let the boy clean out the goo and then I do the design and we trade off doing the cutting.

And yes JJ, we roast our pumpkin seeds!

[...] I didn’t know anyone using drill bits to delicately carve into the pumpkin pulp without busting through the pumpkin wall or anyone using stencils or templates to create fancy characters or designs. I am fascinated by all these pumpkin …Found Here [...]

catlady

October 25th, 2010
10:39 am

My take on this is, if you are going for some prize in the pumpkin carving contest, use the templates. If, however, you are doing it for a fun time with your kids, let them draw a picture of how it should look and then take ideas from each of their work. Means a lot more to the kids than the “perfect” pumpkin, tastefully decorated. My daughter took great video of my granddaughter helping prepare the jack-o-lantern. Her look when she stuck her hand in the “guts” was priceless.

Until a year ago I carved pumpkins with my kids at school (now that is called unnecessary fluff) and the lunchroom let us roast the seeds–yum (I brought organically grown pumpkins from my garden). Last year I grew mini-pumpkins and let the kids magic marker their own ideas. Also fun. Can’t have too much fun, though. It might interfere with our CRCT prep!

JOD

October 25th, 2010
10:51 am

We’re traditionalists – draw on a cute face and carve it out. This is mostly Daddy/Daughter time – mommy scooped out the pumpkin goop and put in the candle :o) She got a big hoot out of the ‘happy face’, though.

@JJ – I was seriously contemplating roasting the seeds. My mom did that for many years, and it seems like a nice, nostalgic thing to do. But once I smelled the inside of the pumpkin and considered how hot it was for a while after we got it (it’s been on the front steps since the beginning of Oct as a harvest decoration), I decided perhaps next year!

JJ

October 25th, 2010
11:03 am

I’m interested in seeing how others roast the seeds. Do you do anything different/special, etc?

I’ve been roasting pumpkin seeds forever. But I do it the same old way my mom did……

LM

October 25th, 2010
11:11 am

We mix it up between traditional, wacky, and template. No matter what we do it is a good time with my daughter. I always soak the seeds in a salt brine, then bake them, yum!!

I think the new carving tools are really cool and love to get them just after halloween when they have been discounted. The templates are very creatative and fun, especially the ones with two designs, the back one a shadow behind the pumpkin.

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FCM

October 25th, 2010
12:43 pm

Totally do the Pumpkin Master’s route. We will be doing that activity on Saturday. The kids will get to pick the design and this year they can try a hand at cutting it too.

Tiffany

October 25th, 2010
2:33 pm

We are in the old school pumpkin camp. I do enjoy looking at the fancy designs, though. For us- it’s the traditional triangles. My daughter also likes to paint a face on her own little pumpkin. It usually lasts through the holidays that way. I do like to roast the seeds when I can tolerate picking them out of all that goo…we usually just salt and roast them in the oven. If anyone has a better recipe for the seeds I would love to hear it!

Warrior Woman

October 26th, 2010
12:26 pm

We always use the pumpkin carving tools because they’re easier for the kids to use safely. As far as designs, we carve a pumpkin for each family member, so there’s opportunity to do different things. The youngest usually does old school freehand and the older ones like patterns. Sometimes we make our own patterns and sometimes we use Pumpkin Master patterns. We’ve also painted pumpkins. Regardless of how we decorate our pumpkins, it’s a really fun family activity.

We also roast the seeds. I wash them in salt water, or sprinkle them with salt, and roast them in the oven. My sister has a recipe for smoked pumpkin seeds, but it’s always seemed like too much trouble to fire up the smoker for just a batch of pumpkin seeds.

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