10 Extraordinary Carved Pumpkins

Unique and elaborate jack-o'-lantern designs to inspire — and the tools you’ll need

Halloween brings out the competitive spirit in many people. Who is wearing the scarier costume, who is handing out the better (or bigger?) candy, and of course, whose pumpkin reigns supreme? When it comes to squash, you could go the traditional route, carving out the traditional menacing face on the front of your pumpkin, jagged teeth, triangle eyes and all… but if you’ve been doing that for years, isn’t it a bit boring?

While I am opting for an alternative that doesn’t require me to carve out the inside of my pumpkin, both glittering and painting the exterior instead, others want to take their carving to the next level — we’re here to help. Think creative and go for something truly unexpected — like a carved pumpkin transformed into a diorama, with three miniature squash stuck in “hell.” Have a knack for wood carving? Consider creating a giant pumpkin carved on three sides. Hosting friends for a pumpkin carving party? Think quantity over quality and go for a front yard full of carved squash, like this person did, or create a tower of carved pumpkins, stacking them like a topiary. To inspire you, we’ve selected 10 of our favorites this season to get you in the carving mood.

For those who have carved a pumpkin recently, you know it isn’t necessarily as easy as it seems, especially if the pumpkin is upwards of a foot in diameter, and the flesh inside is cold and hard (Have you ever frozen your fingers while working with a sharp carving knife? Bad idea). It’s best to be prepared with the proper tools, not your kitchen paring knives, because they will break (I’ve done it). Unless you’re going for the kitchen knife-stuck-in-the-head look, instead create your carving tool kit using our guide below. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bobnrenee)

Click here to see the 10 Extraordinary Carved Pumpkins Slideshow.


Cleaning Out the Pumpkin

• When making the first cut into a pumpkin, either at the top around the stem or the bottom around the blossom end, a strong keyhole saw like this one is much more suited to the job than your kitchen knife. With serrated edges and a thin blade, it’s less likely to get stuck (and break). 

• Once you’ve created an opening, it’s time to scoop out the guts. While some metal kitchen knives will work (especially in corners), we’re partial to these fleshing tools and large restaurant-style solid basting spoons. Obsessed with your drill? Then opt for this drill attachment that makes cleaning out the inside easy (be sure to have someone hold down the squash). 


Creating Your Design

• Put away the Sharpie when designing your squash, no matter what. So too goes for the pen or pencil, if you press down hard. Instead, create your design on paper, and then use this paper to transfer it to your squash.

• Alternatively, use T pins to prick the outline of your design (take care as the dots can be confusing to follow if there are many). 


For Making Faces and Other Designs

• If you’re carving with the kids, keep it simple with a pumpkin carving kit like this one. 

• Attempting a more serious or complex design? Opt for a more serious knife, similar to an X-Acto, with interchangeable blades; we like this product. Serious pumpkin carvers swear by electric jigsaws

• While artists attempting to carve giant pumpkins use woodworkers’ tools like chisels, at-home carvers use something smaller like these linoleum cutters. This electric drill can also be used to etch out the front of carved pumpkins like these, allowing some light to come through the translucent flesh when complete. 

• Want to make round holes and other cut outs in your pumpkin? Use hole cutters for a polka-dot design, and break out cookie cutters in star, heart, or other shapes for something different (gently tap the cutter with a hammer or plastic mallet).

Click here to see the 10 Extraordinary Carved Pumpkins Slideshow.