Well here it is, Wild Daddy’s guide to carving a simple but perfect pumpkin, basics first. For a straighforward scary-faced pumpkin here’s what to do:
You will need:
- Sharp knife
- Spoon for scooping
- Cut a slice off the top of the pumpkin, saving the top to make a lid. You can cut it smoothly across or in a zig-zag pattern for variety
- Scoop out the guts with a strong spoon, remembering to save them all to make Caroline’s Trick and Treat Lucky Dip, roast the seeds or make a pumpkin pie
- Using the knife and spoon as required, carefully remove the remaining pumpkin flesh to leaving a roughly 2-3cm layer of flesh all the way round
- Using a pen or pencil, mark out your design.
- Gradually cut along your design lines, a section at a time
- Place a tea light candle inside the pumpkin
- Light the candle and place the lid on top
Wild Daddy’s tips for perfect shading
Now for the more technical stuff. For a more detailed design with light and shading Wild Daddy says: –
The right tools
“Whilst you can buy extra equipment – scalpels, scrapers and various sculpting implements, as an amateur I stick to a very sharp knife (my leatherman, naturally) and a couple of spoons: one large and strong for big scoops, an ice-cream scoop is excellent here; one small but equally as stong, melon baller anyone?
Choose your design
Start by deciding on the design before cutting the lid. This will help you decide on the size and shape to cut out – it certainly does not have to be symmetrical – it will also be influenced by the shape of the pumpkin and where your chosen design best fits.
Draw the design on the pumpkin with a biro or felt pen including any shading it requires.
To acheive different levels of shading when the candle is lit use these four techniques: –
- White – candlelight shows – cut right through
- Light – less light shows – skin removed, not cut right through
- Dark – little light shows – skin intact, flesh carved away behind
- Black – no light shows – skin intact, flesh solid behind
These pictures show my 2010 Gruffalo pumpkin with and without a tealight (Wild Mummy wasn’t thinking ‘blog’ when these were taken so the camera flash doesn’t do the unlit photo justice)
Once the design is finished the tealight enhances the shading
So, let’s get started……
- Hollow out the entire pumpkin to within 3-4 centimetres of the skin, or a depth that ensures no light will shine through
- For dark areas, leave the skin intact, carefully scooping out some flesh from behind – if in doubt don’t scrape too close to the skin, you can always adjust this later
- For light areas make sure to leave thin black strips (untouched skin) to act as lines between the areas of light shading. Score the skin around the areas to be removed and then scoop out flesh from within, leaving some flesh at the front to adjust later if necessary. This time however, use the sharp knife to peel off the skin within the scored lines, leaving exposed flesh
- In order to give defintion to any outlines in your design (e.g the outline of the Gruffalo’s ears which are created by leaving the skin intact) carefuly scrape away some skin around the outside edges of the black lines
- Finally, with the sharp knife score the skin along any lines that will be completely cut through and removed in the traditional manner. This makes it easier to stop the blade from slipping when you cut the flesh, which could damage your design
For a brighter look, make cuts that open wider as the hole goes in to the pumpkin
For a darker, more contained look, make the inside edge of the hole smaller than the outer
For precise scooping out cut as deep into the flesh as you need before scraping it out from inside, using the knife to cut chunks instead of scraping with a spoon. Just be careful not to pierce the skin
Check the shading by placing a light inside to ensure that the thickness of the flesh is correct, scraping away more where not enough light is getting through
Don’t scrape through too much flesh – a thin film of flesh will quickly dry out, shrink and tear after a day or so
Tealight placement is important too – make sure you have taken enough flesh out of the bottom of the inside so that the flame can shine up and out through all your carving.
Thanks Wild Daddy!