Other than trick-or-treating or costume parties, the one Halloween tradition that endears itself the most to Halloween celebrators is the Jack O’ Lantern. Whether scary, goofy or artistic, the carving of a ripe pumpkin is the quintessential autumn art form, and like any sort of sculpting, there are as many tool of the trade as there are artists to wield them.
Let’s look at the most common:
Carving knife and a spoon
The ultimate kit for the cheapskate; if you’re simply looking to cut out crude eyes and a mouth, look no further than your silverware drawer. A stout carving knife to cut out the design and a spoon to remove the pumpkin’s ‘guts’ will get the job done quick and easy. However, if you want to be even a little more creative it’s best to invest in some specialty tools.
Party Store carving kits
If you want a Jack O’ Lantern that doesn’t look like it was carved by a caveman, then grab a cheap and easy-to-use pumpkin carving kit at your local party store or supermarket. Each kit varies in design or utility, but all of them come with at least a hard plastic scoop for scraping out the pumpkin guts, and a miniature saw for carving designs out of the thick pumpkin shell. Additional tools might include chisels, scrapers, and picks to finely sculpt designs in your pumpkins, and many kits come with factory printed stencils for the less artistic carver. With prices ranging from $2-$15, these safer and party-friendly kits give you the freedom to trace stencils, carve intricate designs, and maximize your pumpkin-sculpting prowess for Jack O ‘Lanterns the whole neighborhood will envy. Of course you get what you pay for, so don’t be surprised if the tiny chisels and saws don’t wow you with their durability. Check out the selection online or at your local party store and choose the best kit for you.
For most hobbies there is an upper tier of equipment, and pumpkin carving is no exception. Serious, diehard pumpkin sculptors have a variety of heavy duty multi-piece carving kits they use to get the most out their gourds. These kits contain many of the same tools as the cheaper party store kits, but their tools are built to last, and the kits can cost anywhere from $25-$100. Dremel, the manufacturers of the popular and powerful rotary multi-tool, has a special powered multi-tool specifically for carving pumpkins that only costs $25. Serious artists and competitive pumpkin carvers can justify spending the kind of dough necessary for these kits, but if you’re simply looking to have some fun with friends and family, stick with the party store fare.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a small discussion about lighting your freshly carved Jack O’ Lanterns. Traditionally an inexpensive tea candle is used to make Jack glow, but the proliferation of small, long-lasting, and inexpensive LED lights operating on watch batteries means that pumpkin carvers needn’t stress about fire safety or remembering to light the candles every night. For less than five dollars, party store shoppers can get a four-pack of LED Jack O’ Lantern light with days of battery life. Many LED lights flicker like a candle, strobe, or change colors to give Halloween a little extra pizzazz, and most shut off automatically after about four hours. Strict traditionalists are more than welcome to stick with the cheaper tea candles, but the versatility and safety of LED pumpkin lights are worth the little bit of extra cash.
With so many options for making a great pumpkin sculpture, there really isn’t an excuse not to take a little time with your family or friends to make your front porch glimmer this Halloween.