Jack O'Lantern & Carving Info
The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O'Lantern was not a pumpkin.The Jack O'Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. As the story goes, Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who liked to play tricks on everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. Once the Devil climbed up the apple tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was then unable to get down the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.
Many years later, when Jack finally died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. For that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".
On all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O'Lanterns. In the 1800's a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.
Make a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween
With a little effort, and some practice, anyone can carve some truly beautiful and artistic pumpkins freehand, but if you want to create really detailed carvings you should use a stencil or template. All you'll need is a few tools to cut out the patterns. Included, is step by step photo-tutorial on how to carve a pumpkins from a stencil. The pattern in the example is a very simple design, but you can do just about anything. Use your imagination and a pumpkin
can come to life!
Caution: The following
examples involve sharp and potentially dangerous tools.
This process should only be done while under Adult Supervision.
Ice Cream Scoop or large spoon
A Carving Saw is essential for carving fine, detailed areas, but can also be used for the entire Jack-O-Lantern.
A transfer Tool is used to transfer your designs onto the face of the pumpkin.
Carving Stencils can be drawn either freehand onto paper or use your computer to print your pattern.
Prepare the pumpkin for carving, i.e. cut out the top hole and remove the seeds from the pumpkin. You can cut out around the top stem, but be careful not to cut in a circle or the top will fall through when you try to replace the lid after carving. Instead, cut hexagon or six-sided shape with the stem in the center. When cutting a lid, it helps to angle the blade of your knife or saw inward, so it creates a small lip for the lid to rest upon. Once you've gained access to the pumpkin, use a large scoop to remove the seeds and strings, then continue to scrape away on the inside of the pumpkin until the walls are no more than 1" thick. You can make more elaborate designs by scraping some areas thinner than other, or even away scraping away designs so that the light shines through strategic areas of the pumpkin wall, but be carefull, thin walled areas will begin to fail faster than the thicker sections.
Select the paper stencil you want to use and trim the excess paper from it with the scissors. Be sure to leave at least a 1/2 inch border for the tape to go on. Attach the stencil to the face of the pumpkin with tape. Top first, then the bottom and lastly the sides. You may have to crease the stencil to tape the corners, if so, try to make the creases where the pattern will be the least distorted.
Using the transfer Tool, press the pointed tip into and through the design lines on the paper stencil spaced about a 1/8 of an inch apart. Complex and thin designs might require the dots to be a little closer together. Check to see that all the lines have been transferred before removing the pattern. On large designs you can use the larger poker and place the dots farther apart, but for detailed designs, use the small poker and place the dots close together. The tip of the transfer Tool should be pushed in just enough to go through the paper and the outer skin of the pumpkin, not all the way through the pumpkin.
It's important that you take your time when transferring the pattern from the stencil. Remember, you're making guide lines for sawing. Before removing the stencil, look it over carefully to make sure that all the lines have been transferred clearly. Once the paper stencil is removed you'll see the outline of the stencils pattern marked on the face of the pumpkin via little dots. Once you remove the stencil be sure to save it in case you need to refer to it while carving. Using the Carving Saw, push the tip of the saw-blade into a pattern hole and saw through the design lines with short back-and-forth motions. Basically, you're playing "connect the dots". It's important to remember that these are "saws", not knives. The saw is not used in the same way as a knife. You never cut with it, you saw with it.
Take your time and follow the pattern edges carefully.Always align the saw blade to make the cuts straight into the pumpkin. When making sharp corners, remove the saw and re-insert it at the new angle. To make removal of the pieces easier you can cut them into smaller section while still in the pumpkin. Then carefully push out all of the cut pieces with your finger or a new pencil.
Once you've removed all of the cut pieces, carefully trim the inside edges of the pumpkin of any excess flesh with the Carving Saw or a small knife. We like to carve the excess off at about a 45 degree angle. This allows more light to come through, showing your design to it's fullest. Remove any cut pieces that have fallen inside the pumpkin from your carving. Coat the edges with petroleum jelly. (see pumpkin preservation)
Have Fun with your carvings!