In case you were planning to start decorating for Halloween this weekend, here are some helpful carving tips from


• Draw your design on the pumpkin with a water-based marker beforehand. Mistakes are erased easily with a damp sponge.

• Cut the top and any large areas with a sharp, straight-edged knife. A dull blade is not a safer alternative.

• Serrated metal saws, now widely available in carving kits, are a safer alternative to knives and allow younger children to get in on the action.

• Carve away from yourself; kids should carve only under adult supervision.

• Never hold the knife in a stabbing position.

• When carving, keep a portion of the knife blade in the pumpkin and use slow, steady saw strokes.

• Cut the lid at an angle so the outside diameter is larger than the inside.This prevents the top from falling into the pumpkin when it shrinks.

• Scoop out seeds and stringy flesh with a large spoon or ice cream scooper.

• Carve the facial features closest to the center first and work outward. Cut out the larger features in sections.

• Use an X-Acto knife for details and the tip of a potato peeler to make small circles and curves.

• Remove carved portions by gently pushing them into or out of the pumpkin.

• Reattach a section that is accidentally removed by using a toothpick to pin it back in place.

• Make design holes large enough to provide adequate ventilation for the candle.

• Flatten a spot in the base of the pumpkin for the candle but avoid digging too deep because the pumpkin becomes prone to rot.

• Make sure the flame is not too close to the top of the pumpkin.

• To prolong the life of the jack-o'-lantern, seal in moisture by coating all cut surfaces with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil, or cover it with a damp towel when not on display.

• Consider giving smaller children stickers, tempera paint, or markers to decorate their own pumpkins.

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