Project: Piratical Pumpkin

Photo of the finished piratical pumpkin

Avast! Here be pirates, matey! They have left their black mark on the Jack o' the Lanterns here in the Haunted Cove!

You, too, can hoist the Jolly Roger onto a pumpkin to put the fear into the land lubbers who come to your door looking for Halloween booty.

As always, lest you wind up in Davey Jones' locker, take safety precautions when making any halloween project.

Materials

To make this piratical pumpkin, you will need:

If you've ever carved a pumpkin, this is no different. It's easy to do, and quite fun, and adds a ghostly glow to your front porch each Halloween. Just be careful with the knife - pumpkins can be hard to carve, and a slip of the knife can hurt you.

Creating the pattern

First, you need a pattern for your pumpkin. (If you're bold, you can jump ahead without a pattern, but planning ahead can give you better results.)

If you like our piratical pattern, you can click here to get a large-format pattern suitable for printing.

If you don't like our pattern, sketch your own using any graphics program. Remember to leave pumpkin parts to support every section - any part that you cut completely around, such as an eye or teeth, won't be supported if you don't.

Once you've printed out your pattern, hold it up to the pumpkin to make sure it's the size you want. You may have to print it out at a different size, depending on the size of your pumpkin. (You should be able to choose a scaling factor in the print options dialogue box on your computer.)

Hollowing out the pumpkin

You don't have to do anything to a pumpkin to prepare it for hollowing, except perhaps washing dirt off of it.

First, cut a circular hole in the top of the pumpkin. The larger the hole, the easier the pumpkin will be to hollow out, so don't make it too small. I usually try to cut the pumpkin as far away from the stem as possible while still keeping the cut angle around 45 degrees. (You don't want a horizontal cut, because you will use the cap as a lid, and you don't want it sliding around.)

Once you've cut all the way around, remove the cap. Inside, you'll see a stringy, gooey mess of fibers and seeds. You want to remove all of this, leaving only a hollowed-out gourd.

I've found that a good way to start is to use the knife to cut just under the skin of the pumpkin to remove the part of the flesh that the fibers are attached to. Do it carefully, though. You don't want to poke through the front of the pumpkin; just a few millimeters is plenty to remove the mess. Once you've removed the flesh about halfway down, where the pumpkin starts curving back in, this gets more difficult. This is where you switch to the large spoon. You should have a little wedge from the cuts, where you can force the spoon down, pulling the flesh away in strips. If you are lucky, you only seldomly actually scrape the fibers away from the rind - instead, you just remove the inner layer of the rind that the fibers are attached to.

When you get to the bottom, you will have a large mess of fibers and seeds, which you can just dump out. You can either just throw away all the fibers, or you can pick some of the seeds out for roasting later.

When most of the guts are removed, continue scraping the inside of the pumpkin with the edge of the spoon, cleaning out any remaining strands and smoothing the interior of the pumpkin. When it's nice and clean inside, it's ready for carving!

Carving the pumpkin

Hold the paper up to the pumpkin, and use the pushpin to poke holes through the paper and into the pumpkin, to transfer the outline onto the pumpkin.

Using the pattern as a guide, use a small, sharp knife to carve out the pattern. Be very careful to always push the knife away from you and your hands, lest you cut yourself. Proceed slowly to maintain control over the knife, and don't be afraid to withdraw the knife and reposition it if you're having trouble with curves or other tight spots. When you complete a full cut, push the piece out from the inside.

Once you have all the pieces cut out, put a candle inside, light it, and voila'! You have a great Jack-O-Lantern for your Halloween enjoyment.