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Perfect Pumpkin Cut.jpg

Subscriber Michael Williams wrote in with this clever modification of the traditional pumpkin incision. He explains the logic:

For years now I’ve been unhappy with the choices for cutting open a pumpkin for Halloween. If you cut the top off in the traditional manner, you end up with singed hand hairs (at best) when attempting to place/light a candle. If you cut the bottom off, you can get the candle in OK but you’re stuck picking up nearly the whole pumpkin each time and it never sits quite right. This year is different – I’ve found the perfect pumpkin cut!

Thanks Michael!

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Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • Kevin

    Simply brilliant!

  • ad astra

    While it does solve some problems, I have a couple of minor problems with this:

    1. It’s less attractive than the typical cut, and would leave a glowing square outline on the back of your pumpkin;
    2. I’m not positive, but I’d guess that it significantly compromises the structural strength of your pumpkin, which could lead to problems with designs that cut away a lot of the front, and could cause premature collapse as the pumpkin ages even with normal front carvings.

    For simple pumpkins with thick walls, it seems like a pretty useful idea, though. Regarding the burnt hands thing, though – why not just light the candle *in* the pumpkin? Barbeque-style lighters were invented for a reason, and I’m pretty sure (name aside) it was to light candles for jack-o-lanterns.

    • marcsol

      I agree with SolidSilver. Our pumpkin display consists of 20 to 30 pumpkins and putting a candle into each one and keeping it lit would take too much time. I too tired of burning my hand lighting all the candles (lighting them and placing the candle, placing the candle and lighting with fireplace match or lighter, etc…). We now put electric lights in all the pumpkins, connect them to one circuit and place them on a timer. Also, for some of the larger pumpkins (100-200 lbs) we use in our display, candle power just doesn’t do the carving justice. We use 60 watt bulbs in those pumpkins!

  • I cthelight

    Just use a longer lighter…

  • Kieran

    I’ve never been the one to carve the pumpkins in my house, whoever does just does it the traditional way through the top. The best idea to me would be to cut through the back then find some way of attaching the back on without it falling off (if it’s actually needed), perhaps some toothpicks would work.

  • Anonymous

    Cut a square hole in the back. Taper the sides to block the light. Make a hinge from duct tape.

  • Anonymous

    why not use a longer match, or a longer lighter and just light your candle from the side. Say, from the mouth or something. I think this type of carving might be more useful for pulling out seeds rather than lighting the candle.

  • craigspr

    Thanks for the advise

    Thanks for the advise

  • craig

    For years I watched people try to set the round top on correct, rotating it trying to get it to line up the way it came off. Early on I learned to make a slight point at the back of the lid cut, like a teardrop. Later it evolved into a larger point to allow wrist room to allow setting a lit candle inside without my hand directly above the candle. This pictured method is same concept but a tad overboard. I like to scuff up the inside of my lid and rub in cinnamon, allspice and cloves so as the lid gets charred on an indoor jack-o-lantern, it smells like pumpkin pie.

  • SolidSilver

    For the past few years, I’ve been using LED lights in my Jack O’Lanterns. I have both yellow (with flicker patterns) and RGB units. The RGB one does some cool color fading. And… no scorched fingers!

  • Richard Gozina

    I really wish I had the 5 minutes I spent looking at this back. What a waste of time and brain power.

    The first quote was right on about this reducing the structural integrity of the pumpkin. (did I actually just type that)

    Obviously, use a barbecue lighter…common sense!!!!!

    • Cunningham

      Rich, it took you five minutes to read the article? Let me know if you get your time back…perhaps you can spend it on reading classes.

  • G

    This is *clever*.

  • Holloween

    I’ll have try this clever technique this year. It does seem rather easy and effective.

  • craig

    Leave Richard alone. It takes him awhile to read to himself with his lips moving and sounding each word out untill he gets it right.

  • Fikus

    Cut the bottom of the pumpkin and not the top.. Then you light the candle then place the pumpkin down over the candle.

  • jeff-o

    Smart, but I prefer a BBQ lighter. Though this is a good solution if you’re into layering instead of carving…

  • sambagrrl07

    If you don’t have a BBQ lighter, use a lit piece of spaghetti to reach.

  • Melinda

    This would also solve another problem for me…. being able to scrape out all the goo. I found my pumpkin this year was too small to use my regular scraping spoon on all points inside. It would get “caught” in the pumpkin. This cut would make that a lot easier. I’ll have to keep this in mind next year. Thanks for the idea.

    (Oh, and I only do “simple” pumpkins so I wouldn’t have to worry about structural integrity so much.)

  • Steve

    What I find works really well is camping glo-sticks in the pumpkins instead of candles… This way you also get an eerie green (or whatever color you choose) glow.

  • pam

    usless to me i use battery operated tealight size candles

  • Carla

    Good idea, but you could stick the lighter through the carving to light the candle…no burnt hands/fingers/hair!

  • Lisa

    light a piece of raw spaghetti use it as a torch to light your pumpkins….it works well!

  • Linda McCrane

    uumm, well.. can’t say I’ve ever had that problem really… I put my unlit candle in & I use that long BBQ lighter through the mouth to light it with with lol but this is a really good idea

  • Lindsay

    thank you for sharing this!
    I just carved 13 pumpkins using this idea and it would have taken sooo much longer without it! made my life so much easier :)

  • http://www.yohammada.de/vedag Nina

    That is exactly my problem! I will so try this next year on halloween. Thanks for sharing your idea!

  • Richard Wilch

    I tried using spaghetti noodle to light the pumpkin, but the noodle kept putting the match out, and I got spaghetti sauce on the carpet. Am I doing something wrong?

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