Pumpkin stencil carving is one of those projects where the results far outweigh the effort. The materials required are cheap, minimal, and easy to find. And luckily, a knack for creativity is optional because you can find dozens of varied stencils online for free.

Project Steps

Prepare the pumpkin and stencil.

After you’ve chosen your pumpkin, you’ll need to find or create a stencil (search for “pumpkin stencil” online. I found a couple I liked and combined them into one design, seen here). If you’re making your own, just remember that all the parts that won’t be carved out need to connect.

Cut a lid in your pumpkin and gut it. If the walls are thick, use a serving spoon to scrape away some of the wall where your design will be carved.

Fit the stencil onto the pumpkin.

Note where your stencil needs to curve to fit the surface. At these points, cut V-shaped notches into the stencil. Tape the design on the pumpkin, bringing the edges of the V’s together so that the stencil fits snugly onto the pumpkin.

Copy the pattern onto the pumpkin.

Punch pinholes around all the edges of the shapes to be cut out. Make the pinholes closely spaced where the cutouts are small and/or detailed.

Carve your design.

Remove the pattern and begin carving. Carve small areas first to preserve stability of the pumpkin wall.

Aim the carving tool straight into the pumpkin — angling it can compromise the look of your design.

Go slowly on long cuts to avoid getting off track.

Let it glow.

Stock up on candles to show off your masterpiece.

If you don’t like your design wilting along with your pumpkin, try an artificial pumpkin (try http://www.funkins.com) next year so you can admire it forever.


This project first appeared in Make: Halloween Special Edition, page 63.