Forget the instruction manual. Our practical guides are filled with no-nonsense, real-world advice for tackling dad challenges. Our tips will help you impress your kids and neighbors, and make you more attractive to your spouse. Read on for everything you need to know to carve the best jack o’ lantern on the block.
Have you ever found yourself elbow deep in a particularly slimy pumpkin, yelling at your kids and wondering why the heck we carve these stupid things anyway?
You can thank the Irish. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” originated in Ireland and there’s no way tons of alcohol wasn’t involved.
According to History.com, the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack and a confusing deal he made with the devil — seriously, the story is so long and convoluted. The key takeaway is that every year on the last day of October, the spirit of Stingy Jack was feared to be roaming around, and the Irish believed that by adorning their homes with turnips and potatoes carved into scary images they could ward off his spirit.
Later, Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America where they switched to the more readily available pumpkin, and now, every time October rolls around, you have spend a Saturday dragging the family to the pumpkin patch. Not only that, you have to be sure you get the exact right pumpkin to complement your front porch. Oh, and one of those weird white ones, too.
And don’t even think about pointing out that the grocery store sells pumpkins.
Then, a few days before Halloween we gather the family around the kitchen table to
see if we cut ourselves carve our pumpkins.
Anyway, at least we aren’t carving turnips anymore.
So let’s get to it. Anyone can cut a couple triangles into a pumpkin, that’s not why we’re here. We want to do what us dads do: go all the way over the top.
Start with quality raw materials
If you start with a garbage pumpkin, you’re going to end up with a garbage jack o’lantern and that’s not over the top.
So, start with a fresh pumpkin. A great way to ensure freshness is to look for an attached, greenish stem. Anything less is a sure sign the pumpkin has been handled more than a fifth of Jack at a frat party. Also avoid pumpkins with blemishes or soft spots.
And don’t pick it up by the stem, either. You’ll break it off and start the rotting process prematurely.
Make a plan
This one is controversial, since way at the beginning of this post we told you to forget the instruction manual, but these are plans not instructions. There’s a subtle difference, we think. The gene that makes you get all butthurt when someone tells you what to do shouldn’t fire on this one. We’re just suggesting you practice your design and maybe then draw it onto the pumpkin with a marker first.
Wait as long as you can to carve it, in other words, procrastinate
If you’re like us, procrastination is one of your finest qualities. Pumpkins last a long time, but as soon as you cut into it, the decomposition clock kicks into high gear. Carving two to three days before Halloween is the sweet spot.
Use the right tools for the job
Since we’re asking you too put a little more thought into your pumpkin this year, this is not the time to lose your way and grab the first dull kitchen knife you see. Not only is this a great way to injure yourself, your pumpkin will look sad and not at all scary.
Do yourself a favor and get out the power tools. Here are a few ideas to get your dad juices revving:
- Reciprocating Saw: why use a knife when you can use a reciprocating saw? I can’t think of a good reason, either. This saw achieves cutting action through a push-and-pull ("reciprocating") motion of the blade. Perfect for getting your initial cuts through the pumpkin.
- Jigsaw: A jigsaw can be used for cutting out the back of the pumpkin. (Yes, the back. See the next tip.)
- Spade Bit: Good for making holes
- Hole Saw: Good for making bigger holes
- Dremel Rotary Saw: Ideal for fine-tuning
- Oscillating Tool: Ah, the multi-tool. Your secret weapon with a wide range of available attachments. You can saw, sand, rasp, grind, scrape, cut and polish. You’re limited only by your imagination and your skill with the tool.
Leave the top on
Here’s a real pro tip: don’t cut off the top. You’re removing the stem, which is still supplying nutrients and moisture to the fruit.
And for God’s sake don’t cut the bottom either. Pros go in through the back, and you should too.
Scoop out ALL the guts
Put on some rubber gloves if you’re fussy, but you have to get in there and get after it — clear it all the way out. Any of that nasty moist goo that remains is going to get moldy and ruin your hard work prematurely.
Use Electric light
Get yourself an LED. They are bright, and more important, they don’t get hot, which as you can probably surmise, is bad for your pumpkin.
A candle in there sure smells like Halloween, which is nice, but if you want that jack o’lantern to last, use electric light.
Optional Step: Wear our Dadass shirt while carving
In case anyone forgets you’re a dadass. They won’t because of the on-point jack o’lantern you just carved, but the shirt will enhance the euphoric dad-high you’re experiencing.
Good luck and don’t injure yourself. Now, grab a cold one, go sit outside by your pumpkin, and enjoy the accolades from your neighbors
FREE SHIRT ALERT
We want to see your jack o’lanterns! Upload a picture of your work to our facebook page and we’ll pick our favorite. The winner gets a free shirt of their choosing from our store. We'll announce the winner on November 1.