There is some contention as to when and where the practice of making Jack-o’-lanterns originated, but there is evidence that humans have been carving vegetables for thousands of years.
And today, pumpkin carving has evolved into something of an artform, with aficionados creating remarkably ornate designs using a variety of tools and techniques.
Gun Arvidssen enlisted the help of his son Atreiiu to carve a Halloween pumpkin using a Dremel Micro high-speed rotary tool.
‘We decided to carve a Creeper from the computer game Minecraft on our Jack-o’-lantern,’ says Gun.
‘It was so awesome! The Micro is easier to use and lighter than a full-size Dremel, so Dad didn’t have to steady it for me,’ says Atreiiu.
Using a high-speed rotary tool is an easy way to carve away only the outer skin of the pumpkin to reveal the bright golden pith.
‘Remove more of the flesh, cutting through into the hollowed-out centre, so the glow of a candle can illuminate the design,’ advises Gun.
DIY with children
There are power tools that kids should never handle, or be around while they are in use. But if they’re supervised at all times and understand power tools can cause serious injury, they can join in projects like pumpkin carving.
Make sure they wear protective gear and can demonstrate safety practices, and check the tool isn’t too heavy or difficult for them to control and lift.
TIP Cordless tools are more suitable for kids.
Choose a variety
Pumpkins are native to North America and are, in fact, a fruit rather than a vegetable, belonging to a group known as gourds.
Fewer types are available here, but the closest Australian variety to the classic Jack-o’-lantern in terms of shape and size is the Queensland Blue, weighing about 3-5kg and featuring a deeply ribbed surface.
If colour is more important than size, a Golden Nugget weighs up to 500g and has vibrant orange skin.
Gun and Atreiiu chose a Kent pumpkin, as the flattened profile and mottled skin suited the design.
Transfer the design onto the pumpkin using carbon paper, then trace over the lines using a permanent fine line marker pen. Mark a circle 130mm in diameter around the stem and cut it out using a rotary tool. TIP To cut out the top, we used a number 561 multipurpose bit
Remove the pumpkin seeds and fibrous strands with a large spoon, then use an ice-cream scoop to cut away some of the flesh behind your design. This reduces the thickness of the side, making the candle glow more visible through the bas-relief sections and illuminating the design.
Use a rotary tool and a 191 high-speed cutter bit to remove the outer layer of skin within the outline of the design, revealing the bright pith. Change to a 561 multipurpose bit to cut right through. TIP Use a craft scalpel to sharpen up corners on the carved design