Coastal Halloween Pumpkins

Monday, September 24, 2012

These cute coastal pumpkins add fun seasonal flair to doorsteps or docks.

Below is a step-by-step guide.  Or you may find the templates and guide here at  Coastal Living.


Gather the Tools
These tools are the pumpkin carver’s best secret. Not all are required, but they make the experience easier and more enjoyable. For fresh pumpkins, use wood carving tools to cut the outline and dig out the design. Find them in the hardware section of home improvement centers.
  • Tape: for fixing template to pumpkin.
  • Push pin: to poke the outline in the pumpkin.
  • Rotary tool with bits for carving and sanding: use this to etch and sand out the center of the design.
  • Drill with several bits: for simple circles like the fish eye and octopus suckers.
  • Utility knife or saw: for carving the bottom hole.
  • Flashlight or battery operated candle: for illuminating faux pumpkins.
  • Paint pen: to correct mistakes.
  • Eye goggles and mask: to protect eyes and lungs from particles and fine dust.

Pick a Pumpkin

For these designs, pumpkins should be smooth with minimal ridges. The anchor design works best on a tall pumpkin while the skeleton fish is best on a short, squatty one. If carving a fresh pumpkin, make sure it’s firm and disease-free. Heavy fresh pumpkin signal thick walls which can block some of the light. Make sure the pumpkin is balanced and not wobbly.

Fresh or Faux

Purists go for fresh pumpkins and it’s a great tradition to follow. They have a warm and earthy aroma when illuminated with candles. They start to decompose within a week; display in a cool shady area.

Faux pumpkin fans prefer the fake ones primarily because they last from season to season. They are also lightweight.

Purchase them year-round at or buy in-season at craft stores or large retail chains

Bottoms Up!

It’s personal preference to cut the hole in the top, around the stem, or go through the bottom. These designs have a bottom hole making it easier to center and stabilize a battery-operated candle (or flashlight) in the sand. Most faux pumpkins are sold with the hole precut; if not, cut with small saw or small-to-medium size drill bit.

Size the Template

Print two templates—one attached to the pumpkin and one to use as reference. Increase or decrease the percentage on the printer if using a smaller or larger-than average pumpkin. Wipe pumpkin clean, then pin or tape the pattern to the smoothest, flattest side.

Outline the Design

Using a straight pin, push pin or a poker tool, poke holes along the lines of the pattern. Carefully remove pattern; set aside. To make the outline easier to read, connect the dots with a fine-tipped dry erase marker. For complicated or large patterns, work in sections to prevent the marks from rubbing off.

Dig the Outline

For faux pumpkins, cut the outlines using an electric hand held rotary tool and one of the small carving tips. If some of the edges chip, use a small sanding cone to even out the lines.

Shave and Scoop

Use the large router tool to scoop out larger sections but don’t go all the way through the pumpkin. This leaves a thin layer of orange which light will shine through like stained glass. To smooth out the top, use a sanding tip. Whoops! Did you poke completely through the pumpkin? No worries; Test to see if it really shows. If bothersome, cover the hole with tape on the inside of the pumpkin and dab with a little orange paint.

Test the Light

Place the pumpkin over a light bulb or flashlight to check where the skin is too thick to show light. There are ridges on the inside of faux pumpkins that are thick; you may need to sand down the inside (with sandpaper) or thin from the outside using a sanding tip.

Fine Tuning

Use a small sanding tool to even out the details. For eyes, drill all the way through the pumpkin with a drill bit. The edges of the starfish are drilled with the same size bit. The suckers on the octopus were drilled with larger bits near the body and smaller bits near the ends of the tentacles. Correct any mistakes with orange paint

Light it Up!

Always use a synthetic flame in faux pumpkins—never a candle. Battery-operated candles, flashlights, or even head-lamp style flashlights with the strap removed work well, and some have a flash feature. Plug-in night-light bulbs are sold specifically for artificial pumpkins; carve a space so the cord doesn't make the pumpkin wobbly.