The type of pumpkin carving you see in my gallery is three dimensional sculpting of the pumpkin rind. Traditional jack o’lantern techniques are of little use here. Still, if you’ve done a few elaborate carvings in the two dimensional style, you’ve undoubtedly picked up some useful knowledge about this medium already.  At the very least, you’ve acquired some valuable patience and planning methods that are helpful in executing a project like this…that, and you’re already used to the smell. I always found it interesting how a portion of the population have little tolerance for the smell of freshly cut pumpkin. Yet, it doesn’t bother other people at all.

First things first. Pumpkin sculpture demands some proper sculpting tools and I find that a bathroom plunger and an electric toothbrush are at the top of the list….not really. But you may be surprised. Your typical knives will come in handy. But you may have to actually put on pants and go do a little shopping for this one. I’ve used a lot of different things and experimenting is fun. Just the same, I’ll run down a few important things you’ll really want to have ready.

Ribbon tool

Ribbon tool - Click here to jump to a tool dealer.

Ribbon tools are going to be your most valuable item. No, they are not for making ribbons. They are designed for use with clay. You can find them at a craft store that carries those type of supplies. There are dozens of types, shapes, and sizes. Avoid the “wire loop” variety and stick with the ribbon style.  The flat blade is a must for slicing through pumpkin rind. Of course, pumpkin rind is much more resistant than clay so it’s not surprising to have tools wear out if you carve very much. I’ve repaired tools with heavy epoxy and even reinforced a few before they had a chance to loosen or break. You can see this in some of the photos. Take care of your tools by cleaning them and allowing them to dry properly. Some types are more prone to rust and may benefit from a light coat of oil before putting them away.

More ribbon tools.

More ribbon tools.

skinner ribbon tool



Because of the skinny, uncomfortable handle, this tools was a mistake for pumpkin rind.

Ribbon tools often work fine right out of the package. If you’re industrious, you may decide to file a sharper edge. This demands small files and/or sharpening rods.

Mini tool...great for detail work...pretty fragile too.

Mini tool...great for detail work...pretty fragile too.

I’ve carved a lot of pumpkins and I have got quite a few different style ribbon tools I use, but a pretty basic set can allow you to do whatever you like. I’ve also bought a lot that I ended up not liking that much. I’d say just buy an assortment package and learn for yourself which are better for you. They are not too expensive…..unless….


Dolan tools are extremely high quality. Click to link.

If you want the cadillac of all ribbon tools…and don’t mind shelling out a bit more for them, Dolan tools are superior in just about every way. They are hardened, knife quality steel and arrive with a razor sharp edge. Be careful not to slice an artistic groove in the side of your left hand. Kemper tools now have a Pro series which are very similar to the Dolan tools.

Fellow pumpkin carver Ray Villafane now has two sets of pumpkin carving tools for sale on his website. The master set is well-rounded set of tools. If you’re a real pumpkin junkie, you might even want to go for the premium set. Although I haven’t used them, by their appearance, I’m confident they would perform wonderfully. While you’re their, check out Ray’s other products; all of which are fun, fun, fun!

Craft knives now have router blades...

Craft knives now have router blades...

Certain craft knives now have router blades available. I’ve not used them myself, but you may decide that these work very well also. Lino-cut tools, another craft store item, are also available with a handle and several styles of interchangeable tips. I use these occasionally for textures.

Linocut tools may also be useful.

Linocut tools may also be useful.

A sharpened ice cream scoop.

A sharpened ice cream scoop...not for gutting, for skinning.

Sharpened melon baller.

Sharpened melon baller.

Drill bit....obviously


Curved knife blade. Traditionally for wood carving.

For hollowing out a pumpkin, a typical long slim blade is still fine. I got mine in the fishing section at Wal-mart. You may find use for a scalpel type craft knife as well.  The most useful knife for carving will have a curved blade with the edge on the concave side. Craft knifes have these blades but they are not as plentiful as straight blades. Still, a craft store that has wood carving tools would certainly have them. There is also a culinary knife called a bird’s beak peeler that is basically just a larger version of the same blade.


A sharp knife is safer than a dull one. Keep a sharpener around and know how to use it properly.

This thin saw is found in many pumpkin kits. It has use when needing to gently remove parts of the rind completely.

A thin saw blade, like this one from a manufactured carving kit, is essential for gently removing sections of rind.

A stiff brush is a must for wisking away debris...

A stiff brush is a must for wisking away debris...


Oh enough of this…I’ll bring up other items as we go along. On to the good stuff…