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Editors' Picks: Best Pumpkin Carvings Ever

Steal pumpkin-carving design ideas from this impressive harvest, plucked from the archives of our annual TOH Pumpkin Carving Contest

Our Top 28 Pumpkin Carving Picks

Turns out TOH fans can do wonders with some tools and a gourd. Every year, you blow us away with your creative designs. Sadly, we can only pick one winner. But here, we hope to catapult a few of you into Internet superstardom with this glittering showcase of our most favorite creations. Have a look at our Hall of Fame.

The TOH Carver

Matt B. of Springfield, Missouri, gave a pumpkin the TOH treatment under the hand of another. "A pumpkin carving on another pumpkin. I used wood carving tools and a X-Acto knife to carve this pumpkin."


Photo by Edward L./

To carve the portrait of the master carpenter into a pumpkin seems fitting, especially in light of the 30th anniversary of This Old House this year. "I used small 'V' and 'U' shaped chisels and an X-Acto knife to carve the details," said Edward L. of Babylon, New York, "I was thrilled to combine my love of TOH and Halloween."

Hungry Jack's Pumpkin Patch

Len C. of Highlands, New Jersey, painted a pumpkin guts-y scene with this giant pumpkin monster and sea of victims below. "This is a 1200-pound pumpkin. I used clay tools and a paring knife"

From Outer Space

Jon N. of West Hills, California, crafted a galactic monster. "This is the pumpkin from outer space! I felt it best to give this guy a paint job with both food paints and airbrush paints. It was sculpted using my own set of custom sculpting tools."


Rachel H. of Batavia, Ohio, let her carving be guided by geometry. "I used the 97-cent kit that you get at Walmart. I didn't have the best tools, so I just started carving triangles and this is what happened."

Pumpkin Head

Danny K. of Newville, Pennsylvania gave a faceless pumpkin a creepy visage. "I used a fruit carving knife, a host of clay sculpting tools, sand paper, and finally an airbrush to add the color and make him seem alive. After sculpting, I sprayed light brown to add the shadows. I laid some orange on top to complete the look. The whole thing took around 5 hours."


Michael B. of Ozark, Missouri, revealed one pumpkin's deep, dark secret. "Pumpkin pulling itself apart, revealing its eyes. The tools I used were clay ribbon tools, wood carving tools, and an X-Acto knife. This took me about 2 hours to carve."

Kansas Carving

Photo by Robby J./

Robby J. of Ringgold, Georgia, followed the Yellow Brick Road right into our gallery of top picks with this Dremel-carved masterpiece. His 2008 submission didn't place in the competition, but the detailed profiles of Judy Garland as Dorothy and the rest of the cast of The Wizard of Oz are breathtaking all the same.

Raising the Dead

Photo by Stoney M./

Stoney M. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gave us a 3-for-1 when he entered this super-creative display. He carved a pair of hands and a zombie head into three separate gourds. "In the dark, this arrangement of three gourds looks like the zombie is raising from the grave," he said.

Peeled Pumpkin

Photo by Tim A./

Tim A. in Toronto, Canada, created this as an homage to one of his favorite college courses: Anthropology. "I used regular kitchen knives; nothing fancy and no power tools, unfortunately." It's OK, Tim. You're still a-head of the class in our book. Get it? A-head? Alright. Moving right along...

Some Like It Hot

Photo by Dan S./

Dan S. of Milwaulkee, Wisconsin, showed off his shading skills with this outstanding portrait of Marilyn Monroe. "She is carved onto an artificial pumpkin and I am proud to have her as part of my portfolio," Dan said.

Brigham City Boogey Man

Photo by Ed and Kristen B./

Ed and Kristen B. in Brigham City, Utah, carve more than 100 pumpkins each year for display in their local Pumpkin Festival. What a haunting harvest! They wrote in their 2008 entry: "We use Dremels to carve artificial pumpkins, and pottery tools on real pumpkins. This is one of our most favorites!" Ours, too!

The Haunted Forest

Karyn P. of Crowley, Texas, designed her own imagining of a haunted forest. "Original design, carved entirely with a typical Pumpkin Masters saw."

Enter our Pumpkin-Carving Contest today!

Swashbucklin' Shading

Photo by Alex W./

Alex W. of Elk Grove, California, carved a portrait of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow into an artificial pumpkin. The excellent shading and attention detail here—check out the beads in Jack's dreads!— make this true-to-life portrait one of our top picks.


Photo by David M./

David M. in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, put his Dremel to work for a few hours on this melancholy martian. Another example of great shading, this piece took hours to complete and certainly left behind a mound or two of Funkin dust.

The Pumpkin King

Photo by Regina F./

"I saw this white pumpkin and just knew what I had to do with it," Regina F. from Los Angeles, California, said. Thinning out the walls of this white pumpkin couldn't have been easy; these gourds are significantly tougher and thicker than their orange counterparts. Regina hit the jackpot when it comes to gourd shape and shade, and made the natural choice to create Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Pirate's Booty

Photo by Kathleen H./

Kathleen H. in Springfield, Missouri, displayed some of the best sculptural carving skill in the 2008 competition. But she took her pirate pumpkin carving to another level by adding dimension with an artistic touch. "I finished the piece by painting the surface lightly with brown craft paint to enhance the design," she said.

Heeere's Johnny!

Photo by Robert P./

Robert P. of Wakeman, Ohio, carved out this famous scene from The Shining. "I used Photoshop to convert the image to a pattern and carved with a Dremel. It took six hours for Robert to complete the piece, which is the best likeness of Jack Nicholson we've seen in the competition to date. Believe it or not, there were quite a few stabs at this design.

Painted Pumpkin

Photo by Mike S./

Mixing methods, Mike S. of Battle Ground, Washington, carved, cut, and painted his way to success with this creation. "I did an elaborate 3-D sculpture, shaving off the skin and etching the details with a set of wood carving tools. I then sprayed the sculpted area with black paint, making sure that the paint seeped into all of the cracks and grooves," he said.

Dead Frida

Photo by John M./

John M. of Walnut Creek, California used a Dremel to carve this Frida Kahlo-inspired original design. As portraits go, we've seen quite a few traditional ones, but this Tim Burton-esque rendering puts John a creative cut above the rest.

Favorite by a Nose

Photo by Paul L./

"My daughter Lily and I carved this using a set of X-Acto knives," said Paul L. of Wethersfield, Connecticut. Aside from the fact that Paul made this a family project, we love that they played with the orientation of how a traditional Jack-o'-lantern sits. By turning the gourd on its side, Paul scores points for creativity—and for making the carving process safer for little Lily, since they didn't have to hack away at nostrils.

May the Force be With You

Photo by Noel D./

Star Wars fans are sure to appreciate this Death Star carving by Noel D. in Centreville, Virginia. "I use various wood working tools, little pumpkin carving saws, and clay loop tools for my carvings," he says. Noel is a real—ahem— Stormtrooper for getting through this carve; though the design breaks down into simple geometric shapes, attention to placement and the 360-degree nature of the piece make it a real labor of love.

In Fine Detail

Photo by William H./

William H. in Stone Ridge, New York, carved this tribal-mask pumpkin at three different transparency levels, giving it a magnificent—and menacing—glow. "I mainly use X-Acto knives and other long, thin blades to create my pumpkins," William said.

Cannibal Pumpkin

Photo by John C./

John C. of Bronxville, New York, summoned Mr. Potato Head in his delightfully playful piece; he assembled gourds (eyes and horns), pumpkins of various sizes (smaller jack-o'), and even pumpkin parts (tongue) in his assembly. "I used a sanding pad, wood chisels, coping saw blade, paring knife, X-Acto knife, small files, and small clay sculpting tools to make the carving," he said.

Here's Where the Wild Things Are!

Photo by Tom K./

"In honor of the movie version of possibly the greatest children's book ever, I decided to make a carving of one of the wild things from Where the Wild Things Are," said Tom K. of St. Louis, Missouri. He used a sharp X-Acto knife to chip away at the pumpkin surface, then cut the spent bits into 3-D ears, leaving us to echo the wild things when they said, "Oh, please don't go—we'll eat you up—we love you so!"

For the Birds

Photo by Karyn T./

This Hitchcock-inspired masterpiece by Karyn T. in Saginaw, Texas, is a fragile piece of work. The lack of flesh between birds means less support to the pumpkin wall, so you've got to punch out bits with extreme care to prevent collapse. "The pattern itself was fairly simple but the detail nearly made my hand fall off!" Karyn said. "I used the simple tools that you can get at any grocery store, along with some wood carving tools."

Think It's Too Late to Get Carving?

Photo by Robby J./

Think again! Robby J. in Ringgold, Georgia, makes another appearance with this carved Thanksgiving centerpiece. "It was carved with a Dremel tool with the pen attachment and several small bits."

Tiffany Carved Pumpkin

Karyn P. of Fort Worth, Texas, was inspired by fancy lighting fixtures and carved her own gourd-geous version of the prized lampshades. "I used the simple carving tools found in the prepackaged kits at the grocery store. This one is displayed as a shade for a lamp that sits on an end table."

See All of the Entries and Enter Your Own

Now that you're inspired, make sure you head over to The TOH Pumpkin Carving Contest and enter for a chance to win the $1,000 Grand Prize this year!