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Originally published October 21, 2012 at 5:02 AM | Page modified October 21, 2012 at 8:07 AM

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Pumpkin carving made easy with common tools

Before you spend money on a prepackaged carving kit, check your kitchen and basement for these surprise pumpkin-carving tools.

McClatchy-Tribune

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Nothing says "Halloween" like a perfectly carved jack-o'-lantern sitting by your front door. But with hundreds of carving products out there claiming to be the best, it's hard to know which will help you create a work of art and which will break on the first use. This autumn, skip the prepackaged carving kits for these common tools that you might even have lying around your house.

Pumpkin carving expert Alex Wer of The Pumpkin Geek, has carved for celebrities such as Gene Simmons, Joe Mantegna and Jeri Ryan. Fans around the world adore his one-of-a-kind pumpkins. Though now he only carves using craft pumpkins, since they don't deteriorate, he started out on regular pumpkins and knows which tools work best.

"One pumpkin carving tool that everyone should have is a scoop with a serrated edge, because the most important thing is to have the pumpkin completely scooped out. If it's stringy it'll be a mess," Wer says. Pumpkin scoops often can be found in prepackaged carving kits. However, Pumpkin Masters makes a deluxe pumpkin scoop with a serrated edge that is sold individually.

Making intricate designs on a pumpkin requires a small, sharp tool that's both sturdy and flexible. To create zigzag patterns or squiggly shapes, try a keyhole saw. It has a pointed tip that will easily pierce a pumpkin's thick shell and is thin enough to create small details. Get one at Lowes, The Home Depot or any major hardware store.

For detailed facial designs, Wer likes to use "a clay loop, the sculpting tool, that you can get at a craft store," to shave away the pumpkin to create his 4-layer carves. "Most of my carves are four or five layers, including the areas that you completely cut through, a few graded layers of shading, and the dark parts that I don't cut at all," he says.

Common kitchen tools can also be used to create pumpkin carvings. OXO, a kitchen and household products company, offers a handful of products that double as pumpkin carving essentials. Their melon baller has two different sized heads, which can be used to help scrape out the pumpkin pulp on the inside or to create a polka dot design on the outside. Their corer can punch perfectly round holes through the skin of a pumpkin and their lemon zester can help execute unique designs. These and the rest of their products can be found at oxo.com.

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