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How to Power Drill a Pumpkin Lantern in Half an Hour

October 10, 2016

Maybe you already carved a pumpkin this season. If you did, it's not going to last from today to Halloween without its face melting off, so it's time to whip up another batch. Save yourself some time, some tedium, and some trouble by drilling your pumpkin into a lantern—which will add a wonderful disco-ball twinkle to your holiday decor and not take more than half an hour from start to finish. Here's how:

What you'll need:

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A pumpkin (or more, if you like lots of twinkle)
A very sharp chef's knife
A bowl for the seeds 
An ice cream scoop
A power drill with a range of bit sizes (the larger ones are actually best!)

How to drill that pumpkin into a lantern in no time:

1) Open it up and scoop out the guts. (Sorry for the visuals, but it's almost Halloween, okay?)

  pumpkin drilling

Slice the stem section off of your pumpkin by cutting around that part at an angle, so the tip of your knife points towards the pumpkin's heart (sorry again). For your safety, I suggest slicing away from yourself. Cut the guts off the lid and set aside for toasting into a snack

Using the ice cream scoop, scrape away the guts from the sides of the pumpkin. (Other spoons work as well, but I found that the sharp-ish sides of the scoop made it very effective at getting the pumpkin very clean, fast.) Once they're all scraped down, pull the gunk and seeds out with your hands. 

2) Drill the pumpkin.

drill the pumpkin

You can start with whatever drill size makes you feel most comfortable, but I have to be honest that the larger bits, even if they feel more intimidating, are the easiest to drill with. I used a range of sizes (from about 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch) to make holes all over in a completely random pattern, but you could be more methodical and make little columns down the natural ridges of the pumpkins, or even use the bits to make dotted lines and shapes. Random is easiest (and, in my opinion, cutest!).

For safety, I'd suggest holding the back of the pumpkin with one hand, starting the drill, and pressing it into the flesh on the side closest to you. It's an absurdly satisfying feeling and very easy to do—so don't be discouraged if you've had bad experiences with power drills in the past! 

Once you think you have enough holes, make some more with your largest-sized bits—the tiny holes are cute as background illumination, but don't let very much light out, so I found that I needed many more punctures than expected to get the twinkle effect I wanted.

3) Light 'er up.

finished pumpkin lanterns

Put a few votives inside, top your pumpkin with his lid hat (a little akimbo so that the candles don't get snuffed), and watch any nearby wall turn into a twinkly wonderland.

We originally ran this post last year and brought it back in case our stoop needs a little added twinkle. 

Halloween is on the horizon—how do you decorate? Let us know in the comments.  

Photos by James Ransom

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Sarah October 27, 2017
Brilliant! I’d love to see my 10 year old have a go at this! Joking honest😀
Alexandra S. November 3, 2016
I did this on Monday morning and have never had more fun carving pumpkins. Thanks you! I did one with just holes everywhere, and then I drilled my kids' names each into their own pumpkin. It looked so good! My pumpkins received many compliments, which has never happened before.
SMSF October 10, 2016

These look so cool! Another idea for how to light these: Use one of those small, cheap press on/press off LED lights that are about 3" across. Safer and longer lasting than candles, and no wires to worry about.
Amanda S. October 10, 2016
Love that!
Chris G. October 23, 2015
Wow...what a cool idea, thanks for sharing. I've got some thoughts and ideas to share. There are also flat bladed wood boring bits, in sizes from about 1/4" up to about 2 1/2 inches for larger holes..if you know someone that has them or you feel like buying a few different sizes, they are not terribly expensive at your local hardware store. (cheaper that good regular metal drilling bits like you have been using!) I was thinking that if you chose to use a really big pumpkin for this you might be able to fit a "color wheel inside? Or maybe a small string of Christmas "Twinkle lights." Both of which would of course mean using electric lights. If your were going to put any of these pumpkins outside be sure your using a three prong grounded cord and that you have a Ground Fault Interrupter, (GFI), in the circuit you have the cord plugged into! One more thought for cleaning the pumpkin, inside and getting the "stuff" out. What works really well, quick and easy is taking a section of an old worn out band saw blade, about a 6" chunk,, about a 3" piece of 1" by two in wood cut from a sick for a political sign or whatever or a new piece and bending it in a "U" shape and using electrical tape to attach it to the wood. You can get those worn out band saw blades either from someone you know that is into work-working and has a band saw or from your local butcher, (they use those to cut bones) A note of caution, even worn out band saw blades have sharp points, so use caution, they will cut skin and squash, be careful with them inside the squash your clean! Just some thoughts, they may not be practical for everyone or worth the effort...Chris
Lisa A. October 18, 2015
Could also use the battery-powered LED strands. Many come with a timer. If you go this route (LED vs. candle) could carve hole in back vs. cutting around stem.
Suzanne October 16, 2015
I love this idea! Definitely on my list for the weekend!