Step 1

Draw and Cut the Face

Start with an average sized, pear shaped pumpkin with thick skin. You need a pumpkin with thick skin because you will be carving away some of the pumpkin's surface. We are carving our pumpkin upside down to match the shape of a skull.

Hold the pumpkin upside-down. Decide where the eyes, nose and mouth will be located. Use a dry-erase marker to outline the two eye sockets, an opening for the nose cavity and a straight line with two crescent shapes on both ends for the mouth. If needed, print a picture of a skull as a reference when drawing the facial features.

Cut the outlines using a carving tool or knife. These holes will serve as reference points when shaping the contours of the skull. For the mouth, just cut a straight line; the teeth will be carved after the skull is shaved and formed.

Step 2

Mold the Face

Use an angle grinder or small sander to remove all of the skin from the pumpkin. You can also use a hand tool, like a vegetable peeler or file but a grinder or sander are quick and effective tools for this step.

Use the same tool to shape the contours of the skull and cheek bones. Use a picture of a skull as a guide for these steps:

  • Shave about a 1/4 inch from the sides of the pumpkin in the temple area.
  • Remove about a 1/2 inch just below the pumpkin’s cheek bones.
  • Round the cheek bones but leave them as prominent features on the face.
  • The jaw line should come down from where the ears would be and forward to the chin. Use the grinder to shave some of the pumpkin away from this area but the jaw line does not have to be perfectly defined just yet. We’ll be cutting off the bottom of the pumpkin along the jaw line, chin and around the back of the skull later on using a knife.

Step 3

Carve the Details

To form the mouth; use your tool of choice to shave over the line that was cut for the mouth. You don’t have to shave very deep for this step, but the upper and lower jaws should sit slightly further back on the face than the cheek bones and forehead.

Use a knife to carve the teeth; make very thin cuts between each tooth giving them definition and detail. Remove a tooth or two to give your skull a pirate look. You can also use a marker to darken one or more of teeth or cover one or more with tinfoil.

Refer to a profile image of a skull and use a dry-erase marker to draw a line coming out from under the chin, back along the jaw, up towards the ears and all the way back around the skull. Use a knife to cut along this line and remove the bottom portion. Be very careful when removing this piece. The lower jaw and chin will be very fragile at this point. If the lower jaw or any other piece breaks off don’t panic; use toothpicks or short pieces of wire to reconnect the broken pieces.

Step 4


Gut the Inside

Use an ice cream scoop to scrape the guts from inside the skull. Again, be gentle and cautious as the lower jaw will be fragile.

Turn the skull over, wipe it off and spray it down with a household cleanser with bleach. The bleach will keep bugs and mold away.

Place a votive candle under your skull to light it.

This project was designed and sculpted by Tom Nardone, founder of and author of the national bestseller, Extreme Pumpkins.