Have a Happy Halloween!
1. Before cutting, draw out the line where you'll be cutting the lid off the top of the jack-o'-lantern, around the stem, so that you get an accurate cut. Use a yellow marker (so stray marks won't show). The lid-hole should be big enough to provide access for removing the pulp from the inside.
2. While a circular lid is okay, a hexagonal lid is easier to put back on (you just line up the points).
3. To cut the lid out, hold your knife at a 45-degree angle, as shown in the picture. That way, the lid will fit in like a keystone. Otherwise, as the jack-o'-lantern begins to dessicate and lose mass, the lid is more prone to fall through the hole.
4. Proceed to cut out the lid and remove it.
5. With a garden trowel and spoon, scrape the pulp from the inner walls, removing all the seeds and "stringy orange goop."
6. Now it's time to work on the jack-o'-lantern face. As with the cut for the lid, draw outlines on the pumpkin first, to serve as guides. Need help or inspiration? Consult my piece, Pumpkin Pictures for Carving Ideas for a broad range of guidance. If, by contrast, what you need is specifically some help with tracing a design on your pumpkin, use my free jack-o'-lantern patterns.
7. Since the cutting here is more delicate, begin by making cuts with an Exacto knife, then perforate your outlines with a flat-head screwdriver. Then carefully insert a kitchen knife into the perforations to cut out eyes, nose and mouth. Don't attempt to "saw," just use a series of jabs.
8. Immediately after finishing your carved pumpkin masterpiece, apply petroleum jelly to the interior and to the cuts. Petroleum jelly will slow dessication, thereby slowing deterioration.