Finger Hand Hand Safety Hand Therapy

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Pumpkin Carving Tools

pile of small cute pumpkins at pumpkin patch

Are pumpkin-carving tools really worth buying? 

Yes, there has been real research on this topic. Dr. Alexander Marcus and his research group in Syracuse, N.Y. tested the performance of two different pumpkin carving tools against a serrated and a plain kitchen knife*. They tested the pressure it takes to cut or puncture a pumpkin with each of the knives and the pumpkin-carving tools. They then used the same pressure against the fingers of cadavers. The pumpkin-carving tools proved to be far superior and safer. The plain kitchen knife caused more injuries than the serrated kitchen knife. Both kitchen knives cut through both the tendons of the finger and, in some cases, a nerve as well. Kitchen knives require more force to puncture a pumpkin, meaning more opportunity for injury.

You can feel confident that investing in pumpkin-carving gadgets is a good idea. If you are interested in seeing the article along with pictures of the test, please be advised that there is a photo of a cadaver hand: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743504000374.

Here are some safe and creative ways to decorate your pumpkin this year:

  • For the smallest hands, painting your pumpkin is a great option.
  • Use a drill to make a pattern of holes in the shape of something scary! A carpenter’s drill is for adults only! Craft stores have battery-operated drills made for pumpkin carving that kids can use.
  • Push Mr. Potato Head pieces in a crazy face pattern.

Remember some simple safety tips:

  • Pay attention to your non-carving hand. The hand holding the pumpkin is often injured by the carving tool.
  • Make sure your pumpkin is dry. A wet pumpkin is hard to hold and may cause the carving tools to slip.
  • Carving is for the adults. Scooping out the slippery seeds is for the kids!

*Marcus AM, Green JK, Werner FW. The safety of pumpkin carving tools. Preventive Medicine. 2004; 38:799-803.


Stacy Hite, PT, DPT, MS, CHT is a Certified Hand Therapist and member of the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT).

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