It's a bad workman blames his tools, but I want to go on record: the commonly-available contemporary pumpkin carving tools are worthless pieces of crap.
Go to Walgreens or Target or some such, and you'll find kits like these from Pumpkin Masters (right). They typically come with a pulp scraper, a plastic "drill", and one or two serrated carving knives. These have slightly more cutting power than a sheet of tin foil.
I may not be a structural engineer,* but common sense suggests a 1/4" x 1/16" x 2 1/2" steel blade will buckle under the compressive load required to puncture the shell of a pumpkin. This theory is borne out by lab tests:
Ah, you say, that's why they give you the "drill"! You push that in, and make that hole the starting point for the knife to saw from. If that is true, the drill needs work, too. Mine bent and yielded at the handle the first time I stabbed the shell. And even just sawing without poking, the knife continued to deform unless I held it by the blade to shorten its unbraced length.
My pet theory is that Pumpkin Masters know that if people are able to reuse their pumpkin knives year after year, they're out of business. So they sell $4 kits that, other than the scoop (I have three now), cannot possibly survive more than a couple of pumpkins. Somehow they've cornered the retail market, and have a captive clientele.
Ridiculously, they also offer a power saw. When you load the batteries into the handle, it really emphasizes the flimsiness of the blade. When you flip the switch, the metal feebly flutters at the end of the grip. I believe mine crumpled like tinsel under atmospheric pressure as soon as I took it out of the package.
Dammit, it's the year 2013, and this is America. How have we not nailed this? We had a terrific pumpkin cutter in the late 80s. Why have we regressed?
(I miss these things. These were great. My family had two, but they went missing years back.)
These are extraordinary times, and we face an extraordinary challenge. Now it is time to take longer
strides--time for a great new American enterprise--time for this nation to take a clearly
leading role in pumpkin carving achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on
* I am.