Step 1: Gather several pumpkins of various sizes. Use the widest pumpkin as the base, then stack progressively smaller pumpkins as you work your way up the totem. For our 3-foot-tall totem, we used five pumpkins, ranging from 5 to 9 inches in diameter.
Step 2: Trace a design of your choice on the surface of each pumpkin. You can use homemade designs or those from a purchased kit. Tape a template onto one side of each pumpkin, then outline the designs by using a nail, screw, or special tool (included in many kits) to punch holes through the paper and just into the surface of the pumpkins.
Step 3: Remove the templates. Cut out the top section of the pumpkin, retaining the top of the smallest pumpkin. Remove filling and discard.
Step 4: Using a small knife, carve the designs, following the trace marks you left on the pumpkins' surfaces. The more intricate the design, the smaller the knife blade you will need. Many kits come with several carving tools.
Step 5: With the tops removed, stack the pumpkins. Cut a 1-1/4-inch diameter wooden dowel so it's 2 to 3 inches shorter than the stack of pumpkins.
Step 6: Drill a 1/8-inch hole into the center of a 12-inch-diameter round section of particleboard. Drill a corresponding 1/8-inch hole into the center of the wooden dowel. Using a 1/4-inch screw, attach the dowel to the particleboard base.
Step 7: Carve a small hole in the base of each pumpkin. This hole should be just slightly larger in diameter than the dowel. Spray the inside of the pumpkins with pumpkin preserver, available at crafts stores, to give the display a longer "shelf life."
Step 8: Gather a string of small, white holiday lights and hold it against the dowel. Place the first pumpkin over the dowel and push it close to the base. Pull the holiday lights through the opening, leaving the plug outside the pumpkin. Push the pumpkin all the way to the base, then place the next pumpkin on the dowel and push it close to the first pumpkin. Pull the holiday lights through the base of the second pumpkin, leaving several loops of lights inside. Repeat the procedure until all the pumpkins are in place.
Step 9: Cap the top pumpkin with its stem section. Plug in the lights and enjoy your pumpkin totem pole as part of a festive table setting. It's also big enough to do duty in a window or porch display.