That crazy kick in the butt from my creative muse? It was another nutcracker project. My amazingly wonderful cousin collects santas. I had considered buying her one this year, but could never find one that I really liked. After decorating this year and pulling out my giant nutcrackers I made last year I got to thinking… “If I can do massive, why not do a smaller one?”
The idea would not let go, so I gave in and worked on it. The smaller ones are a very different beast from the big ones because the materials are totally different. I ran into some pretty severe limitations because I just didn’t have the right tools or materials to do something that would be more classic (wooden body with any kind of “person” shape). I knew I wanted this to be more “santa” than “nutcracker”, so that fixed part of the problem because I was going to put this guy in clothes rather than paint a wooden body. I still had to have a framework, though.
Some of those parts were easy to come up with, dowels for the arms and legs, wooden “doll head” piece for the head and then wood balls for the hands. My problem was coming up with something for the actual body. I struggled for a while and finally decided to just use what I had from my giant ones, the large wood balls I’d used for the hands. I sanded it down on two sides to give me a stable base to attach the head and legs to, then carved out a channel behind where I was attaching the head to put in the arm/shoulder attachment.
All of the fabric I used for this project, I found in the remnants bin. One of the big problems I had for the clothes is that I had no pattern. I had to kind of make it up as I went along. Then, I decided to hand sew the whole thing because I didn’t want to mess with my machine or try to sew the smaller pieces (which can be a massive pain). It took a little longer, but all of the materials I used were kind of perfect for that and hid my sloppy hand sewing skills.
A couple of the issues I ran into was just not really having the right tools. The channel I worked into the top of the ball body was a massive pain in the rear. I had to use the funky sander attachments for my Dremel tool that just didn’t work right. I KNEW I had a grinder attachment, but couldn’t find it until I’d broken two of those sander pieces and had finished that channel. I had to use a different sander attachment to make the feet (which ended up being nearly hidden on the finished piece). Drilling the holes to make all the connections ended up tons of fun because it is kinda hard to make sure things are perfectly level when you are working with ball shapes and rounded edges, so this came out far from perfect.
I also discovered that it is a massive pain to paint on that small of a scale and get everything even. What made that even worse was the fact that I didn’t paint the head. I left it the natural wood. That meant I couldn’t just paint over a mistake like I did so easily on my giant nutcracker faces.
When I was planning this, one of the essential elements needed to be an arctic fox. Foxes are a family thing for us and her favorite is the arctic. I could not for the life of me find ANY foxes that were realistic and the right size, let alone an arctic one. I did find some seriously adorable other animals, a deer and a squirrel, but no fox. But hey! If I making this thing, why not just MAKE a fox. Sure! No problem. Ugh! It took a bit and a decent piece of the fake fur ended up in the trash, but, I think I did okay.
The staff was a branch I pulled off of my choke cherry and prettied up with a crystal and some beads. The smaller branches came off what I used for the staff. Again, I had to carve a trench in the ball for the hand to give that staff a place to rest, but thankfully that’s when I found my grinder piece, so that made a world of difference.
This was an amazingly fun project. I learned so much working on it and I’d LOVE to make more. It isn’t technically a nutcracker since it doesn’t have the operable mouth (the actual nut cracking piece), but it gives a nod to some of those classic elements in the way the face is painted. The problem with making more or even attempting to make a more classic style with the wooden body is that it is nearly impossible to do if you do not have a lathe. You can fudge it, but unless you have even the most basic cylinder of wood for the main body, it just doesn’t work. Not if you want to use wood. That is something that I could never find in any of the craft stores. I didn’t even find anything looking online. Not in the size I would need. Dowels? Sure, not a bit of a problem. Cylinder for the body? Nope! Not even anything close.
So, while I’d love to do more of these, the absolute last thing I need is yet another hobby that requires me buying a bunch of really expensive tools to make things that will sit around my house. Even if I thought I could make these to sell, I doubt I’d ever make enough to justify the cost of the tools, which makes me really sad, because I adored working on this. I loved it so much when it was finished, it was hard to pack him up and send him on his way.