For me, this is the greatest way to showcase the innermost creative self. Best of all, making homemade nutcrackers is a lot of fun!
Making a Nutcracker - the Real Story
When you look online or in the stores for nutcrackers, they all look much the same. Sure they have different colors and accessories, but they all look like they came from the same factory. If only you could find just one that didn't look like a copy of a lathed rolling pin. We were looking at making something unique as gifts and thought - How hard can it be? Turns out it's a fun project and allows your creativity to soar.
We used everyday tools and gathered some old wood to create very unique one of a kind nutcrackers. The costs are minimal as most supplies were things we already had, including tools, fabric and paint.
Follow the steps below and you too can create amazing one of a kind nutcrackers.
Choosing the Materials and Tools Required
There are two ways to approach making your own nutcrackers. You can either go all out and buy all or most materials or you can go all in and use mostly what you already have. We used a little of both with the bulk of the material being something we already had or had free access to.
We made four nutcrackers and all were mostly made of old wooden logs. Additional materials were used to add unique character to each.
Here are the list of materials we used for our Nutcrackers:
- Old wooden logs - from outside
- Wooden doweling - from craft store
- Wooden balls - from craft store
- Wooden skewers - from kitchen pantry
- Plastic whiskers - from craft store
- Fabric - from home stock and fabric store
- Molding clay - from craft store
- Plastic eyes - from craft store
- Paint - from home stock and craft store
- Metal pins - from hardware store
Here are the tools we used:
- Paint brushes
- Hand sander
- Hand saw
- Hand drill
- Staple gun
- Glue gun
- Gorilla Glue
- Sewing machine
From Old Wooden Logs We Craft
Making the Nutcracker Form
The first step in making a nutcracker is making the basic components, consisting of a head, body, legs and arms. We made four different nutcrackers but all started with the same parts all made from wood crafted from old wooden logs. The measurements noted below will create Nutcrackers that are approximately 2 feet tall.
Cutting to Size
- We brought home several old wooden logs that measured as follows, 1 piece approximately three to four inches wide by five feet long (for the body), 1 piece approximately 1.5 inches wide by six feet long (for the legs) and 1 piece ,75 inches wide by six feet long (for the arms).
- Cut the largest piece into eight pieces, four measuring three to four inches long (for the head) and four measuring nine inches long (for the body).
- Cut the two thinner six foot lengths into eights equal lengths each of 9 inches
Shaping the Parts
- Use a jig saw to cut an angled edge on all of the large pieces. This provides some basic shaping for the head and body before sanding.
- Depending on the nutcracker, you may want to have one or more arms in a bent position. In this case, cut a few of the thinnest pieces at a 45 degree angle in the middle.
- We used left over 2 x 6 spruce for the bases. Cut four bases for four nutcrackers, each Approximately six inches by six inches.
- For out kitty feet we cut a 1.5 inch wooden ball in half to provide us with two feet, each ball makes two feet. For our heroes we used .75 inch thick spruce board cut 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches. We cut a half circle on one end to fit around the legs.
- For our heroes shoulders we used 1 inch wooden balls. We cut two flat sides, one to fit against the body and the other to fasten to the arm.
- For our heroes heads, we needed additional shaping of facial features. We penciled in the lines and used chisel and hammer to carve in the shapes. It’s best to carve little bits at a time for best results. This is much easier than it sounds and a fun part of the nutcracker design.
- And of course plenty of sanding of all surfaces and edges.
Nutcracker Wooden Parts - Cut and Sanded
Making the Nutcracker Leaver Assembly
- All nutcrackers are the same size therefore have the same size nutcracker lever. We used .75 inch thick spruce board, cut in an "L" shape. The small leg should be the same width as the head 4 inches, the length should be approximately 1 inch longer than the body 10 inches. The inside corner of the lever should have 45 degree angle for the rocker pin. Drill a small hole just large enough for the rocker pin to fit through.
- The lever will need a space to fit in the body. Cut a vertical groove the length of the body 1 inch wide and 1 inch deep. Now cut a 1 inch wide by two inches deep groove across only one end, lining up with the vertical groove. Finally cut a narrow slot 1/8 inch wide and 2 inches deep, running perpendicular to the groove cut on the end. To cut the grooves we used a hand saw to cut the outline and then a hammer and chisel to clean out the grooves.
- Sand all of the wood edges using coarse sand paper, a hand sander works best.
The Nutcrackers Come Alive
This is definitely where the real fun starts. In the previous steps we prepared the parts to make four nutcrackers. They all look the same for now but soon they will all have their own personality. Before we start with the details, each part will receive a generous coat of base primer paint.
Maggy All Dolled Up
A Nutcracker in the Image of our Cat Maggy
We have a kitty who’s now over 16 and very dear to us, her name is Maggy. Maggy is a grey cat and we have now made a nutcracker in her image. Here are the steps below.
Covering With Faux Fur
- Cut grey faux fur to fit all parts.
- Use a staple gun to adhere faux fur to parts, always keep seams to the back. The staples are easily hid by the fur. Leave one end of the paws fur less and also the under side of the feet.
- You can also use a hot glue gun as well to help adhere the fabric to the wood, especially in the smaller areas like paws and ears.
Covering in Faux Fur
Maggy Assembly and Bling
- We used wooden dowels to secure the pieces together. Larger dowels were used for fastening the head and legs to the body.
- Pre-drill the holes and place a small drop of Gorilla glue into the hole. Then insert one end of the wooden dowel.
- It’s important to let the glue dry before gluing more parts together. We would let the glue dry and continue the next day. Once dry you can put a drop of Gorilla glue on the other end of the wood dowel and press the parts together.
- For connecting the head to the body, we used two wood dowels, spaced evenly about 2 inches apart. Before attaching the head to the body, put the metal pin through the lever and place the pin and level assembly into the body. For the legs and arms we use only one wood dowel for each connect.
- Lastly we added ear, eyes, a nose and whiskers.
Adding Personality - Vest, Hat and Bling
This is another example of creating art from the heart! Our pets are our soul soothers and what better way to honor them than making their likeness into a nutcracker.
With the nut cracker covered in faux fur, you are now able to add the personality.
- We made a vest and a hat for Maggy. If you can use a sewing machine that's great, but not necessary. A needle and thread will do.
- Then accessorized with a scarf and jingle bells.
The Candy Cane Bounty Hunter
A favorite character can be turned into an amazing nutcracker. Here we have BoBo the Candy Cane Bounty Hunter from far far away.
Bobo The Nutcracker
Bobo Painting and Assembly
Lucifer the Great
Lucifer is a beloved kitty and is now permanently enshrined as a nutcracker in Scottish attire with a Tam and Kilt. This is another example of creating art from the heart! Our pets add so much love to our daily lives and what better way to keep them close forever by creating their likeness into a nutcracker.
Lucifer in Scotsman Attire
Covered and Ready for Assembly
Homemade Super Hero - Captain A
A Super Hero for the ages, able to leap tall counters, faster than a cat in heat! You can create your own Super Hero story as we did. Loads of character and fun.
Super Captain A
The Making of a Super Hero
For characters such as Super Heroes we get to use our carving skills once more. This can be a lot of fun. The trick is to take our time, go slow with a chisel and hammer and put a face on our hero nutcracker. There is no such thing as perfect, the goal is to add character to our nutcracker.
We can now make our hero come alive by painting with vivid colors and then apply a good clear gloss protection coat once the paint has dried. Finally we add our accessories like helmets, belts, capes and in our case some holiday fun!
Paul Cronin (author) from Winnipeg on December 24, 2020:
Thanks Ivana, the nutcrackers were definitely the most fun things we've ever made, and have a lot of heart and soul poured into them! We're sorry to say good bye to them as they are christmas gifts. That's why I wrote the article ti keep it fresh!
Ivana Divac from Serbia on December 24, 2020:
Wonderful article! Very well-written and informative. Thanks for sharing!