When Christmas rolls around I have many traditions when it comes to decorating and such, but I also try to mix things up a little here and there. This year, since I have the iCarver at my disposal, extra ideas popped into my head and I was able to try a couple different things. I made a couple wood stockings and custom cookie cutters.
Wood Stocking Wall Hangers
When my parents asked me if I had any ideas for a craft sale they were taking part in, a few ideas popped into my head that I could tackle with the iCarver. The one I went with was a couple rustic feeling wood stockings to hang on the wall. Certainly the stockings could have been made without a CNC router, but it would be far more work to try and cut and mate the parts I had in mind with a jigsaw or the like.
I created the pattern for the stockings in Adobe Illustrator, since that is what I am used to working in for vector drawing. First I drew the outlines of the parts I wanted, then made a “wavy” version of the lines which would later be used to create an uneven, rustic looking bevel. After importing all my vectors into Aspire I set up a series of V carve, pocket, and profile cuts to make all the parts from two different thicknesses of pine. As I wanted to have the grain showing in the final product the parts were oriented so that the grain of the wood was in the directions I wanted for each part. Originally I was thinking of a coloured stain, but I had some acrylics on hand and decided to experiment a little to see if I could get the look I wanted with it. After trying a few techniques, I found that applying a generous amount of the acrylic paint then wiping it off pretty much right away gave a stain-like look with some brighter colours for a lot less than a tinted stain.
After all the parts were glued together, given a few coats of varnish (with some light sanding between coats), I had a couple of nice looking wood stockings with a slightly rustic feel.
Gingerbread Carousel and Custom Cookie Cutters
For the past few years we’ve been making gingerbread houses with my niece and nephew. I like to try to make it a little more creative each time, and this year we had the idea to do a gingerbread carousel. We could have bought a kit, where we got the idea from initially, but that would take away some of the fun (at least for me). So I set to work planning out a carousel in 3D using Rhino. Some may say that it’s a bit overkill, but it was fun and meant that I could practice using Rhino a little more. I made printable patterns of all the parts we would need and we were ready to start on the structure of the carousel.
Early on in the planning we were having a hard time finding a cookie cutter for Santa in a sleigh, and reindeer (rather than horses) for the carousel, let alone ones that would be small enough so that we weren’t going to have to make the whole thing an unwieldy size. So, I figured it might be a good job for the router. I had a couple ideas, one was to simply cut the shapes out of some plastic and push the gingerbread dough into the holes allowing us to pull away the form and leave the dough behind, but there were some technical concerns with that idea. Finally I decided I would just try to make some proper cookie cutters, or at least as close to proper as I could get with the limited time and materials I had on hand.
After again drawing out the shape I wanted in Illustrator, I started figuring out how to cut out cookie cutters from some 3/4″ Sintra I had laying about. Using a variety of pocket and profile cuts and taking advantage of the 5.5 degree angle on the conical cutter to give the walls of the cutter more strength, I eventually worked it out. The end result was some cookie cutters that would do the job very well. The Sintra isn’t durable enough to cut a really large number but certainly would do the trick for us!
The kids loved it and it all came together very well considering it was our first custom, from scratch, gingerbread build. As kids do when it comes to a gingerbread house, or in this case carousel, they covered almost every inch with candy! Next year I may try something even more ambitious and try to cut the gingerbread itself with the router! Bake it in sheets and cut any shapes I want, exactly to size! It struck me that it would be pretty cool to do when I was visiting Oxenham Design and saw what Jamie and Jody were doing with fake gingerbread for a commercial (check out the From Aspire to Beyond blog here to see what they did). It’s a bit crazy, but I like the idea of trying to do different things with tools at hand!