Shaping and assembling the many parts of the nutcrackers shown in this section may be time-consuming, but with a methodical approach, the process is not difficult. And as the pho­to at left shows, the results are well worth the trouble.

Most of the parts are produced on the lathe; in tact, all the major components— the torso and head, the arms and the legs—are turned from only three blanks, which makes assembly simpler and more


precise. Sawing all the arm parts from a single spindle turning, for example, helps ensure that the arms will be of uniform size and that the elbow joints will fit together well. Once the major parts-are done, the hands, feet, and nose can be carved to fit and individualize the figure.

Choose a soft, easy-to-shape wood like basswood for the main components of the nutcracker. Ash is a good choice for the jaw/crank; the wrists are best made from standard birch doweling.




Distinctive coloring and attention to detail breathe life into the nutcrackers shown at left, built by Fred Sneath of Stony Lake, Ontario. Although the main parts of the figures—the torso, arms and legs—are virtually identical, the nutcrackers are given unique personalities with different paints, helmets, and facial features. The beard and hair can be made from imitation fur, yarn, or carpeting.











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1 Turning the head and torso

Cut a blank that is long enough for the head and torso and mount it between cen­ters on your lathe. Use a spindle gouge and a skew chisel to turn the blank to the shape shown at right, making the diame­ters at the shoulders and hips about equal. Once the turning is done, leave the blank spinning on the machine and use a piece of sandpaper to smooth the surface, bring­ing the abrasive up to the stock from below. Make sure the lines defining the belt remain distinct. Then cut the head from the torso on a band saw.


Cutting out the channel for the jaw/crank

Cut the channel in the torso for the jaw/crank in two steps, starting on the band saw. Outline a %-inch-wide channel in the middle of the torso from the top to the belt line, then secure the piece in a handscrew so the outline is facing up. Pushing the clamp to feed the torso into the blade, cut the sides of the channel, then clear out the waste with a series of angled cuts (left). Square the bottom of the channel with a chisel.


3 Angling the jaw/crank channel

Once the channel in the torso is fin­ished, secure the piece back side up in a bench vise and extend the channel along the back of the torso to hold the bottom of the jaw/crank. Holding a chisel at an angle to the piece bevel-side up (above), shave away the waste wood in thin layers to create a slope that angles outward from the middle of the crank mortise to the bottom of the torso. Cut the recess so the top surface of the jaw/crank will be flush with the back of the torso—or pro­trude only slightly—when it is installed.


Turning the legs and arms


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Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:image278Подпись: ЖГ її p •• 4 Подпись: ■J •• Ш t Mount a blank between centers on your lathe, ensuring that it is long enough to yield both legs, including the tenons that will join the legs to the torso and feet. Use a roughing gouge to turn the blank into a cylinder, a skew chisel (right) and a spin­dle gouge to add details, and a parting tool to define the tenons. Once the legs are turned, saw them apart. Turn the arms the same way, allowing an extra ^ inch for the overlap at the elbow joint.

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Подпись: Clamping block


6 Installing the jaw/crank legs and shoulders

Referring to the anatomy illustration on page 130, cut the jaw/crank to shape and fix it in place with the steel pin. Then test-fit the legs against the torso, mark the leg tenons on the torso, and drill the holes to the tenon length. Now glue the legs in place. Carve the feet and drill a hole into each one to accept the tenon at the bottom of the legs. It is easier to drill the dowel holes into the sides of the shoulders before they have been sawn from the arm spindle; secure the arm spindle in a V-block jig (page 132) as you bore the holes on the drill press. Now cut the arms into their various sections —upper arms, lower arms, and shoul­ders—and drill the holes into the bottom of the shoulders for the dowels that will join them to the upper arms. All the holes should be drilled halfway through the stock. Glue the dowels into the shoul­der, leaving % inch of the pins protruding. Wait until the adhesive has cured before fitting the shoulders into the torso (right)-, otherwise, the glue may bond the joints in place and not allow them to articulate.


Carving the elbow joints

Each elbow joint is an open mortise – and-tenon joint which pivots around a dowel. Cut the tenons in the lower arms and the mortises in the upper arms on your scroll saw. Then clamp one of the lower arms to a work surface, using an arched clamping block to protect the stock. Round over the tenon with a disk sander or gouge and a chisel (left); this will improve the articulating movement of the elbow joint. Repeat with the other lower arm.







V-Ыоск jig



8 Assembling the elbow joint

Fit the lower and upper arms together, then place the assembly in your V-Ыоск jig clamped to the drill press table. With one side of the arm facing up, drill right through the mortise and tenon (above). Cut a length of dowel to span the joint and sand the ends smooth, then slip the dowel into the hole. To allow the elbow to move, do not use any glue. You may need to continue rounding over the tenon to perfect the fit. as described in step 7.

Ю Assembling the wrist

Подпись: 9 Preparing the wrist Refer to the anatomy illustration on page 130 for details of the wrist-to-hand joint. The wrist consists of two lengths of %-inch dowel: one with a ball carved on the top end and another with a matching socket on the bottom. The piece with the socket fits snugly in a hole in the hand. To cut the socket, secure one dowel end-up in a handscrew and fit a rounded grinding stone in a drill press (above). Grind the socket, then carve the matching ball in the other piece. image283"The two parts of the wrist are held together by an elastic band. To prepare the pieces, clamp one in a handscrew and secure the handscrew to a work surface. Then fit an electric drill with a small bit and bore an angled hole that starts at the edge of the flat end and exits in the middle of the ball—or socket—end. Repeat on the other edge (right) and for the other part of the wrist. Feed a length of elastic band through the holes to tie the pieces together, using a thin length of wire to help you thread the elastic. Next, carve the hands and drill two holes into each: one into the bottom to accept the wrist and a smaller one to hold a flagpole or sword.


П Shaping the helmet

Use a spindle sander to shape the nutcracker’s helmet. To produce the design shown at right, remove waste wood from three sides of the stock, sanding each side a little at a time to help keep the design symmetrical. Other helmet shapes are shown in the color photo on page 130; these helmets were shaped while the head blank was still on the lathe.

1 Q Finishing the nutcracker

Turn a finial that crowns the helmet from a %-inch dowel. Include a tenon at the bottom of the finial to fit a matching hole in the helmet, then glue the pieces together (left). To attach the head to the torso, drill matching holes in their contact­ing surfaces and glue in dowels to secure the connection. Finish by assembling the arms and carving the nose and belt buckle. You can also add details to the nutcrack­er’s uniform, including buttons, epaulet trim, an insignia and trouser leg trim.

Updated: March 18, 2016 — 5:33 pm