As a gift for Clara in E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," the Nutcracker has a poised, yet vivid, character. Making your own nutcracker takes a dedication to shaping the wood into a good and practical opener of nuts. The grand figure endures, giving you many rewards.
Choose the living wood for the height you want, 8 inches to 2 feet tall. The nutcracker first gets its character from the wood's life. Find an oak, walnut, cherry or mahogany tree and cut a limb that appears strong. Also take a smaller straight branch.
Using the saw, cut the nutcracker pieces. Find fifteen pieces in the wood: a head, two chest sides and one centre pivot piece, a waist, two legs, two arms, two feet, two hands, a tail to control the pivot, and a base. Grain aligns up the nutcracker's length. For facial features, carve out small light pieces with good forms. Cut the thin stick from the second branch.
Shape each piece into a body part or feature. Give the head piece a round, cylindrical shape. Turn the piece in your hands, rounding the straight and rough edges with the crafting tools. Round the other body pieces. Give the pivot piece bottom a greater round to allow turning in place. Make a short tenon on each arm's shoulder joint. Taper the tail into a firm handle. Trim the base. Then, round the thin stick into a straight pivot pole. Finish by using the hand tools to make fine shapes for eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
Prepare the torso and arm pieces. Drill a hole through the centre pivot piece to fit the thin pole. Drill matching holes in the right and left chest pieces. Glue the pole in the centre pivot piece. Let dry. Drill mortises in each chest piece's shoulder.
Place the head and body together with a pivot joint. Set the right and left chest pieces on the pivot piece, and glue to the waist. Set the head atop the two chest pieces and attach. Attach the handle to the pivot piece back.
Stand the legs on the base. Carve curves in the feet tops and set the legs on top. Glue together. Stand the legs on the base and attach.
Join the hands to the arms. Set the hands on the arms.
Arrange the eyes, nose, mouth and ears on the face. Carefully place the facial features and glue on.
Put the nutcracker together. Set the head and torso on the legs so the nutcracker stands straight. Attach the arms in the torso. Sand the entire figure.
Paint the characteristic features and add hair and a beard. Use the brushes and paint to paint a colourful design on the nutcracker, with a strong mouth and bright teeth on the head and pivot. Delicately paint the eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks. Glue hair on the sides and a felt beard on the chin. Stand the Nutcracker.