Haven’t you always wanted a 7 foot tall nutcracker to grace your entryway at Christmas? No? Well, I can’t say I had either. But sometimes you just get sucked into the rabbit hole that is Pinterest and you see something that another crazy crafter has made and you either think – “wow, that’s cool, I wish I could make that, but that’s clearly a Pinterest-fail waiting to happen”, or – “hmm, I could totally do that and probably do a better job” (yeah, I’m often a little overconfident). In this case it was the latter reaction that inspired me to go over to Home Depot, spend more money than I should on a bunch of air conditioning ducts and other random crap and then spray paint and duct tape my way to something that I could show off.
So this was my inspiration Pin:
(Credit to https://pin.it/nmchkypdede4tp…although there are no instructions there beyond the image on the left, so I would be figuring out on my own as I went.)
Home Depot is always a pain in the arse but particularly when you are trying to find piping the length of limbs and ducting that might look like a neck and then arranging hypothetical body parts together in the middle of the plumbing aisle. After I gathered my bits and bobs, I headed to the dollar store to get a cheap trash can for the helmet and some plastic containers for the feet. Then on to Michaels for the polystyrene balls for the hands and two half polystyrene spheres for the head (as I didn’t like the rubber ball idea per the inspiration photo). Then I topped it off with a trip to the fabric store to get the fluff and trim etc.
At which point I realized I had spent a whole morning gathering a bunch of crap that had now cost me almost $100 and that I hadn’t even started making the damn thing yet.
Anyway, here was my collection of stuff pre-spray painting:
I primed everything as I didn’t want the paint to easily chip off.
After the primer dried, I spray painted all the different body parts the appropriate colors (I picked a theme of red and black) until my fingers were aching and stuck in spraying position. And at this point I was fed up with the whole flipping project and stopped taking photos.
(Ahhh yes, that low point in a project when you realize it was a terrible idea and you now have a bunch of crap lying around your yard that your husband is going to bitch about. And then bitch about it some more when he realizes you spent $100 on it.)
After the spray paint dried and I had assembled everything back together in the house, my spirits were lifted. Until, that is, I realized I had no idea how to actually connect the arms to the body – all the other stuff was just stacked and held in place by gravity, but I had to figure out how to connect PVC piping to either size of a bucket. (Executional logistics are always my downfall.) What’s great is that the hubby is a mechanical engineer. Yay! But what’s not great is that he usually has very little interest or motivation to help get me out of these silly situations I find myself in and there is usually lots of eye rolling and huffing involved. Grrrr.
After the hubby conceded (happy wife, happy life, right???), he started working his magic, quickly assembling the needed tools and bolting on the right arm and then the left. Only we were not sure what went wrong with the left, as we quickly realized he had somehow tightened his wrench into the nutcracker’s armpit. There wasn’t any wriggle room to release the wrench, and taking it apart and starting over wasn’t a possibility without a whole bunch of rework. So our dear nutcracker to this day has an armpit accoutrement, like he grew some strange shiny armpit hair. But at least his arms look cool – they are bolted on tightly enough to have them tilted forward rather than just dangling lifelessly.
Once that part was over, I started figuring out the decorating plan, which is always the most fun bit.
I wish I had taken photos of the whole process (but alas, at that point I didn’t have an inkling that one day I would want to try to share this project with the world), but I went to town with metallic and black tape, silver trim, and crystals that were hot glue gunned on. I attached a polystyrene nose that I had scalped into shape, and painted features on the face, and lastly stuck on fluffy white fabric for the hair/beard.
And hey presto, this guy was born:
Here are some closer-up shots of his face:
And here is a near-finished version with my (then 4 year old) daughter for scale.
I was rather pleased with myself and FaceTimed my parents in England to show him off. My Mum of course suggested that we had to name him, and my Dad came up with the name Nikolai. So Nikolai it is.
He has lived in our entryway for three Christmas’s now, and he is always a great conversation starter. And I will admit I get a bit of a kick out of seeing similarly sized nutcrackers selling at stores for $800 or more. These ones don’t even have special metallic armpit hair.
As much as I love Nikolai, he has three inherent problems:
- He is a bit unsteady. I couldn’t be arsed to glue all his pieces together, so they are literally just balancing on top of one another. Which means when you host a Christmas party with any number of children who are all cracked out on candy canes, they will inevitably knock into him and there will be limbs and his head rolling all over the floor.
- He’s a bit unkempt by this point. For some reason the primer didn’t do much on two of the pieces (the helmet and shoes). By the second Christmas, they were both all beat up and flaking and showing through their former colors, and by the third Christmas, the crystals and chains have mostly fallen off. (Weirdly those were the two things I got from the dollar store – wonder if their cheap plastic has magical primer-resistant properties?)
- He’s big. Which means for the 11/12ths of the year when you couldn’t give two hoots about him, he has to be taking up space living somewhere. Which for us means his body parts are distributed on top of a garage cabinet, with his disembodied face staring out at us every time we go to the car.
Anyway, I’m hoping to get a few more years of use out of something I certainly never thought I would want, but that I have a certain affection for. Long live Nikolai!