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Josh and I went head-to-head in a Christmas-themed, Nutcracker Build-Off! It’s the holiday season and we thought it would be fun to make our own interpretations of a Nutcracker. This is our chance to take a simple idea and make something fun and festive. Come see how they turned out!

  1. Festive or Functional
  2. Metal Teeth & Wooden Paws
  3. Crack Some Nuts

1. Festive or Functional

Josh and I gave ourselves the morning to design our Nutcracker plans and we would only use materials I already had in the shop. There was a lot of discussion about whether the Nutcrackers needed to be more decorative or more functional. Josh pointed out that the best nut cracker is another nut; when you squeeze two nuts together they crack, done. But he leaned more on the decorative side, deciding to make a Nutcracker that looked like his dog, Lena. It would include a hinged jaw like the traditional example, but may not actually function like it should. I, on the other hand, went far beyond the scope of the project and designed something to crack the mother of all nuts, a coconut.

My design would involve a large F-Clamp inside a robot head adorned with Christmas decorations. But the core capability of my Nutcracker would be to crack ANY nut, while hopefully looking festive. I planned on using some scrap metal and plywood while Josh decided to make his Nutcracker dog out of single block of basswood. Now that we had our concepts in place, it was time to get to work.

2. Metal Teeth & Wooden Paws

Josh started by tracing some templates he had drawn up in Illustrator onto the flattened block of basswood. Using reference pictures of his dog, a boxer, he made outlines of the front and the side of his dog and transferred them to the wood. His goal was to use the bandsaw and cut the image out in one axis, hot glue the offcuts back on for stability, and then cut the lines on the other axis. This is a common bandsaw technique, but neither of us have done it before.

My plan was to pick through my metal scrap and find some 90-degree angled steel bars and slightly sharpen them. These pieces would act as the “teeth” for my robot-looking Nutcracker. Once cut and sharpened, I hot glued one set to the adjustable part of the F-clamp. This way, I could slide the clamp-tooth up and down until I captured the nut, then I could use the screw handle to apply cracking pressure. Once I nailed together a box, my robo-Nutcracker was almost finished.

The next day, Josh returned with a beautiful looking wooden boxer. He had used an old whittling knife, rasps, files, and a sander to carve in some really accurate detail. “Not bad for my first time,” he says, but I think he did a great job and it really looked like his dog. Next, he had to add the hinged mechanism that would hopefully crack a nut. He nervously cut off the wooden dog’s head, hollowed out the throat area, installed the hinge he made on an axel, and glued the head back on. We were all really impressed with the whole terrifying process, it went better than expected.

3. Crack Some Nuts

After I made a handsome Santa hat, added some massive googly-eyes, and a coat of robot paint, my Nutcracker was ready for action! Josh added some wood finish to his K-9 Nutcracker and added some ribbon and a tiny bow to complete the Christmas look. It was now time to put these holiday-themed creations to the test. Could they actually crack a nut and properly earn the name, Nutcracker?

Josh’s dog looked amazing, and definitely won the looks and the festive spirit category. But when it came time to crack a pecan, the cherry handle snapped under the pressure. While he was able to glue it back together and saved the aesthetic, it couldn’t crack a nut. In his defense, I don’t think any of the Nutcrackers that we use to decorate our house could crack a nut either. So Josh’s dog definitely wins as a decorative example of a Nutcracker and I’m sure it will look amazing in his home for years to come.

My robot looked fun and festive with the addition of the plywood Santa hat, but it’s large frame and intimidating smile don’t really fit any decorative theme. However, it wasn’t designed to win any beauty contests, it was made to crack nuts. My wife bought some coconuts from the grocery store and we set out to test the queen of all nuts first. I adjusted the jaws to fit the huge nut and gradually twisted the clamp handle. After some creaking and snapping, the coconut cracked and spilled all the coconut water onto my workbench! I didn’t realize how much water is inside a coconut-newsflash-it’s a lot. But success! my Nutcracker totally cracked a coconut as well as a bunch of Josh’s pecans, with ease. It definitely lives up to its namesake, it is the superior Nutcracker.

Super Fun and Festive!

I hope you enjoyed this holiday Nutcracker Build-Off. I really like these collaborative builds between Josh and I. It shows that two people can have wildly different interpretations of a single goal, have completely different ways to solve a problem, and it can still be super fun making with the people close to you. I hope this inspired you to make something festive for your home this holiday season or sparked a new fun competition between friends. Either way, we wish you all a safe and happy holidays!