2012 Christmas Ornaments

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 11:22 am 2 comments

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It’s been a wild year, full of crazy adventures, new jobs and roles, and of course, new ornament designs. The amazing thing is that despite how much things change, and how life may be unpredictable, at least you can count on one thing: a new ornament design each year, and a good one at that!  My end-goal is very simple: to elicit as many smiles as possible.

While each year’s events, up-turns, downturns, (all-around-turns?) might change anyone just a little, there’s one thing that I feel just can’t change, with me, anyway…. I don’t wanna grow up! We all remember, to some degree, the things that made us smile, and dance, and laugh, and jump!  My theme this year is simple and VERY SERIOUS (okay, I’m totally kidding  :p ): be a kid!


When I was young, I absolutely adored Calvin and Hobbes. I had a love for all of the full-color, special comics that Watterson would write and release in the Sunday papers, especially. While Calvin looked little, he always had so much insight and that ultimately-important capability that I strive to utilize: to make big, important concepts seem tiny and fundamental. So fundamental, in fact, that you recognized their place in human nature as just simply… true.  And so, on the back of every ornament I made this year, there’s a simple, fundamental request that I ask each [awesome] recipient to do:


Always something different, eh? 

You got it! Each year, I try to explore a new method of making ornaments. This can be a different material, a different process, a new dimension, or any combination of those. From the photos I’ve already shown you, you might notice a few key differences for this year, all of which I am quite proud of:

  • There are four different Calvin & Hobbes ‘scenes’ from the comic strip that have been translated to ‘ornament-form’.
  • There’s a number of designs for the backs of the ornaments (jump, smile, cheer, laugh, dance, play)
  • Yup, I carved them (from basswood, of course!)
  • Simply, this year’s ornament is my most-ambitious undertaking of yet.

52 hours and counting to make my first batch of ornaments for the 2012 season. Check out how I made them!

I started out by happily searching through all three of my C+H books. I came across the dancing one, and it made me smile…. So clearly, that’s the right one.

You probably know a little about mass-production, the design process, and invention… This story is similar. Why?   My first prototype ornament took me a likely 12 hours to make, not counting the weeks of casual thought I put into it. The first one was done extra-specially, with even the musical notes being intricately carved. Ay carumba! Here’s a few photos of that one:

Then I realized that a few key things from that just couldn’t be done for all 30+ ornaments for this year.. In particular, I knew that I couldn’t spend as much time carving the musical notes, I couldn’t rout the ‘Merry Christmas’ on the back (too much time), and the ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ stencil I made (yup, I made one) simply looked like I’d written it with pen.  Okay, fine… On to the big leagues!

1. Taped as many comic printouts onto each piece of basswood as would fit.



I even used my clamp-onto-kitchen-table vise to help with this project!  My kitchen became my workshop, and well… my entire apartment is a mess!

2. Cut through the paper (on the lines) to transfer the image onto wood.



You can just barely see the lines now.

3. Stop-cut the transfer further.  This step was quite boring and I desperately wanted to bypass it. All I did here was remove the paper, then I used my carving blade to follow all the lines I’d cut, again. This step allows for less headaches when I went to remove wood from around the characters, because I had to cut further into the wood.  No pictures necessary!

4. Cut around the characters!



This step was very rewarding for me. Finally, it looked like I was carving something! Often, I sat on my couch and did this step. Turns out, it really is best to carve wood when it isn’t in a vise, held in a fixed position. In this way, I could rotate my piece and made sure to make each cut at exactly the right angle. And yes, that should exemplify just how messy my apartment is right now.  Lots of chips everywhere~

4. Finalize and clean up the wood. This included using my super-sharp (!) eyesight to look over the piece and notice where I hadn’t removed tiny splinters of wood that would detract from the overall appearance. No real photo necessary here either.

5. Paint it! 

IMG_2855    IMG_2867


In previous steps, I’d carve and inspect each ornament’s figures at a time. For this step, I did it truly mass-production style, just like your computer printer does it, kindof. I painted each color at a time, for the entire 10-ornament jumble. If you want me to be specific, it went like this: white, orange, blue, yellow, peach, then black.

6. Cut each ornament out. 



7. Now for the backs.  First painted the white background: 



You’ll notice on the ornament at the bottom of this photo that you can see ‘2012’ in faint red. I had a night of misery when my original backs’ paint, done with paint pens, was found to dissolve when I used my spray  lacquer on it. Darn!  So I used my white acrylic paint to fix this ugly paint problem. Some ornaments still have visible ‘2012’ under the white. A bonus!

8. Finish painting the back designs. 



Yup, that’s my super-skinny brush. I can be a painter yet!  The best painting surface yet: pizza box!

9. Lacquer ’em! 



Okay so that’s not a great photo of them being lacquered. But, you see my drying apparatus? Yes, that’s a broom that each ornament ‘hung out’ on while learning to look their best.  Before lacquering, I drilled the ornaments and added their characteristic wire hanger.  That way, I could hang those babies out to dry!

The End!

IMG_2894    IMG_2887

AMAZING THANKS go out to my Mom, for helping with encouragement, suggestions, :and: shipping, Nelson, and everyone I asked for opinions throughout the long days and nights I spent working on these.  

I hope that you will cherish your ornament, keep me updated with how it looks on your trees in years to come, and most importantly, smile (a ton!).  Thank you for being an important part of my realm, and one last thing: keep rocking! Merry Christmas, and have a happy new year!

Your humble fan,





Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

2011 Christmas/Holidays Ornament!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bob E Ruddy  |  Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks and Merry Christmas to you! I am “dancing” in Doylestown!

  • 2. Carla  |  Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    To the greatest ornament maker EVER, you really need to sell these. Every year you do such a wonderful theme and I believe it is time you share it with other!! xoxo


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