Adventures in Waldorf Toymaking: Handmade Christmas Wooden Figurines

Happy Holidays All!

This year, I decided to try to take a “less is more” attitude towards Christmas.  I am hand making many of the gifts for my children this year, and my biggest project has been a set of wooden figurines that I am making from scrap pine and poplar.  Here is the finished set:

I want to note, that I totally borrowed this idea from a wonderful toymaker on Etsy by the name of Armadillo Dreams.  I will never try to “resell” these toys, but like all folk who undertake a new venture, it helps to have something to emulate.

Ok, this is how it worked!

1: I went to Armadillo Dreams and looked at their Peter Pan set.  Their product description stated that the toy height was about 5 inches.  Using that as a guide I took a pencil and some paper and tried my best to sketch each of the toys in the set.    Then I cut each one out with scissors.   Using the cut out, I traced around it on a piece of scrap pine that I had until I had the entire outline of the picture on the wood.

2: Using my scroll saw, which I purchased from a lady on Craigs list for $60, I proceeded to make my cut.  I went at a slow speed and went extremely slowly around the corners.


scroll saw toys

3: Using a table sander (which I was lucky enough to get as gift) I smoothed the edges of the toy.  You can also do this with sandpaper or a dremel tool.  In fact, I had to get certain hard to reach places with my piece of sandpaper.  I basically just softened the edges and gave the top and bottom a quick sand as well to get rid of any dirt or oil that might have gotten on the wood.

4: I did the same process to all of the other characters in the set.   Here is a quick montage pic!

5: Next Step after all figurines were sawed and sanded was to use a pencil and lightly try to duplicate my sketch onto the wood.  I did not take a photo of this before I started the next step, which was to start painting.


6: I painted using the darkest colors first.  I used watercolor paints from a tube, but now, come to think of it, I didn’t check to see if they were non toxic.  I actually used the professional ones I had in my artist box for watercolor painting.  A better thought would probably be to buy non toxic watercolors.  I carefully filled in the red bits, and then the brown bits.  I saved the black for last.

7: Once all of the colors were totally dry, I used a fine, fine tip black marker to go over my pencil markings.  I have seen really awesome crafts folk use a wood burning pen.  I would like to try this, but I didn’t for this project.

8: Using an old cloth diaper, and some beeswax toy polish that I made myself by melting two ounces of beeswax and 1 cup of almond oil  together in a double broiler I rubbed the polish into the figurine.  I let the polish sit for about a half hour, and then I took an old spit up rag and began to buff the toy until it was no longer slimy from the polish, but had a beautiful shine!

Captain hook and his beeswax bath

That is it!  I did this for all of the toys in the set!   If anybody would like to post some alternative toy making tips it would be much appreciated!

Here are a couple of pieces of advice I can offer based on choices I made.

  • Poplar took paint far better than pine, and it looked better overall.  Also, the pine was harder to cut.
  • Use 3/4 inch solid wood
  • Make sure that you don’t use the paint after you have used the marker to darken your pencil lines

That’s it!  Happy Holidays!

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  • Leah

    Truly and magically creative! : )

  • Jzin

    Oh Dear! I love your tutorial! I wish I have to tools to make these adorable figurines! Thank you for the inspiration! love, Jzin

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