Construction of 9 foot tall Nutcracker

My wife, Lilia, is from the Ukraine. She decided to have a Christmas party and invite all of our Russian friends. The theme of the party is going to be the Nutcracker. My twin 10 yo sons, Dennis and Alexei, asked if we could create two large nutcrackers for their mom. We told my wife to stay out of the garage for 3 weeks. She was going crazy trying to figure out what the secret project was.
We revealed the project to her on Thanksgiving. She was amazed. All materials for the Nutcrackers were purchased at Home Depot. Styrofoam, Plywood, PVC pipe = Nutcracker Soldier.
If you are ever near Denver, Colorado, stop by!
			4217 Greenfinch Dr
			Littleton, CO 80126

			Merry Christmas!

			Sean, Lilia, Dennis and Alexei Meighan

Mail to sean Meighan

IMG_8056.JPG: Finished 9 foot nutcrackers in the Atrium of our church, St Andrews Methodist church, Highlands Ranch Colorado. Notice the extra finishing we have done. gold braid painted on torso, belt buckle, laces on boots, the base has now been painted to look like a drum. nutcracker
IMG_8044.JPG: Our church asked if we could bring the finished nutcrackers to the church. The theme of this years Christmas concert was the nutcracker. We said yes! nutcracker
IMG_8047.JPG: The music director asked if anyone had any nutcrackers to please bring them in. They were happy to get our 9' nutcrackers. nutcracker
IMG_8057.JPG: Alexei,Sean and Dennis. The architects of the nutcrackers nutcracker
IMG_7952.JPG: Earlier view of nutcrackers. We will next build the swords, put braid on the chest, put on a belt buckle, put laces on the boots and paint the base to look like a drum. nutcracker
IMG_7965.JPG: Twins, Dennis and Alexei. The nutcrackers they are holding are what we used to create the plans nutcracker
IMG_8098.JPG: Nutcrackers come apart for easy storage. nutcracker

As we built the nutcrackers, we took pictures to help us remember the steps.

How to build



1) Cut two 24" circles from 3/4" plywood
2) cut (4) 10" long boards from 2x4" studs
3) assemble 2x4's to the plywood disks using screws. I used deck screws
4) Wrap drum with linoleum or plastic. Use flat head screws to secure into the edge of the plywood.


Note the 6" circular holes in the bottom disk. These are so you can access the lag screws that bolt the legs onto the drum.


1) Cut two 29 7/8" long pipes from 6" PVC
2) cut (4)  29 7/8" long boards from 2x4" studs
3) assemble two 2x4's to each other perpendicularly. Repeat for the other leg. 
4) Use a template to drill two 1/4" holes in the end of each 2x4 assembly. This insures that all legs can be used interchangeably.
5) Secure legs to drum using 4 3/8x4" lag screws.
6) Slip legs over the 2x4's. The PVC pipe legs are exactly the same length as the 2x4 studs.


1) Cut four 19" circular disks from 3/4" plywood (#1,#2,#5,#6)
2) Cut two 17" circular disks from 1/2" plywood  (#3,#4)
3) Make disks #2,#3,#4 and #5 into rings by cutting out the center at 14" diameter.
4) Stack the 6 plywood disks on top of each other. Drill 4 3/8" diameter holes to allow the 3/8" threaded rods to slid through.
5) Take two 3/8x60" threaded rods, cut in half. Use (48) 3/8" nuts and (48) 3/8" flat washers and assemble the 6 disks into place.
6) attach a 19" long 2x4" stud underneath disk #1. This will be where we will attach the arms. The arms will use a 1/2x8" lag screw to attach 
into the stud. Do NOT put any screws into the center line of the 2x4. Pre drill a 3/8" diameter hole in this 2x4 for the lag screws.
7)  Drill a 1/2" hole in disk #1 through the plywood and the stud. This will be where the head/hat assembly will attach.

8) You can attach the legs to the torso by unwrapping the linoleum (unscrew a few screws) and reach the lag screws


1) Cut (7) squares, 19"x19", from the 2" thick by 4x8' sheet of styrofoam insulation. NOTE! Remove the plastic vapor film from the one side othe styrofoam. If you do not do this the styrofoam will not glue together.

2) Cut a 19" circular disk for the top of the hat from 1/2" plywood. Cut a 19" circular disk for the top of the head. 
This top needs to also have the bill of the hat. Here is the shape to draw
3) Drill 4 holes to allow the threaded bolts and nuts from the torso to fit.
4) Sandwich the two pieces of plywood together and drill a 1/2" hole in the center. Drill 1/2" holes in the center of the (7)
styrofoam squares.
5) Glue the seven square of styrofoam with white glue. Run threaded rod through the bottom plywood, 7 sheets of styrofoam and the top plywood.
Use 1/2" washers and uts to tighten the stack. Set aside to dry (1 day)
6) Now comes the fun part. We are going to shape the styrofoam. If i did this again, i would probably build a plastic curtained area
out of drop cloth. Foam is going everywhere. Where a dust mask!
We built a temporary jig where we could rotate the head.
First we used a hacksaw to rough shape the foam. We cut the corners to make the head mostly round. 
Next, we got a 4" belt sander with a 80 grit belt. We slowly rotated the head while shaping. This actually worked alot better than i thought/.

For shaping the head, we noticed that all nutcrackers have a collar. This is easy to do with the nutcrackers turned on a lathe. 
We simulated this by tapering in the first 2" of foam before we made the head shape.

Here you can see the finished head on the left and what we started with on the right. We are looking at the top of the
head so you can see the bills for the hat,


Another view of the shaped head.
7) Shape a nose by sanding a 2" thick pice of styrofoam. Cut out a 2" deep by 2" wide by 6" long hole into face. Glue node into 
groove with white glue. Fill any holes with caulking.
8) Primer the styrofoam with Kilz. Paint top 12 " of head flesh colored. Paint White sclera of eyes, Blue Iris,
black pupil and white catchlight.



1) Cut two plywood disks from 1/2" plywood. The first one (#1) is 16" diameter, the other (#2) is 14" diameter. The next picture shows
the 4 plywood disks that are all going to be bolted together using the 30" x 1/2" threaded rod.

2) Cut 8 pieces of 1x3 pine. Cut ends with a 7 degree angle.


1)  cut three pieces from the 4" PVC pipe.
#1 is 30" long
#2 is 12" long
#3 is 12" long


2) Sand all PVC pipe and prime with Kilz.
3) Assemble 4" slip end caps (#4) onto the long arm (#1) and upper arm (#2). I did not use any glue, i just hammered 
them on using a mallet.
4) Drill a 1/2" hole through the endcaps to allow mounting later with a 1/2"x8" lag screw.
5) Attach the elbow (#5) to arms #2 and #3.
6) Attach arms to torso. Use a 1" long 1/2" pvc pipe spacer to keep arms a little away from torso.
7) to keep the bent arm at 90 degrees, install a 1/4" threaded rod.


1) take two 6" styrofoam balls. drill 3/4" hole through center of both balls. On one ball drill another 3/4" hole 90 degrees to the 
first hole.
So one hand has one 6" pipe, the other hand has a 6" pipe and a 3 1/2" pipe.
#1 shows the 6" pipe
#2 (done to only one hand) shows the 3 1/2" pipe at 90 degrees to the first. #2 pipe is used for holding the sword later.

cut 1/2" sch 40 pvc pipe just longer than diameter of balls. Cover with white glue and push through styrofoam balls.
This pipe will allow us to pass a threaded rod through the hands.
2) Take some 1 by lumber and insert it into both arms. Attach 3/8" threaded rod. Hands will be attached to rod.
3) Here you can see the two hands. One has two pipes. The second pipe allows the sword to be attached. 
The other hand just has one pipe in it.


1) Take 36" long oak dowel with a diameter of 5/8". Sand 6" of dowel so it fits inside of 1/2" pvc pipe.
2) Drill a 3/4" hole lengthwide through 2" styrofoam. My drill was not long enough to drill through 32" of foam so i did it in sections.
White glue and insert dowel through all he styrofoam sections.
2) Shape the styrofoam using a belt sander with 80 grit belt. Cut a piece of luan plywdd for sword hilt. Cut a 3/4" long piece
from PVC pipe. This will slip over end of wsord to hold luan in place.
3) Glue Luan sword hilt to styrofoam sword.
4) Slip pvc ring on to hold hilt in place.
5) Primer with Kilz. Spray paint sword gold. Paint hilt black.

Material List (NOTE! Prices accurate as of Dec 13, 2011)
Because many of the materials you only use half (4" and 6" PVC pipes for example), you can build a second nutcracker for half the price of the first one.

Itemquantity Description Home Deport
Unit price Nutcracker#1
Item Qty Description Sku# Price ea Ext Price 2nd nutcracker Qty
#1 1 1/2" Plywood by 4x8' 000-000 15.37 $15.37 0 $0.00
#2 1 3/4" Plywood by 4x8' CDX 000-000 33.00 $33.00 0 $0.00
#3 2 1x3" x 8' furring strips. Used to be 8 ribs of hat. 167-704 1.67 $3.34 2 $3.34
#4 1 2" thick styrofoam insulation by 4x8' 614-653 19.98 $19.98 1 $19.98
#5 2 6" styrofoam balls. Used for hands. This is the only item not available from Home Depot. 000-000 10.00 $20.00 2 $20.00
#6 2 1/2"x 2' PVC pipe. Used for hands, sword, spacers on arms. 253-755 0.94 $1.88 2 $1.88
#7 1 4" diameter x 10' PVC pipe 193-879 19.60 $19.60 0 $0.00
#8 2 4" PVC slip end cap 811-459 7.71 $15.42 2 $15.42
#9 1 4" PVC slip 90 degree elbow 189-537 11.41 $11.41 1 $11.41
#10 1 6" diameter x 10' PVC pipe 793-624 25.71 $25.71 0 $0.00
#11 2 3/8" x 72" threaded rod 468-061 5.58 $11.16 2 $11.16
#12 1 1/2" x 72" threaded rod 468-148 8.94 $8.94 1 $8.94
#13 52 3/8" nuts 328-674 0.11 $5.72 52 $5.72
#14 52 3/8" washers 328-154 0.14 $7.28 52 $7.28
#15 6 3/8" x 4". Used to attach legs to torso 655-228 1.33 $7.98 6 $7.98
#16 2 1/2" x 8". Used to attach arms to torso. 248-681 1.93 $3.86 2 $3.86
#17 11 1/2" flat washers 590-571 0.35 $3.85 11 $3.85
#18 3 1/2" nuts 655-465 0.25 $0.75 3 $0.75
#19 1 36" x 5/8" diameter oak dowel. This will be used for the center of sword 216-112 2.98 $2.98 1 $2.98
#20 1 1/8" x 4x8' plastic wall panel 179-646 22.00 $22.00 1 $22.00
#21 4 Quarts of Glidden Exterior house paint. RED, BLACK, FLESH, WHITE, BLUE(only needed if building a second nutcracker) 418-587 12.37 $49.48 1 $12.37
#22 1 gallon Kilz primer 822-353 14.94 $14.94 0 $0.00
#23 1 Rust-oleum Gold Spray paint 563-402 2.99 $2.99 0 $0.00



	Electric drill
	Saber Saw
	Radial arm saw (optional, you could cut with hand saw)
	Belt sander. I used this with 80 grit sandpaper to shape the heads.