With Christmas being around the corner quite a few people will be baking their favorite seasonal cookies. If you have a 3D printer, this tutorial will show you how you can make some unique and customized cookie cutters.
In order for anyone to be able to replicate this tutorial, I have used free software or point at free alternatives where applicable. In any case, if you would like to skip the first part of the tutorial you can download the 3D models for free on our website.
I used TinkerCAD, a free browser-based CAD tool to do the 3D modeling. In case you have never used TinkerCAD before I suggest you create an account and work through some of the tutorials. This will allow you to get a handle on the basic functionality such as copying & pasting, basic drawing, camera controls and so forth. The tool is very easy to learn, in fact, I used it for the first time while creating this tutorial.
Step 1: Designing the Cookie Cutter
There are two major steps involved in designing the cookie cutter:
- Designing the frame (the part that will actually cut the dough) and the base plate or stamp (the part that will hold the imprint motive)
- Designing the actual motives to be printed in the dough
Let's start with the frame and base plate:
Though TinkerCAD comes with a set of pre-loaded shapes it does not contain any square with rounded edges, the type of shape we need for the cookie cutter. Overall, some of TinkerCAD's functionalities are a bit limited when it comes to creating specific geometries such as rounded corners for example.
However, the good news is that you can easily import .svg files into TinkerCAD. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an open standard, XML-based vector image format. This means that you can prepare your designs in 2D before loading them into TinkerCAD where you'll transform them into 3D files.
You can create .svg files with any vector graphics programs such as Adobe Illustrator or one of the free alternatives such as InkScape or similar. For this Instructable, I used Illustrator.
Preparing the .svg Files
It all starts with a very basic shape: a square of 40 x 40 mm (do not worry too much about the exact size right now, everything can still be scaled later on). Round the corners by 5 mm and copy the shape 4 times and scale one copy to 38 x 38 mm, one to 37 x 37 mm, one to 36 x 36 mm (keep one copy at the original size).
Give each shape a different color and stack the 37 x 37 mm shape on top of the 38 x 38 mm shape and align them. Then use the Pathfinder/Exclude tool to subtract both shapes. This leaves you with a 1 mm wide shape that will later be extruded to become the frame that actually cuts the dough (hence the width of only 1 mm, to give it a sharp edge).
Since the shape that you just created will have a wall thickness of only 1 mm thick once extruded, it would be very flimsy. To give it more stability, we'll add a reinforcing frame to it. In order to so, take the 36 x 36 mm shape and place it on top of the 40 x 40 mm one. Repeating the Pathfinder/Exclude action you are now left with a frame that's 4 mm wide.
As a last step, scale the remaining shape to 35 x 35 mm. This will become the base plate that holds the motives.
You now have three distinct shapes, save each one separately as a .svg file.
In TinkerCAD, create a new project and import the two frames into the work view by using the Import/File command in the top right hand corner of the screen. Select the thick frame and reduce its height to 2 mm. Select the thin frame and extrude its height to 14 mm. Select both objects and group them.
Now import the base plate file and reduce its thickness to 2 mm. Select both objects and scale them to a size of around 45 x 45 mm. Tip: hold down the Shift key during resizing in order to re-size all objects uniformly.
That's it, part 1 of the design is complete.
Step 2: Creating the Stamp Motives
Now that the basic cookie cutter is ready, it is time to create some motives that you can use to imprint the dough with.
Here are two examples:
1. Text Motif
This is a quick and easy way to customize your cookie cutter. Select the text tool under: Shape Generators/TinkerCAD/Text. Place the default text onto the base plate. In the Inspector window, replace the default text with your desired text and reduce its height to 2.5 mm.
For this particular example, I used two words, Merry Xmas, such that I created a separate text element for each word. In order for the text to be legible on the cookie later on, you must mirror it: use the Align/Mirror function then click on the arrow that appears below the text box.
Move the text over the base plate and re-size it until it fits. You may once again want to use the Adjust/Align command to make sure the text sits square in the middle of the base plate.
In order to get a good imprint into the dough later on, you want to make sure that the text protrudes some 2.5 mm from the base plate. Use the move function to move the text to the right position but make sure that it will not end up hovering over the base plate. Both elements must be connected in order to get the right 3D print result. Regroup the text and the base plate.
Select the Design/Download for 3D Printing command from the top left hand side of the window. Select .stl as file format if you want to print the cookie cutter on your own 3D printer. Import the .stl file into the slicer of your choice (I used Cura) and send it to the 3D printer.
2. Image Motif
The image motif is slightly more complex to create, but this is also where you can get most creative. First you need to find a motif for the stamp. Googling for a search term like „free svg files Christmas“ will yield plenty of results to chose from.
For this tutorial I ended up using some free svg files from: http://svgcuts.com/blog/free-designs/
Download the svg file and unzip it. Note that the svg files are not single image files but rather layered elements such that each image is broken down into various pieces.
For the sake of this tutorial we'll be using the Christmas Candle .svg file.
This one has the most complex design but if you learn how to master this then simpler shapes won't be a problem! While you could import most svg files directly into TinkerCAD, it pays to open them in your vector graphics program of choice in order to double check it there aren't any stray points around the design that you should delete. In case of the Christmas Candle svg there is always one stray point somewhat off to the right of any design. Delete this using the direct selection tool in order to avoid importing any unwanted elements into TinkerCAD.
The only other modification is to break the candle.svg file into two separate pieces, one for the candle, one for the overflowing wax. Go to TinkerCAD and import all the svg files by using the Import/File command. After having chosen the file to import make sure to hit the Import command. Repeat this until all elements have been imported.
If you import the elements at 100% scale they will be way to large for our needs. Go ahead and select all elements and scale them down while holding the Shift key.
Now you can re-arrange all the different pieces to recreate the original layout. Once everything is in place, all you have to do is to adjust the different elements to different heights such that they will be distinguishable in relief later on. Start with a minimum extrusion height of 2 mm and make sure to keep at least 0.5 mm of difference between the different elements.
Once extruded, regroup all parts by using the Group command. Then move the regrouped candle motive onto the base plate making sure that both parts actually connect.
That's it! All you need to do now is to select the Design/Download for 3D Printing command and export the file in .stl format. Create the gcode using your favorite slicing software and send everything to your 3D printer.
There is almost no limit to how you can use .svg files to create motives for your cookie cutters. Check out some of the other motifs that I created.
Step 3: Adding the Handle
As a final step, we still need to add a handle to the cookie cutter in order to be able to properly hold it when imprinting the motifs into the dough. In Tinkercad, place a box shape into the work area and scale it to 24 mm length, 5 mm width and 5mm height. Export the .stl into the slicer of your choice and multiply the design to the number of handles that you need.
Once printed, add a couple of drops of super glue and attach the handles to the back of the base plate. Now the cookie cutters are ready to use!
Step 4: Bake Some Cookies!
Go ahead and prepare your favorite cookie dough. Roll the dough flat and start cutting out the cookie shapes with the cookie cutter frame. Slightly powder the stamps with flour to make sure they don't stick to the dough. Now comes the fun part: take the stamps and start imprinting the motives into the dough.
Fill up the baking tray and let the cookies bake golden brown in the oven. Enjoy!