I love decorating my house for Christmas. This year, I wanted to add some decorations to the front yard. Rather than buying an inflatable Santa like the neighbors, I decided to create my own custom lawn decorations. I made a total of four gingerbread men and customized each one to match each family member.
You can also start with your own image (santa, snowman, Easter bunny, cupid, ghost, etc), and use this Instructable to make your own creation for any season.
Things you will need:
-Plywood (enough for each gingerbread man)
-Sander and/or sandpaper
-Rebar, conduit, or wooden stakes
-Conduit clips (sized to match rebar or conduit)
-Base coat paint (brown for the gingerbread men)
-Hobby paints (various colors as needed)
-Various paintbrushes for large and detail work
-Sealer - Krylon Low Odor Clear Finish
-Two outdoor spotlights and bulbs
-Scissors (heavy duty to cut cardboard)
-Screws and screwdriver or drill
Step 1: Drawing / Concept Development
-Draw an outline of your desired shape on graph (or engineering) paper. More on why the graph paper is important in the next step. In this Instructable there are two sizes of gingerbread men. A larger one to represent the parents and smaller one for the kids.
-Make several sketches of your ideas (think eyes, icing, gumdrop buttons, etc). I wanted to make my gingerbread men unique to each member of my family, so mine has Converse All Stars, my daughter a ballerina tutu, my son a train engineers outfit, and my wife an apron (her choice, not mine).
Please feel free to use my drawings and sketches if you like.
Step 2: Transfer Sketches to Full Size
-Draw with a light pencil a 6 inch x 6 inch grid on a large piece of cardboard (as big as the Gman you intend to make)
-Draw a scaled down grid on the graph paper over your Gman sketch. I used 5 squares on the graph paper equals 6 inches on the cardboard.
-Now hand draw in each square on the cardboard what is represented in the corresponding grid on the paper sketch. This is just a simple way to scale up your drawing. Don't worry about the interior detail of the Gman. You just need the outline for cutting.
-I used a drafting compass to make the heads a perfect circle.
-Once all the Gmen have been transferred to full size, cut out the cardboard with heavy duty scissors or a utility knife (or both).
Note: You can skip the cardboard step and transfer sketches directly to the plywood. But, the cardboard templates were nice to have to trace onto the plywood, and it gave the kids something to paint and color afterwards.
Step 3: Prepare, Cut, and Sand Plywood
I used 1/4" BC plywood (standard 4' x 8' sheet) that has one side presanded and no knots. The Home Depot cut the plywood in half both ways making four equal pieces measuring 2' x 4'. These are the squares that I used to make each gingerbread man.
-Place cardboard Gman template on top of smooth side of plywood.
-Trace around cardboard with pencil onto plywood. Again, you only need to worry about the outline at this point, not the details.
-If you note the sketches and cutout photos, I added details that go outside the original outline of the standard Gmen (lollipop, skirt, tutu, etc). Transfer that detail to the plywood at this time.
-Using a jigsaw (following manufacturer's safety procedures), cut out the plywood Gman.
-Sand the surface and edges to eliminate any splinters. You can do this by hand or machine. I used an orbital sander to make quick work of the flat surfaces and a vibrating mouse sander for the edges.
Note: After building the Gmen, I would recommend using a thicker plywood. The 1/4" has a tendency to bow a little bit. I had to attach extra reinforcement on the back to correct this. It also made it difficult to attach anything to the back because there is not much to screw into. Something around 3/8" or thicker would be better.
Step 4: Basecoat Paint
-Paint both sides and edges.
-Apply at least two coats. Remember these will be outside so the more paint the better.
This will take some time because you have to paint one side and let it dry before you can flip it over and paint the back.
Step 5: Draw on Details, Paint, and Seal
-Lightly with pencil, begin sketching on the painted plywood the details of each of the Gmen.
-For the eyes and mouth use a drafting compass or circle template (or bottles, coins, plates, etc) for perfect circles and arcs.
-For items where the right side needs to match the left (tutu on my daughters), cut out a piece of paper and use as a pattern.
-After all the detail painting, seal the Gmen with appropriate sealer.
UPDATED NOTE: I first used Minwax Polyurethane because I had some in the garage. After a few weeks of outdorr displaying, It turned all the lighter colors yellow. And white frosting is not suppose to be yellow. After repainting the whites, pinks, and blues I sealed it with the correct product. Krylon Low Odor Clear Finish is designed for indoor/outdoor use and causes no yellowing. Perfect.
Step 6: Attach Mounting Hardware
-Take wooden stakes (think garage sale signs) and nail or screw them to the back side of the Gmen.
-Hammer the stakes and Gmen into the ground.
Second way (and what you see in this Ible):
-Screw conduit clips (available at the hardware store) to the back of the Gmen.
-Push rebar or conduit (I used #3 rebar, 3/8" diameter) into ground where you want the Gmen to be located.
-Slide Gmen with conduit clip over the rebar.
Note: As I mentioned, the 1/4" plywood was too thin and started to bow. You will notice in the photos that I attached a wooden framework to the back of the Gmen. I used a pneumatic brad nailer and nailed these in from the front. Which means I had to putty and retouch the nail holes in the front. Please use something thicker than 1/4" plywood.
Step 7: Lighting and Display
This step is fairly obvious.
-Place the lights on the ground about 10 to 15 feet in front of the Gmen display.
-Adjust lights for optimum illumination.
-Plug them into the rest of the Christmas display.
I had a lot of fun making these gingerbread men. The most time consuming part is the painting, but the outcome has been very rewarding.
I had the majority of the craft paints from past projects. The largest part of the expense was the plywood and flood lights. To build all four Gmen, I spent around $70. Not bad for custom Christmas decorations that can be used for years to come.
Plywood - $20
#3 rebar, conduit clips, screws - $15
Brown Gman paint - $5
Hobby Paints, various colors - around $1.50 each
Two flood light holders - $14
Two flood lights - $11