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After seeing a picture of some similar ninjabread men cutters on Amazon I HAD to have some. Not being one to just buy something, I thought I'd have a go at making my own using strips of 0.5mm stainless steel and a jig to bend it around.

Not being a dab hand with graphics software I twisted the arm of my friend gmjhowe to make me some outlines. The ninjas in the PDF he sent me back are pure awesome, and should be a wee bit easier to make than the shapes of the originals I got my inspiration from.

Once the artwork was done I could cut out a template to use to bend the strips of sheet steel I had bought into the desired shape.

Read on to see details on how to get the best result and how to make the all important template.

 
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Step 1: Tools, Materials & Ingredients

None of these are absolutely necessary, you should be able to get by with less, use your imagination! The steps after this one show how I used some of the below tools to make the ninjabread man production process smoother and easier.

Tools: ( a selection of, not all necessary)

  • tin snips
  • long nosed pliers
  • a fat, straight, round pen
  • a thin, straight, round  pen (a felt tip would be handy, since it can also write on steel)
  • gloves (may be useful if you have soft hands)
  • sand paper
  • a vice
  • a printer
  • a spot welder / pop rivets / araldite

Materials:

  • paper
  • ply wood (or acrylic)

Ingredients:

See step 13.

Step 2: Choosing the steel

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After having an experiment with some scraps at work I decided that 0.8mm and 1.0mm were too thick. 0.5mm was easier to bend by hand and I could create tighter radiuses.

I opted to buy some strips of 0.5mm stainless steel. Mine were £0.90 each for strips 500mm long and 20mm wide. I found a seller of stainless steel offcuts on ebay and sent them a message to see if they'd be interested in selling me the strips I needed.

Step 3: Making a template

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Making a template does three things.

1) It lets you see the shape your cutter needs to be and shows you where to bend/fold the steel
2) It allows you to partly bend the steel around it if it's rigid enough
3) If you're writing an instructable about making cookie cutters, it lets you illustrate your concept better so people don't think you're some nut bending steel in random places.

I laser cut my templates from 5mm translucent orange acrylic. This is by no means necessary and printing your templates onto paper, gluing them to some MDF or ply wood and cutting around them with a coping saw would more than suffice.

Aim for a thickness of wood (or other material) that is stiff enough to let you bend the metal around it. A thicker template may make it easier to keep the cutter aligned as you bend it.

See below to download the templates as a pdf:
ninjas.pdf(983x339) 50 KB

Step 4: Where to begin?

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Definitely start by sanding the edges of the steel to remove any burrs! I didn't and ended up with half a dozen cuts within 10 minutes. 240 grit sandpaper got rid of the worst of it.

Your starting point for bending should be on a straight part of the template. This gives you somewhere flat and easy to join it once you've gone all the way around. Having to make the join on a bend would be tricky!

The next few steps illustrate my progress around the perimeter of my template and the steps I took to make each of the bends.... some were trickier than others.

Step 5: Bending around large radiuses

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This is where a selection of pens of different sizes really helps.

The board marker I've used here is just the right size to bend the steel around for the arms and legs. Holding it in a vice allows you to use both hands to get it the right shape.

I found that if I bent the steel around the pen it was best to bend it a little further than I needed, since it would spring back a tiny bit afterwards.

If you're lacking a vice, holding or clamping the pen up against a table allows you to roll the metal around it.

Step 6: Marking helps!

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As you move around the perimeter of your template, it helps to be able to draw a line on the steel every now and again so you can offer it up against the template, then move it away to a vice or better work surface to bend it.

In this photo I had bent the first leg into shape then wanted to get a tight bend. I marked the steel then threw it in a vice so I'd have more control over it.

Step 7: Making sharp turns

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This is one of those tricky bits.

I found it's best to offer it up against the jig, then mark on where you want the bend to be.

I put my cutter into a vice at this point and bent it over by hand until it was a 90 degree bend with a small-ish radius. I then thwacked it with a hammer to make the turn tighter. Now remove it from the vice and bend it the rest of the way, then hit it with the hammer again to flatten it.

Offer it up against your template again just to check you got it in the right place!

Step 8: Bending around bigger radiuses!

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Our ninja's heads, like most people's, are bigger than their hands and feet.

To bend a bigger radius neatly the head of my hammer came in handy! It was just the right size. A glue stick or soda bottle top might also suffice.

Step 9: Bending around small radiuses

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And yes, you guessed it! The smaller pen's great for the smaller radiuses like where his/her arms meet the head and for the kink in the foot.

Using these techniques you should be able to make it the whole way around your ninjas. The first one was definitely trickiest for me!

Step 10: Finishing

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When you've been the whole way around your ninjas, you should be left with a shape the same (or similar) as your template.

Now's a good point to go around correcting any slightly misshapen bits. One of the legs of one of mine was a little fat, and most of their heads needed to be a little rounder.

Step 11: Removing excess

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Lop off the extra metal with some tin snips if you have them. A hacksaw, dremel, big wire cutters or an oxyacetylene torch (ha!) would do the trick if you don't.

Leave 10-20mm overlap, you'll need it to join the two ends together.

Step 12: Joining

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Join the two ends of the cutter together by any means necessary.

I had access to a spot welder. Pop rivets, araldite and strong double sided tape would also do the job!

Step 13: Making gingerbread!

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I chose to go with a recipe by Delia for my ninjabread men.

She suggests:

  • 3 oz (75 g) soft brown sugar, sieved
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 1 level teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 level teaspoon ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • finely grated rind ½ orange
  • 3½ oz (95 g) butter or margarine
  • ½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • about 8 oz (225 g) plain flour
  •  
You could add:

  • 3 caps full of black food colouring  - everyone knows black ninjas are the stealthiest
  • a handful of chopped crystallised ginger, gingerbread ninjas might need a bit of an extra kick to keep up with regular ninjas (thanks for the suggestions Kiteman)
Put the sugar, syrup, treacle, 1 tablespoon of water, spices and rind together in a large saucepan.

Heat them, stirring all the while until the ingredients start to bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter/marge and the bicarbonate of soda.

Next, stir in the flour until it comes together into a smooth dough. You may need to add more flour than suggested above.... I did!

Allow the dough to cool then roll out on a floured surface, or a silicone rolling pad if you have one. Roll it to 3-5mm thick then massacre it with your new ninjabread cutters!

Transfer to a greased pan or baking parchment.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. They're done when they're firm but you can still leave a finger impression by pushing down.

Allow them to cool for as long as you can stand, then fight them. Loser gets eaten!
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bgepp11 year ago
now they are selling these in stores!: http://i.imgur.com/7ipRyZa.jpg
mysss4 years ago
I'd have put the shinier side inside for the (probably slight?) decrease in friction. This is an awesome idea! Now we can make whatever cookie shapes we want!!
Some Dork4 years ago
These are great! Someone actually sent me a link for the "for sale" versions of these a few weeks back, I love that you devised a good way to "home bake" them, as it were. :)
Really nice! Love the ninjas, but really love the tut on how to create your own cookie cutters.
Jayefuu (author)  WingsandFences4 years ago
Thanks :)
sparkynz4 years ago
Great project

Do you think I could make these cutters out of Acrylic Strip? It will be easier to bend using a heat gun /hairdryer.

I would mkae the templates out of MDF which would be a little taller than the acrylic strip.
HIYA

Will have a go and let you know the results.

Mike look at this for a school project?

Can make other shapes, if the acrylic works out?

Jayefuu (author)  sparkynz4 years ago
You could try, I'm not sure the edges would be sharp enough to cut the dough, it might just squish it.
The House4 years ago
Holy moses that's awesome.
Jayefuu (author)  The House4 years ago
~Thanks
candy9244 years ago
good work! i'm sure my son is gonna love them!
8ntfrogn4 years ago
would cooper and a scroll saw work for these?
I may just have to buy them but I want different poses. Thanks
9ale74 years ago
can you tell us more about the Laser cutter?
i like the end results on the acrylic :)
Jayefuu (author)  9ale74 years ago
What would you like to know? And yes, the results with acrylic are great. Things come out particuarly nice with clear frosted acrylic, and the etch which isn't shown in this ible comes out very nicely. There are a few more laser cut projects on my blog if you're interested, they didn't make it to instructables. Link is on my profile.

J
9ale7 Jayefuu4 years ago
hi, i would love to make my own one ;)
might be to much for a newbie, but i'm all fired up to make my CNC,

so whether you tell me about you're or how did you make the laser cut alone? (can it cut in a manual way without a CNC Router??)

and better to give me an idea about the budget :P

(by the way i did check you're blog but still can not find a picture or a post regarding the Laser Cut it self)

and thank u 4 the respond.
Jayefuu (author)  9ale74 years ago
Oh!

The laser cutter I used I didn't make. It's a Chinese import, bought from a company called HPC Lasers.

It's a fairly low cost (4k gbp), 40W laser cutter. You can get much more expensive ones, but this one gives great results despite having poorly translated safety signs and slightly dodgy software.

If you want to see more about it I'll hurry up the blog post I'm writing about ways we've improved it. It now has a nozzle to direct the air closer to the job, a screen on a stand I bolted to the side, and the PC to edit the jobs is now located in the cabinet underneath it. We've also now got several nice ways to line up jobs, since once you've cut something, if you move it it is really hard to get it back into the same place to start working on it again.
9ale7 Jayefuu4 years ago
wooow, way off the BUDGET !! for a first time ..
yet i would love to see you're post :)
Broom4 years ago
I've wanted to do this for YEARS!!!!, but didn't have the knowledge to work with bending metal. Lack of experience can equal timidity to try!

Thanks for the clues! It sounds much easier than I thought it would be.

Also, you can buy small pieces of aluminum flashing from DIY/plumbing/hardware stores, that would probably work well for this.

I'd join the lapped edges with either a metal "weld" epoxy like JB Weld, or by running a solder bead along them, because I don't have access to a spot welder.

Thanks again!
srilyk Broom4 years ago
You could use a rivet instead - if you did a pop rivet from the inside that could probably work without munging your cookies too bad.
Jayefuu (author)  srilyk4 years ago
Yup, that's among the options in step 12 :)
Do be careful about what you use to connect them, since these will be used on food. I don't know JB Weld - how toxic is it? And if you solder, make sure it's lead-free. That sort of thing.

Not as important for these as for a bowl or baking pan, since they touch the food only for a short time, but still something to consider.
Good points, jjmcgaffey. JB Weld is insoluble in water & alcohol, and after about 24 hrs has very low volatile content (outgassing), so it's food-safe.

Great point about the solder. Modern plumbing solder is silver-based, and therefore food-safe; electrician's solder may contain lead.
denniszel4 years ago
Great job, , if you attach a long handle to the top of the cutter you can make ninja outline " cookies" , just heat some oil in pan and let the mold get hot, then dip in pancake mix being very careful not to let it flow over the top edge of the mold, since the mold is hot, it will slightly cook the batter, then take it out and put it in the frying pan, since the oil will be very hot , it will release the fried batter , just wait for it to fry a little, take it out and sprinkle some sugar on it and amaze your friends witha " how the hell this you do this" , below are pictures os similar mods and the resulting " cookie"
lotus-cookie.jpglotus_blossom_cookie_mold.jpg
trophywife4 years ago
i cannot 'favorite' this hard enough. nice work, sir!!
e_doe194 years ago
Thanks for posting this 'ible! I have thought before about fashioning my own cutters for various shapes I wanted but could not find. But I never knew exactly how to do the metal bending. Your photos about that are great and I'm looking forward to making all kinds of custom shapes now. Thanks again. : )
Jayefuu (author)  e_doe194 years ago
I shall be writing a more generic one soon with more helpful techniques. I hope to have a step devoted to printable templates that others can contribute to.
bgepp14 years ago
Very cool! Are these made from Tae-Kwon-Dough?

:)

Brent Geppert
Jayefuu (author)  bgepp14 years ago
Ha. *tips hat*
Fretka bgepp14 years ago
omg.... that is funny !! :) lol
Is there any chance you could please link me to the seller on ebay? Thanks!
Jayefuu (author)  FIClarityJane4 years ago
Their ebay name was "polished-metal-offcuts".
Thank-you! :D
Tinworm4 years ago
A very cool instructable.

I liked the friendly tact used by Fredandfriends when they wrote to you and I like your response.

You are a creative guy, so I'd have thought that if you fancied selling templates for biscuit cutters, you'd be able to come up with lots of original and interesting shapes which would appeal.

Very impressive stuff; I feel inspired.
Thanks
Jayefuu (author)  Tinworm4 years ago
Thanks. There will be some Halloween ones, so stay tuned! :D
Tinworm Jayefuu4 years ago
Excellent news
Aeshir4 years ago
Kaiven4 years ago
Best idea. Ever.
Jayefuu (author)  Kaiven4 years ago
Thanks, the idea's not mine. But they were a lot more fun to make than they would have been to buy. Plus the commercial ones looked a little small and skinny.
Dear Jayefuu, We recently became aware of your "DIY" version of an item we recently released called Ninjabread Men. We here at Fred love the Instructables community and all that it stands for. We have licensed a number of ideas from DIY designers that we felt would make great commercial products. Our company blog even has a section dedicated to Fred "hacks"- showcasing people that use our products in new and interesting ways. Many of these people go on to sell these new (original) creations- and we're cool with that. If $8 is too much for someone to spend on a set of cookie cutters and feel you can do create them yourself, more power to you.
We do have a little problem when someone creates an exact duplicate of our product and profits from that.
If we find an original idea on a craft or DIY blog, we immediately contact the designer to obtain rights to manufacture and distribute his or her idea.
The Ninjabread idea was licensed from an English designer, to whom we pay royalties for its use. Your actions directly affect his ability to make money, and possibly infringe on his copyright. I would therefore urge you to reconsider the sale of your templates.
And if, in the future you can come up with a new, original idea, we might be interested licensing it from you.

Sincerely,
Fred and Friends
Jayefuu (author)  fredandfriends4 years ago
Dear Fred and Friends,

Thanks for your comment.

Before your comment was posted I had already removed the offer to sell templates to people, having come to the same conclusion as yourselves, it would have screwed someone else over, and that it wasn't a very good idea.

I'd hope that you don't mind me leaving the instructable "as is", I would expect that you'd get a far greater amount of sales from those too lazy to print and make their own that the loss from the few that do decide to go the DIY route since it's had quite a lot of attention. Would you agree?

Regards,
Jayefuu
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