Garden Gnomes

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Introduction: Garden Gnomes

Long story short - the summer of 2020 I dug up a tree stump in my back yard. I used 3 pieces of the trunk to make 3 gnome houses. I had thought I would buy 3 gnomes but some are quite scary, and others are high priced. Instructables One-board contest inspired me to make my own. If you read to the bottom of my instructions, you will see pictures of "home sweet gnome" - one gnome in front of each house.

This project took 5 afternoons - about 3 hours each day. My only expense was $2.00 for the board from Habitat Restore. I had all of the other supplies I needed.

Supplies

1 board 70" long x 5" wide 3/4 inch thick

pencil and paper for drawing the pattern, scissors

jigsaw, sander and sandpaper, rotary tool (optional)

wood glue and popsicle stick, small bottles of acrylic paint in colors of your choice, paintbrushes

clear coat spray varnish or water-resistant sealer

newspaper to cover your work areas

Step 1: The Board and Patterns

Cut several pattern papers to the width of your board - 5" for my board. I made a few thumbnail sketches of what a gnome would look like. Fold the paper in half, length wise so it is 2 1/2 inches wide. The body of the gnome looks like a rounded triangle with a wood stake at the bottom - or it looks like a tree. My gnomes are 14" high from the top of the hat to the bottom of the stake. The actual gnome is 12" tall. Still working with the 5" wide paper, I drew beard shapes and the hatband/nose/mustache shapes. I knew one of the gnomes would be a Viking so I drew the Viking horns for his helmet/hat. I free hand my patterns - you can experiment with beard shapes (long and flowing) and I drew the mustaches in different styles. Make sure your hatband hangs over at least a 1/2 inch on each side of the hat portion of the body - my hatbands are 4 1/2" wide. Once I had the shapes I wanted, I cut them out and unfolded the paper for a full-size pattern. Before transferring the patterns to the board, arrange your paper pattern pieces by laying the body on the bottom, then the beard, then the hatband/mustache. It is best to adjust or redraw your paper pattern until you are happy with the look. Perhaps you want to pencil in round eye areas to be painted. When you like the overall shape of your gnome you are ready to transfer the pattern. Remember you will not be restricted by the width of the board I am using. You can make your gnome wider or taller, so your patterns might be larger than mine.

This first day of sketching and drawing pattern pieces took about 2 hours.

Step 2: Transferring the Patterns, Cutting and Carving

Lay out the pattern pieces on the board to make sure they all fit the shape of your board. Ideally the pattern pieces should be laid out with the grain of the wood, but you can see I had to manipulate my patterns to fit. Using a pencil trace around each of the patterns. I could not draw a third beard shape because I ran out of wood length. (You will not be restricted to one board so this won't happen to you. And perhaps you are only making one gnome.) I decided that the third beard would be made from scraps of wood that fell off as I cut pieces from the board. In the sixth and seventh picture you can see these odd shapes. I thought I would use the odd strips for the Viking beard but changed my mind and used one of the original beard pieces instead.

I do not have a workshop, so I had to wait for a sunny, warmer day for cutting. I set the board across the sawhorses. I used my jigsaw to cut the pieces out. (Perhaps you have a bandsaw). For the first 15 minutes of cutting, I was really struggling and bemoaning my age and arm strength. Well duh! I changed the blade in the jigsaw and after that it was much easier. As a safety note, every few minutes I stop cutting to pick up all the small pieces of wood that fall to the ground. Those odd shapes can interfere with safe footing.

Optional: After I had all the pieces cut out, I used my rotary tool to free-hand carve deep lines into the beards and the mustaches. To define the noses, I carved around the nose lines. In 2 of the hatbands I carved some line texture. The Viking hatband was left smooth so i could embellish it with a few copper screws. You can leave the beards and mustaches smooth and paint in lines if you do not have a rotary tool. I wanted the beards to remain the natural wood color.

The cutting and carving took me 3 hours the second afternoon and the sun went down so I had to stop. I cleaned up the mess and stored my tools.

Step 3: Sanding the Wood Pieces

Again I waited for the warmth of the afternoon sun, set up a sawhorse and used my electric sander to sand each cut piece. In some of the tight spaces I did a little hand sanding. When I was done sanding, I used the rotary tool to touch up any of the carved areas in the beards and mustaches and noses. Clean each piece and get them as dust free as possible.

Third day: Almost 3 hours for sanding.

Step 4: Assembly and Gluing

I laid out each gnome with the appropriate body, beard and hatband/mustache. I penciled some light guidelines for placement. Using a water resistance wood glue and a popsicle stick for spreading I glued each gnome together. When spreading the glue don't use too much or it will ooze out the side of the pieces. A fine layer of glue is usually sufficient. Once I had the assembly/gluing done I weighted each gnome with heavy books and left them to dry overnight.

Optional: If you feel that the glue will not have holding power, from the back of the gnome you can add 2 or 3 woodscrews. Just make sure the tip does not come through to the front.

This process took 2 hours plus 18 hours drying time.

Step 5: Painting, Embellishing and Finishing

I have a lot of acrylic paint - so i decided on a blue gnome, a green gardening gnome and rustic coppers and brown for the Viking. I used red for the noses. I did not paint the beards and mustaches nor the Viking horns because I like the natural wood coloring. If you like the traditional, white-bearded gnomes, feel free to use white paint for the beards. I used white paint for dots on the blue gnome hat - a flat pencil eraser is good for dots. For the green garden gnome, I painted a leaf sprig on his hat. For the Viking helmet I added 3 copper screws and pierced some tiny holes across the top.

After the paint was dry, I sprayed each gnome with 2 coats of clear coat varnish. The gnomes will last for 4 or 5 seasons in my gardens and even longer if I clear coat them each year. If your gnome is going to live in a potted plant on a protected porch it will last indefinitely.

The painting process took me about 3 hours on the 5th day.

Step 6: Home Sweet Gnome

Step 7: A Larger Size Gnome

I thought you might want to see the larger gnomes I made. this size is 18" by 11". With the ground stakes they are 22" tall. same steps - i just drew larger patterns.

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    26 Comments

    0
    canadianchick53
    canadianchick53

    5 months ago on Step 1

    This is fantastic! I am tryin my best to copy this! I love gnomes!
    Sincerely. Nancy -Canada

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 5 months ago

    thanks for the kind words. You can do it! make paper patterns until you are satisfied with the shapes then work with the wood.

    0
    canadianchick53
    canadianchick53

    Reply 5 months ago

    Got patterns made! God I love these! Thanks for you reply ! Didn't expect one!

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 5 months ago

    yay you! check out the gnome instructions again. at the very end i added 3 pics of larger gnomes that i made (not part of the contest but using up scrap wood). 18" tall. one is on the front porch. i hope you send me a pic of your gnomes.

    0
    DragonFlame13
    DragonFlame13

    6 months ago

    I like the gnomes a lot! I'm going to try to make some of them eventually.

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you. wait for a few warm days for cutting and sanding. after that the assembly and painting is fun inside work.

    0
    DragonFlame13
    DragonFlame13

    Reply 6 months ago

    I live in Arizona so I don't have to wait for the heat. LOL

    0
    gabinor
    gabinor

    6 months ago

    Very funny !! I love it :D

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you.

    0
    harnon
    harnon

    6 months ago

    You did so cute gnomes! Love it, this is excellent.
    They should be lucky in your garden ;o)


    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you for your kind words.

    0
    OpaJo
    OpaJo

    6 months ago

    I don't think I'm gonna make these. But I love your creations. Special with the houses and most of all the "gnomebody home". Marvelous!

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you for your kind words. My gardens are humble but i do like to make them fun.

    0
    chefspenser
    chefspenser

    6 months ago

    Beautiful and very creative-thank you for sharing-I will try to make some in the spring-Cheers!

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    i was lucky to have 2 warmish days for cutting and sanding. then another cold snap. thanks for your kind words.

    0
    KrissK
    KrissK

    6 months ago on Step 6

    Thank you for sharing your process. These little guys look awesome.

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you for the kind words.

    0
    hummie8
    hummie8

    6 months ago

    Beautifully designed and constructed. I made two gnome houses from tree stumps last year. I've been making gnomes from river rocks. Can't wait to give these a try. I'll probably use a non-foaming gorilla glue. Thank you. Stay safe and healthy.

    0
    JoDD
    JoDD

    Reply 6 months ago

    thank you. gorilla glue will probably work. i have made a few wood animals for the gardens and they have held up for years. have fun with your project.