Last year for Christmas I made a Harry Potter Gingerbread House, which was a lot of fun. Over the past year I have been brainstorming about what I would do this year and what I am came up with was a Gingerbread Cuckoo clock with working gears. I couldn't get this idea out of my head and so I went forward and began planning and figuring this out!
I have never actually made anything with gears before, so I will talk about how I tried to figure this out and my trials and tribulations in the process.
I did a lot of clock research and amalgamated several clocks that I had seen online to create this clock. It's actually pretty big for a cuckoo clock but it kind of had to be to get all of the detail in.
I hope you enjoy the instructable, I had a lot of fun making this clock and I hope you like it too!
Step 1: Supplies
To make the model:
- 2 pieces of 2'-0" x 3'-0" foam core
- Masking Tape
- Large sheet or roll of paper
- Pencil and eraser
- Cuckoo Clock Research and Sketches
- Computer to use Gear Template Generator
- Cutting Mat for paper
- Exacto Blade
To make the gingerbread:
I made two batches of this recipe to complete this clock
- 2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup dark molasses
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 1/4 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
To make the royal icing:
- 2 and 2/3 cups of Icing sugar
- 2 eggs
- brown icing colouring
To decorate and shape the gingerbread before and after baking:
- Big cookie sheet
- Small cookie Sheet
- parchment paper
- rolling pin
- Sharp knife ( paring knife works well)
- Dull butter knife
- Icing tips
- Icing bags ( I just used sandwich bags.. a little cheap i know..)
- Paint brushes ( Nylon, new and washed with dish soap)
- Dark Brown and Black food colouring
- 6 cans of canned food ( for propping things up on)
- 4 candy sticks ( for the axles)
- Licorice shoelaces ( I like the Grape or purple flavoured)
Step 2: Making the Foam Core Template and Gears
To make this shape, I did a bunch of research on cuckoo clocks and put a couple of interesting ones together to make this shape. I liked the birds and the reindeer motif so I added those and it seemed that no cuckoo clock was complete without leaves.
I first did a sketch of what I wanted it to look like and then did a rough sizing estimate to figure out how big I wanted it to be.
Let me first say that I don't know the first thing about gears. But I wanted to try this out so When it came time to figure out the gears I used this program - Gear Template Generator in order to create them. Basically this free online program allows you to control the size and style of your gears by the number of teeth, contact angle, tooth spacing, shaft hole etc. You can only create two gears at a time with the program but it's easy enough to use one gear from another set to create a new set. It's pretty neat. I made 4 gears (That's really all I thought you would be able to see through the front of the clock)
Cutting out all the shapes and assembling:
After I had figured out what I wanted I drew it on to foam core, cut it all out and taped it together to create what you see in the pictures. The foam core gears that I had created worked okay, but they did squish a bit as foam core tends to do, when I tried to turn them. I could only hope that Gingerbread gears would be harder and would turn okay.
Step 3: Making the Gingerbread Dough
(Forgive me folks but this may be repetitive from my other gingerbread instructable)
I used a little hand mixer for some of this, but sometimes it got too much for that! So most of the time I just ended up doing it with my hands, and boy were they sore by the time I was done!
Mix together the butter until it’s creamy smooth. Put the sugar into that and mix until it gets kind of fluffy and light. Mix in your eggs one at a time, then add Molasses and vanilla.
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate large bowl– Flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and Salt. Little bits at a time, add in the dry mixture to the wet, till you get a nice dough. Wrap that puppy up, and put it in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours.
Step 4: Rolling the Dough and Cutting Out Shapes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and put parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets. As the pieces are really big for this, you will need large cookie sheets.
Roll it out and cut:
Sprinkle a bit of flour on to your dough rolling surface, find two pieces of anything that can be your thickness gauge on your gingerbread. ( I used some leftover foam core) Stick them on either side of your roller, so that you don’t get any thinner than that thickness with your roller, a nice even surface pays off in the end. Split your dough up and start rolling it out. I used all of my template foam core pieces from the model to create your gingerbread shapes. I used a very sharp paring knife cutting carefully around the foam core to create the shapes some of them were extremely delicate and took a lot of patience to cut out. The gears I was especially careful with when cutting out.
Add Wood Carving Detail:
This is also where I added in some detail on the gingerbread as I was trying to make a lot of this clock look like it had been carved wood. I used both a dull and sharp knife to cut out bits and push in details. I used a ruler on a diagonal on the main house pieces to create the grid pattern.
Step 5: Baking the Pieces!
At this point your oven should be hot and ready at 350 degrees F. You can stick your cookie sheets with your gingerbread pieces into the oven.
To be noted: Check when you are making your foamcore model pieces that your pieces actually fit on the cookie sheet you are using. As you can see I had to cut the corners off of my front and back house section because they were too wide for the cookie sheet. I was saddened by this... however the branches of the details on the front would most likely cover the corner bits.
Put your pieces on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, then Bake that until it’s pretty stiff, I put mine in for about 12 minutes.
Double Check Shape:
Once you take them out of the oven, take the template that you made the shape from and double check that they are the same. Before the Gingerbread cools is a great time to chop off any weird bits that have happened from baking. Once it hardens it’s very difficult to change the shape.
Cool Down Gingerbread:
Do not lift up off of the tray until cools as this may end in catastrophe.! Occasionally I would use the parchment paper as a sliding surface and take the pieces off of the tray and slide the parchment onto another surface. This I would do with extreme caution. I let them cool for a couple of hours especially the larger pieces because I wanted them to be really hard and stiff. If you don’t want to wait that long just absolutely make sure they have cooled completely. Cooling racks are best, but if you can't find those, I also used a broiling pan, ( with the slots in the bottom) to let my stuff cool off and dry out underneath.
Cover every flat surface in your house with cooling gingerbread:
You don't have to do this - however it will probably happen. There were a lot of pieces to make this gingerbread clock so I needed a lot of space. It took about a day to bake all of this.
Step 6: Make Royal Icing
I know there is a bit of a debate over making royal icing with raw eggs or not with eggs but I like my stuff to stick together. What a lot of websites recommend when working with raw eggs is to make sure that you use properly refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells and to avoid contact between all of the bits, so the yolk, egg whites and the shell. It tasted great and no salmonella when we made it, however do note that it is a risk.
2-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more as needed
2 egg whites
To make the royal icing: whip confectioners sugar and egg whites together until you get a nice even consistency. Here is my trick in order to hide my icing. I tint it the same colour as the gingerbread. I add a brown icing colouring to my icing, so that it looks very similar and doesn’t stand out.
Step 7: Assemble!
Main Clock Shell:
I put the front section and walls together and gave this a full day of drying time to harden. I used Cans to help prop up the sides while it was drying.
I began by painting the details into the backing of the gear section. Then I propped that up an inch off of the back of the clock.
I spent a good deal of time "cleaning up" the edges of the gears with an exacto blade attempting to give them smooth surfaces in which to turn well. I then added wax paper "washers" as I was worried that icing might stick ( this was not an unfounded worry), and that the gingerbread might rub weirdly on all other gingerbread. My initial test before icing of the gears worked well. It turned and it had promise. I then assembled the whole gear section together with icing and crossed my fingers that it would not stick together.
Main Clock Shell Roof:
After the walls had dried for some time I added the roof sections so that it too could dry overnight.
Step 8: Assembly Second Day
Check Gear Unit:
Well - this is a bit of a fail so this is where it gets sad. After all my research and all of my effort my gears have stuck to the axle and will not turn. Two of them have some movement but the other two are stuck. If anybody out there has tips on how to avoid getting icing down onto your axle I am all ears! I still haven't given up on this idea. I might try it again another time..I think also the weight of my top gear pieces limited the ability for the gear to turn. Ah well.. It was really fun to try and do. Plus my clock feels slightly more authentic, like it has a gingerbread gear heart on the inside. No Hollow Gingerbread house for me, that's right, I got a Gingerbread house with soul...
Assemble back gear Section to main Shell Front Section:
This was fairly difficult to do - it was a two person job. I had to ice everything before I did it and slide the two sections together, I then iced the seams from the outside as well. I then added the bottom section as well.
Add "wood cut" details:
This is where I add the roof, side and bottom branches, as well as the birds, leaves and reindeer crest.
Step 9: Final Details and Then Hanging and Then Mishap!
I used Brown Icing colouring mixed with a bit of water to create shadows on all of my "woodcut" details. I also used white icing on the clock face. I used some black decorating gel for the detail around the cuckoo's hide-i-hole, and the cuckoo birdy also has some red decorating gel on him.
Icing Clock Hands:
I made these out of icing on the first day, I put them on parchment paper and let them solidify then on the last day I stuck them on to the clock face.
I glued two Acorn shaped pieces of gingerbread to licorice string shoelaces and let them hang from the front of the clock.
I went and bought this neat shelving unit from umbra, that is concealed once you put books on it. It worked well with the clock because then I could just stick the clock on the end and not have really any shelf unit visible. I suppose I could have just hung it from a nail but I just didn't think the Gingerbread would hold it's own weight, plus then it would be right up against the wall and that seems weird to me.
I would not suggest doing this - but it is what happened! I bumped so gently into the wall when hanging this up and the reindeer's antler fell off. I tried about 6 times to get it to stick back on, but alas it was determined to be broken. But this way it kind of reminds me of the Grinch and his Dog that has an antler tied to his head.
Gears turned out invisible ANYWAY!
So all that work on my gears that didn't work and got stuck AND you cannot even see them through my clock face! Not enough light I suppose...Pretty funny though. At least I know that they are there. I think next time I should set up some major lighting if I want to put something on the inside of a gingerbread house. LESSON LEARNED.
Thank you for reading this far:
I had a lot of fun making this even if it didn't work out perfectly, I hope you guys like it too! I am sorry for repeating some of the steps from my other instructable, but it seemed silly to rewrite it all when the information was the same.
I would love to hear any tips or comments you can give me on my instructables as I am a newbie and have much to learn about this site.