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.
Step 1: Tools, Materials & Ingredients
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
- ply wood (or acrylic)
See step 13.
Step 2: Choosing the Steel
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
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:
Step 4: Where to Begin?
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
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!
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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!
- 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
- 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)
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!
Fourth Prize in the