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The Steps to Making a Nutcracker

The dimension wood is first cut into different sizes depending on whether it will be used for bases, bodies, arms, legs, etc. The wood to be turned into round pieces will first be trimmed of its corners to make it easier for the lathe to produce the perfect circular piece. Then the many pieces are cut, sanded, and stored in bins, boxes, and buckets to await assembly. Many of the pieces will be turned on automatic lathes which many times will cost over a million dollars. These have to be meticulously programmed by experts each time a different form is to be produced. Other pieces will be shaped individually by hand on lathes by workers who have had several years of training in the crafting of wood. And each different form requires its own cutting blade, and to see a wall of these different blades, all sharpened and ready to cut, is fascinating!

After the body part is turned, it must also be cut for the handle, and holes drilled for the dowels to hold the pieces together. The head must be cut for the eyes and the teeth. Feet must be shaped. All of these different cuts require a different process. Even though the machines are used for all these various pieces, a nutcracker is still considered crafted by hand because of the amount of skilled workmanship involved. Have you ever counted the many pieces of wood that have been put together to make your nutcrackers? In the Olaf Kolbe workshop, about 40 pieces of wood are used for each nutcracker. Here the legs and arm pieces are painted first, then "stacked" on dowels. And each piece, no matter how small, must be sanded. Sometimes pieces are placed in big drums with stones and bounce their way to smoothness. Sometimes pieces of sand paper are put with wood pieces in drums that turn. Some are sanded by sanding machines, others sanded by hand.

The painting process takes many different forms. Many larger pieces are painted in the painting booth before assembly, others sprayed after several parts are glued together. Many pieces are painted by hand, and some of the tiny pieces are placed on a stick, inserted in a can of paint, then the stick is spun back and forth with the hands to take off excess paint. The sticks are then stuck into trays and placed on drying racks. After the nutcracker is assembled, there are eyes to be placed, eyebrows, teeth, and mouth painted as well as other decorations that may be applied.

After the body is assembled hair and beards must be glued on. Hats and other cloth pieces are added along with trims and accessories such as braids, guns, baskets, drums, etc. Then the finished nutcracker is packaged in a box and placed on shelves in the shipping room to await delivery to the wholesaler, then to the retailer and eventually to the hands of the collector.

We hope this gives you a greater appreciation of the skilled craftsmanship that goes into the making of each of your nutcrackers.