10 tips for stress-free holiday projects

From prototype hints to template tricks, here are some easy ways to simplify holiday projects.

By Andrew Gordon

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The holiday season can be tough. From wondering what new toy to get your favourite niece or nephew to the rush of last-minute shopping, things can get pretty stressful.

Why not avoid all that stress by making your gifts in your own workshop? You can even take one project idea and simply build a heap of them to wrap and give away. Building three or four (or 12) of one project for your family and friends might seem daunting, but don’t despair; we’re here to help. There are a few tips that will ease your workload and make sure you avoid any holiday hassle:

1. Try to simplify the construction process of your gift as much as possible. Since you will go through each step multiple times, simplicity is especially important.

2. Start early. September, October, November or even June is not too early to start on your holiday projects.

3. Decide which materials you plan to use in advance. You will be able to design the project around the measurements of the boards you are able to find. This will help to minimize waste.

4. Resist the temptation to rush ahead; build one gift at a time. Build a prototype first to make sure your instructions and measurements work out, then start mass-producing.

5. Use templates to make exact duplicates of parts with irregular shapes. This process can be done by using methods such as template routing. Be careful, though, and check your measurements first; one poorly cut piece is bad enough, but six is even worse.

6. Make extras of each component as you go; nobody is perfect. This way, if you make a mistake, you won’t have to go back and cut another piece.

7. Don’t be afraid to use manufactured parts, such as wheels or figurines when making kids’ toys. No one will think any less of you (and the kids certainly won’t mind).

8. Plan glue-ups to maximize efficiency. Glue up a long slab from which you can cut six cutting boards at once, for example, instead of gluing a new slab for each piece.

9. Use a fast-drying finish. You don’t want to get caught at the last minute trying to dry your gift off with a hair dryer. (Wipe-on polyurethane and spray lacquer dry the fastest.)

10. Finally, don’t forget that even though the idea is to mass-produce gifts using production techniques, you can still make each gift unique by applying different finishes.


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