It’s that time of year again — when the world gives-in to unbridled commerce and irrational overspending. Yep, that’s our modern holiday season!
While many people enjoy the ease and convenience of buying Christmas gifts for friends and family, I’ve actually come to dislike the practice. The act of gift-giving has now become a game of “Who Can Spend The Most For The HolidaysTM” and “Who Can Give The Most Popular Electronic GadgetTM“.
Like previous years, I’m eschewing the convention of buying holiday gifts. Instead of spending too much on holiday gifts, I’ve once again decided to make most of the holiday gifts I’m giving to friends and family this year.
If you think about it, the act of making holiday gifts is perfect for 2020 — If we’re stuck at home anyway, why not spend the extra time making a few nice gifts?
DIY Christmas Gifts Take Time
Like all things handmade, it takes a ton of time to craft a quality gift. I try to plan ahead and get an early start — I started on this holiday’s gifts back in the middle of October, when I spied a nice piece of wood on my parent’s firewood pile.
Yep, no fancy store bought wood here! I just grab these straight off the wood pile before they get split into smaller pieces. This year it was a nice chunk of big-leaf maple.
Yep, those pesky wood elves paid our house a visit in 2020!
After that, I had to turn this chunk of raw wood into a useable lumber. This is a ton of work — There’s lots of planing, sanding, and cutting needed. A ridiculous amount of sawdust was made. Here’s the results from one such session:
What a mess! Eventually the wood elves and I whittled things down to some beautiful lumber…
Then began the task of designing and planning my holiday gift. This year I decided to make “fancy snack bowls” for holding holiday treats. I always create the design in CAD before the cutting starts. This helps me visualize the final product, and plan the machining steps.
I was feeling a little hexagonal in 2020.
I wanted a design that was a little bit unconventional and nerdy, and I think this hexagon design fits the bill nicely.
Just like in previous years, I still don’t have fancy expensive tools. I simply make due with what I have. Most of my tools are hand-me-downs, bought at garage sales, or given as gifts.
Even with the most basic tools, wonderful things can be created if you have some patience and a little ingenuity. This years “snack bowls” were mostly made with a <$100 router.
That, and lots of sanding. A ridiculous amount of sanding! Some nights I was up well past midnight just sanding!
A typical sanding session took about 3 hours per bowl, using a mix of hand sanding and the palm sander. Lots of hand sanding was necessary to get into all the small crevices the powered sander couldn’t get.
With seven bowls in total, this means I spent around 21 hours sanding. Honestly, it feels like a more than that. My hands ached after all that sanding!
The best part of the project is when the protective finish finally goes on. That’s when you finally get to see the wood grain, and the project finally comes to a close.
Are these bowls models of computer-machined perfection like you might find in a big-box store? Absolutely not! There’s plenty of mistakes! In the end I think all my small mistakes and tool marks just add to the charm. Friends and family can maybe (just maybe) see all the effort I put into the gift too.
Why Do I Do This?
OK, at this point most readers are probably thinking “That’s absolutely crazy” , and they might be right. When you can simply pop online and buy a wooden bowl for $20, why would someone in their right mind even bother?
Here’s the absolute truth: I’m not doing this because I save money or time (even though it cost me $0). I do it because I enjoy making things for people.
In a world where everyone gifts mass-produced consumer items, handmade items are a little bit on the odd side… but you should know by now that I love being a bit odd. It’s my happy place.
Not only is it way more meaningful when I put this much effort into a gift, but I believe people truly appreciate handmade gifts more. It’s a chance to give something completely unique to your loved ones… something they won’t find in a store sold by the millions.
That in itself is something special. After-all, isn’t making friends and loved ones feel special what gift giving is all about?
Happy Holidays everyone! See you in 2021!