Well it happens every year. The holidays are officially winding down after the Epiphany on January 6th, but it is still Christmas at my house!!!!! Yep, you got it! Still celebrating Christmas well into January! But with all the holiday prep, I usually can't get to the things I really want to do until mid January. And I got inspired, being free from the pressures of the holidays, to do a new project. (It has been a life-long tradition since childhood that I do at least one new Christmas project yearly, however some years this isn't always possible in December. But there would be some effort on behalf of Christmas during the year if it wasn't possible at Christmastime. Anticipating Christmas sustains me throughout the year!)
Inspiration and Christmas magic comes into play!
So I was sitting watching t.v. one January evening and glanced over to my little GarGraves loop set-up with the Rudolph figures. At that moment, the idea flew into my head to do a Rudolph and Hermey handcar. I focused my efforts on Hermey, first. In one bold move I went into the kitchen and cut off the majority of Hermey's arms! Then sat back down on the sofa and carefully whittled away the rest of his arms. Using the Snoopy handcar as a guide for arm length and figure height, I made a pair of arms, reinforced with wire, from Sculpey. But I soon realized, as they were in the oven, that the original Sculpey wouldn't be tough enough and that styrene was the material to use. So I cut a few rectangles of styrene, went to work on the arms, then found some tiny screws to attach them. Bingo, within an hour I had working arms (but they weren't completely shaped yet). I used the handcar from my Porky Pig handcar to test Hermey's action with his new arms. Next came the challenge to anchor Hermey to the handcar but allow for movement. After a couple of tries, I hit on a base that is loosely screwed down. I continued to shape the arms and sanded them smooth with an emery board.
The next day I decided to use the figure of young Rudolph on the front of the handcar. But something just wasn't right for me. Then later that night, at about 11 PM, it hit me! Light up his nose! I ran (yes, I ran) to my box of lights and compared the bulb size of one of my lights with his nose and it was a good match. Next I went into the kitchen, quickly cut off his nose, then drilled a channel for the bulb and wires. I used the finest bit I had. It quickly made its way into the head. Then I enlarged the opening with a slightly larger bit. The bulb went in easily. I went to my box of paints and mixed up a translucent wash of varnish and red paint, painted the bulb, and tested the light with a 9 volt battery. It looked great! I washed off the paint with rubbing alcohol so I could get a better coat of the translucent red over the bulb, then repainted the bulb. (It has been my experience that paint sticks best to glass that is very clean, especially free of finger oils.) The whole lighting process was over in about 15 minutes! There you have it, a project that came together so quickly that I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't done it myself.
So that is my usual creative process. A brainstorm quickly realized! Fortunately I keep some tools, paints, and other supplies handy, very handy, not in the basement. One thing that kills creativity is to have to look around the house for something, or wait days for a mail order or for a chance to get to the store for supplies. And these moments of inspiration often come late at night, which was the case with this effort. The kitchen is a great place to work, especially at night. I had a spare of the Hermey figure, so I felt that if I ruined it, I still had one good figure. But Rudolph took a little more gumption since I had no spare of him. You see, you have to take a chance, often with a little safety net, but it takes deliberate action backed up with some successful past experiences. And I have had my share of failures! But if you don't try, nothing happens. So I encourage others to get involved with a hobby, preferably with this hobby, and make some magic, yourself!
Here is the whole project!
I had the spare Hermey figure because I bought 2 different sets of Rudolph figures (one set had eye-hooks in their heads). I couldn't find a complete set like they sell now (manufacturer "Memory Lane" has changed its name to "Forever Fun"). One figure of Hermey was painted better than the other, so I used the one that wasn't the best, just in case I ruined it. Turns out that I was destined to use the spare. These figures are not difficult to repaint if you must, but it helps if you have some basic figure painting experience, however many hobbyists do well on their first attempt. The Rudolph figure isn't my favorite rendering of Rudolph from the original t.v. special back in 1964, but now I feel it is just right for this project. The important thing is that this handcar looks especially good in motion. With reasonable care and repairs, this handcar will last decades. It would be nice to fill out the scene with a few simple animated figures, like an elf choir, or Yukon chipping away at a mountain and actually discovering gold! Fortunately being able to buy affordable, well done figures makes all this possible, with a little tinkering!
I had everything I needed at home, so there was no out-of-pocket expense. To tally it all up, the handcar was about $30, new, from an online auction, the Rudolph and Hermey figures were about $6 total, bought them on sale at K-Mart and online on sale from eToys about 4 years ago. The light and diode were about $1 together, scraps of styrene and glue, say about $2 because the super glue often dries up so you might get only one use from the container. Paint, styrene glue, caulk, say $3, a generous estimate. And add another buck for solder and wire. So about $43 of on-hand materials and parts. Round it up to $50 in case I missed something, and there you have it. This hobby is affordable on a shoestring budget! You can't even buy a new handcar for under $60.