Last Minute Elf

Every woodworker has this fantasy.  You may think you don’t, but believe me, you do…

The Christmas morning fantasy

It’s early on that special morning during the holiday season. Cup of coffee in hand, gathered with your pajama-clad loved ones, you wear the sly smile of someone who knows something that the other people in the room don’t. There’s a special someone there, looking for the gift marked for them, but they looked perplexed.

“I don’t see a gift here for me.  Did you forget?”

“Oh, no. There certainly is a gift for you. In fact, I think you are going to remember this year’s gift for a long time to come.”

Taking that someone special by the hand, you lead them into the next room, where there is a gorgeous hand-crafted (insert name of woodworking project here) you spent six months creating, proudly displaying the (curly/figured/waterfall) grain and showing the (high gloss/subtle luster) finish you spent (weeks?) working on.

There’s an audible gasp, a huge hug, and then you are the person of the day, famed in song and story for years to come.

There’s a reason why I called that a fantasy – it has never happened to me. Why? Because I am a terrible planner. All of the grand projects I have thought about giving to my wife, kids, friends or others that would require months to build come to my mind about two weeks before the big day… leaving me smacking my forehead in disgust.

inspiration, please strike!

But, hey, that’s cool. In fact, projects that are a whole lot simpler in design and building techniques can be just as impressive as those grandiose ones, but require only a fraction of the time and materials.  And, with dates certain on the calendar when they have to be delivered, easier can save your sanity during the crazy holiday rush.

That’s why I love running the Last Minute Elf. Just as I have done with Get Woodworking Week  I am asking for some help with this project from some of my fellow bloggers – as well as some of the big players in the woodworking world.

What am I looking for?  If you have an idea for a simple project that someone can bang together in a reasonable amount of time using a reasonable amount of wood, I’d like to see it. Maybe you have recipe for a quick-drying finish that can help you play beat the clock.  Maybe you even have a heartwarming, funny or just crazy story about a gift you received or gave during the holidays.  Write it up and let me know where we can find it. I’ll link out to your blog or article from here, just like I did for Get Woodworking Week.

Wake up, you lazy elf!


I’m hoping that we can spread the word about this effort, encourage some people to try making gifts for their loved ones, and maybe provide a little bit of relief for the procrastinators among us.

I see you out there.  I can recognize those who work just like me!

12 thoughts on “Last Minute Elf”

  1. Great idea. I support the local SAFE house for battered spouses each year. I need some new ideas, for kids and adults they love the cars and trucks and puzzles I’ve given the past 3 years since I moved here. I’ll be watching for something great for adults too, they are often forgotten.

    Can you imagine being a child and wake up knowing it is just a few days until Christmas, and hear mom and dad fighting again!! Cover your head to block it out and then it happens. You hear more yelling and cursing, a door slams. You think it is all over—for now.
    Then your bedroom door bursts open, your parent looks frantic, tears streaming down their swollen face they exclaim. “I need you to get up and get dressed, pack a few items in your back pack, we need to go away for a while.”

    Now imagine staying in a nice, clean, safe environment but missing your parent. Now imagine it is Christmas morning and noone has remembered you or your children for Christmas. You have no money, all you can give each other are hugs and promises that next year will be better.

    I found myself remembering these folks when i was in search of who to give too. So i could help make my Christmas a little more special. The looks on the faces of the staff when i show up at their door a week before Christmas with a few bags full of wooden cars and trucks and puzzles is all I need to make my Christmas.

    But I need fresh ideas so I’ll be watching your blog as well for more inspiration…

  2. I have been making barnwood picture frames. Pocket hole the rectangle together and then trim around the edges with barnwood turned on its edge. Route the backside to accept the glass, picture, and backer, and done. Leave without finish to gibe it the antique look. You can pound one out in about 20 minutes and they look awesome.

  3. I built my sister-in law a cedar chest for Christmas one year, but told her we had hit on hard times and couldn’t afford much that year. There was a look of total disbelieve when she opened up the ugliest pair of socks I could buy, she cried when the brother-in-law and I walked in the room with her cedar chest. We still exchange ugly socks every year for the past thirty years or so.

  4. Here’s a common idea with a twist: I made one of those wine balancers, but took a coping saw (don’t own a scroll saw), and cut out the silhouette of a ballroom dancing couple for a dance student. She went nuts! Another one got a soccer player cutout- another hit! And I have no artistic talent whatsoever! Just print out ON A LASER PRINTER, the silhouette you want to cut, then put it face down on your wood, and iron it. A woodburning tool works well, too. the heat will transfer the pattern, like a t-shirt iron on. then you just follow the lines, sand off the marks, and voila! You’re carving custom wine balancers that show extra thought and effort!

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