Ideas for Making Your Own Gifts
Today we're celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday (Happy Birthday Rosie!), and like often when a birthday comes up, I'm thinking about creating presents myself. Isn't that one of the best things about making and woodworking, that you actually have the power to create something custom?
I remember when I was young, I used to start thinking about making Christmas presents back in late summer, and I loved reading articles with DIY gift ideas. Back then, my presents weren't as intricate or useful – I made lots of questionable art, a crochet headband for my dad (thanks for being such a good sport and wearing it as you left for work!), candle holders etc... I suppose back then, perhaps it ended up being more a thrill for me to plan for and make these objects, as opposed to actually receiving them, I don't know. But nevertheless, I haven't stopped liking the idea of making presents.
Over the years however, I have altered my approach slightly, and I usually try to make things that will actually be useful. Woodworking is pretty great from this stand-point (with the only negative aspect being that the objects are usually too heavy to ship - especially to Sweden! so it's really something you can just make for people in person.) I have also learned to keep it simple. It's pretty easy to get super excited with an idea, but then it turns out to be a bit too elaborate and more of a chore to finish than you anticipated when you started.
This year, for my mother-in-law's birthday Matt and I had fun building a couple things for her – a larger shelving unit using cherry plywood, and two smaller shelves for the bathroom using mahogany hardwood. I think pretty much everyone needs more storage – and custom built storage for a specific space is of course even better.
The larger shelf was made using a very similar technique to this video where I built a bathroom shelf with dados. It's an example of a really simple idea that can be customized endlessly with different wood, different sizes, and to fit different objects. In the end, it's useful, looks pretty great, and doesn't take that long to build, so perfect present in other words!
My mother-in-law loves cards, and every birthday you can be sure that you'll get at least three carefully selected cards. So as part of her birthday, we also decided to go full out and create our own birthday cards. We photographed different objects using medium format 6x6 film, then developed said pictures, edited and printed them on nice hardstock. A little while ago, we bought a small foldable light tent which is pretty neat because it doesn't take up much room, and you can easily photograph small objects and get great results. The light tent is what was used to take these pictures of film, books and cameras.
This was such a fun little project, and now I'm thinking, wouldn't it be great to do the same thing, woodworking style? Take some great shots of nice hand planes, chisels, axes, and other handtools, relatively close up, and make nice cards. What I really like about this is there are quite a few parts to it – choosing the film, subject, shooting, developing, scanning, editing, how about adding some text?, printing etc... I can imagine someone could create a pretty neat YouTube channel making just different cards.
On a similar note, I have been getting into watching Shoot Like a Boss on YouTube – he goes over the process of darkroom printing, which is something I am not familiar with. It makes me want to create a darkroom for sure!
But, back to making presents, which is what I envisioned this blog post would be all about! One material that I think is pretty useful to keep in your arsenal when making presents is definitely leather. You can make so many cool things with leather that are pretty simple and look quite impressive. The ideas in this video (which was relating to Christmas, but they would work for any time really) are worth checking out I think.
Ever since I published this video I have received so many messages from people who have made these globes has presents. Lot of people have batched out this project and created on for each of their kids, others have made one for someone special... I definitely think it's pretty magical, so I want to include this in the list as well.
Writing Book & Pencil Case
One of my favorites, if you want to combing leather and wood - this leather covered notebook and pencil case – make both or pick one of the two.
Wooden Storage Boxes
Boxes is of course another thing which never gets old, and people who don't woodwork usually appreciate a nicely made box. It doesn't have to be very complicated I think, and these simple boxes in the video below would make a great gift for pretty much anyone I think. Who doesn't have things to organize? If you want to go fancier, you can always stencil or carve out someone's name for example.
So those were a few ideas when it comes to making gifts for people. How about you? Do you have any go-to projects that you like to make for gifts? Or do you prefer to buy them? Ideally I suppose I like combining both, but making something certainly adds a nice touch, plus it's always fun.