Christmas Choral Mice


Christmas Choral Mice:
Peter Benson gets ready for the season of goodwill with these adorable singing mice, perfect for a Christmas scene under the tree.

Peter Benson gets ready for the season of goodwill with these adorable singing mice, perfect for a Christmas scene under the tree

In an attempt to find something ‘silly’ for my carvers to do in one day for a Christmas session, I came up with a simple design that could be modified in dozens of ways to individualise the end result – the Christmas mouse. Since then the same principle has been adapted time and time again with different subjects. Once you have had a go at one idea, it is amazing how the mind flies with a succession of variations.
Most hobby carvers tend to spend the majority of their carving time  producing ‘works of art’ that are generally confned to the display cabinet and occasionally they are given to unsuspecting friends and relatives or, rarely, sold to an admiring member of the public. The whole process tends to be a rather solitary affair.
The Christmas mouse, therefore, is an opportunity to carve rather than produce something artistic, meaningful or with intrinsic value – it is intended purely for entertainment. You will certainly enjoy the process and anyone to whom you give one as a present will enjoy the result of your efforts.
You can do what you like as you develop the ideas – just have fun.

Tools you will need
• Butternut (Juglans cinerea), lime (Tilia vulgaris) or similar offcuts with grain
• Bandsaw or coping saw
• Knife
• Selection of palm gouges or block cutters as required such as 6mm No.4, palm gouge and 3 and 6mm, No.9 palm gouge
• Bradawl – hole for tails
• Adhesive
• Leather or string for tails
• Danish oil
• Water-based acrylics
• Acrylic varnish in matte or satin

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. This particular piece can use up a bucketful of scrap pieces of wood that have been cluttering up the workshop for months. Each mouse is only about 38mm wide and 63mm long. As my scraps are far from uniform in shape, I only draw up one pattern for cutting out. You will need to allow extra wood in places depending on how you want your design – different instruments, hat bobbles, etc.

2. I generally start with just one pattern and modify it as I go along. In this case I have shown you two variations, both of which have been cut out with a bandsaw. Something this small can easily be cut out with a coping saw or even a fretsaw. Use whatever you have

3. Next, draw the rough shape of your mouse with a felt tip pen. Be sure to check that the shape of your mouse is roughly symmetrical

4. Start with the head – this is the most difficult part and if you mess it up, you can start again without having wasted too much time and effort.

5. You have a great deal of scope with the hat design (see the finished examples) so let your imagination run free

6a. You should end up with something like this

6b. I use the felt marker freely to show any possible detail that I might want to include

7–8. You can now decide what you want your mouse to be doing. They can be playing instruments, holding song sheets or snowballs. Adding lanterns is always quite a good variation

9. Once you have decided on how you want your mouse to look, you can shape the body and detail the front

10.  In this case the mouse is playing a concertina (or squeezebox)

11. Don’t try to be too ambitious with the feet – just round them off, keeping them fairly thick. They are short grain and can easily part company with the rest of the mouse

12. All that is left is to add a tail and paint your mouse. I make a hole with a bradawl and glue in a strip of leather for the tail using hot melt glue, but you can use string if you prefer and superglue or epoxy

13. If you wish to add a lantern I suggest that you make these in a continuous strip – they are easier to handle

14. If you wish to add a lantern I suggest that you make these in a continuous strip – they are easier to handle. A piece about 13 x 13mm will be sufficient

Finishing touches
All you now need to do is add some colour to the hat and scarf – I leave the rest natural. I have found that if I give the whole thing a coat of Danish oil – or any other sealer – and let it dry, the paint goes on better. I use water-based acrylics, but you will probably need more than one coat. For something like this you need really bright colours.
The squeezebox has been lined with black and then painted with a metallic gold paint and the mouth is painted black. Once this is thoroughly dry, give the whole thing a coat of matte or satin acrylic varnish. All of this is readily available from any decent craft shop.

Use water-based acylics to bring your mice to life

The lantern poles are short lengths of copper wire from electrical wiring cable

Family of mice
You now have the start of your family of Christmas mice. If you think you will get away with carving just this one think again. Once your friends and family see this you will end up with a long list of orders. I did this with one of my classes and one student came back the next week with a request for 24 more blanks. Be warned! 

Why stop at mice?
I have done a similar thing with carol singing kids (see below) and I have them with mobile phones, iPods, cans of drink, catapults and so on. There is probably no limit to what you can add to make this a truly festive holiday.


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