Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Do I...make my own cookie cutters?

I love cookie cutters. They hold so much potential, so much possibility. You don't have to be an incredibly skilled decorator to own cookie cutters. But every time I look at a cutter, I think about the amazing cookies I would create if I was an incredibly skilled decorator. And then I buy the cookie cutter. I can't help it. How could I possibly look that cookie cutter in the eye and say, "I don't want you." Especially when its not true? (And also, especially because they don't actually have eyes.)

So I've had to stop looking at cookie cutters. But sometimes you just need a certain shape. (Like you need to eat those leftover cookies for breakfast, so that you can make more.) Since I lack the self control to go cookie cutter shopping...I make my own cookie cutters!

Its fairly simple really. And you can probably get everything you need from a local hardware store.
Aluminum Sheeting (also called sheet metal) -- I use 26 gauge, which is about as thin as you want them to be. You could probably step up the thickness to a 24 or 25 and be fine.
Tin Snips -- these are the giant scissor looking things. They cut metal really well.
Some sort of adhesive -- I chose this household sealant because it was safe for food, and holds up well to water. You do NOT want to poison anyone and you do NOT want your cutter to fall apart when you wash it.
Metal File
Yard Stick
The tiniest little clamps you can find
Marker
Clip art or drawing the size and shape you want your cutter to be
 ** If you are making a trip to the hardware store and don't already have pliers...you should think about picking up some.  But they are not necessary.**

Draw a line on the aluminum sheeting about 1/2 - 1 inch from the edge. I make mine 1/2 inch because I like to get more cutters out of a piece of metal. But if you like your cutters a little taller/sturdier then go ahead and make them a little wider. No one will judge you. At least, I don't think they will. They shouldn't anyway. A person's cookie cutter width is their own business.

Now take your tin snips and cut away on the line you just drew. I would recommend cutting slowly and carefully. You want to make that line as smooth as possible because whatever jags or jumps you put in the metal on this step will have to be smoothed out in the next step.

Sometimes my strip will curl on itself while I am cutting it. I think it is the position of my hand relative to the angle of the sheet metal and proportional to the distance to the ground and maybe something to do with the phase of the moon... My point is - it doesn't really matter. (A very deep, philosophical point, I know.)

It does need to be straight, though. So if your strip curls, just flatten it out a bit. And then put on noise cancelling headphones. (Do they still make those?)

This step is by far my least favorite part. You have to file the edges to make them smooth. First file across the top of the metal strip. If you did a great job cutting, this part won't last too long. Make sure you file down all the little bumps that happen every time you opened the tin snips to make another cut. It sounds awful, I know. Go ahead and have someone scratch their fingernails on a blackboard to drown out the noise of the file.

Then put the strip parallel to the file and use long, smooth motions to take care of the "corners" on the metal strip. A word of caution -- the filing should probably done outside since you don't want your baby eating metal shavings (along with the pieces of lint and 2 day old food crumbs she always manages to find.) (Hypothetically.) And don't file right up close to your face because you don't want those shavings in your eyeballs either. And maybe use protective glasses.

Now take a break. Grab some lemonade. And if you disregarded my advice to file outside...maybe you should take this time to wipe up all those metal shavings before going any further. And while you are walking around your house, go ahead and pick up random objects. Ideally, try to make sure at least one of them is a pair of pliers. You are going to use these to help bend your cutter into the perfect shape.


Choose a starting point for your cutter. I usually start in the middle of a straight edge ...because its easier. However, if you are going to start on a corner, make sure you leave a small overhang at the end.

Start bending the sheet metal along the edge of your drawing or clip art. When you get to the first bend/corner/weirdly shaped part dig through your new stash of random objects and find something you can bend the metal around. Or, you know, walk around the house aimlessly until you find said object.

Work your way around the shape one bend at a time. For sharper turns or corners, I like to use needle-nose pliers. But sometimes I bend it in the wrong place. (Okay...OFTEN I bend it in the wrong place.) This is my second attempt at the crease in the top of the heart. See how I made it WAY too low the first time?

And now my metal strip is all wobbly and looking not at ALL the way a cookie cutter should look. Where is the promise and the potential?

Actually, its okay. If this happens to you, just straighten out the wobbles with something flat. Like flat pliers or a flat iron or a flat, umm, book or something.

See? Good as new something that was once flat and then was spirally and then bendy and then flattened again.

Keep going until you get back to your start point. Cut the metal strip about 1/2 inch past the start point. Use the pliers to pinch the two pieces of metal together so they are flush (as tight together as possible.) Then take your clamp and twist it until it is ALMOST closed. You want it to be just wider than your two pieces of metal together.

Dab some adhesive of your choice between the two layers of metal and pinch it together. Somehow manage to put the clamp on tight without squeezing adhesive all over your fingers.

Let your cutter sit overnight -- or at least twice as long as the adhesive says it needs to cure. Because as soon as its dry...you are going to want to wash it. Scrape off any adhesive that made its way out from between the overlapping edges and wash well with soap and water. Dry your cutter. Make beautiful, amazing creations.

The end.

25 comments:

Liat said...

Wow, you are good lady.... Going to the store in the morning....

DnaBoo said...

easiest tutorial I've seen yet on making your own cutters!!!

Terri said...

Wow, this was an awesome tutorial, you are very detailed and for a visual learner like me, that is really appreciated, lol...thanks for sharing!

Sarah said...

Wow! You're just too clever! I never would have thought about making cookie cutters. What a great idea.

Julie said...

This is an incredible tutorial! I've wanted to make my own cutters for years, but had little idea where to start - this is so thorough, thank you!!

Debbie said...

That's an awesome talent! I have totally been looking for a cookie cutter like the other one at in the top picture! I've only ever seen it as an expensive copper cutter.

Anna ♥ Sugarized said...

You make your own cutters too?! You are one amazing lady!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I was the one bugging you from cookiers r us web site. Just couldn't see how you could do it but you explained it very well!!! Thanks again!!

Nisson Family said...

This is so funny that you made this post today. I just posted a project on my blog that used 26 gauge sheet metal as well. lol We're a pair for sure. :) Great job on the instructions. It's very detailed w/o being overly so. Love it! Makes me want to make a cookie cutter. If only I baked...

Love ya!
Pam

faithy, the baker said...

WOW! you are so creative! I have to try this!

Aikko said...

this is fantastic!!! I want to try this! Thanks for the tutorial!

Janis said...

A girl with tools. My mother-in-law would love you. I think I'll just stick to buying my cookie cutters. But hey - yeah for you!!! Where's the cookie recipe? :) Janis

Celeste B. said...

You go girl!!!! Thanks for the info!!! :)

Jenn said...

What a great tutorial! Found your blog through Haniela's (V-day cookie contest) I look forward to adding a new blog to my reading list :) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial...I've been wanting to make some cookie cutters. Could you tell me what sealant you use and do you get it at the hardware store?

lilaloa said...

The sealant I use is called "Household Adhesive Sealant." I know...not really a clever name. The brand is DAP. I did find it at the hardware store. It was in the same aisle as the tapes and the glues. I looked at a lot of them, and this one said it was safe for dishes and other things that you use with food.

lluvia said...

Thank you so much you really do make it look easy. I have a few designs that I want to use to do cookie cutters. thanks again

lizy b said...

okay, so that's brilliant first of all. Secondly...can I just buy that fancy-dancy one from you? The 'scrolly' one that is the same shape as the top of a header? pretty please? I'm dying to try to do this, but then I know I would be spending all day making cutters, and then I'd have a new hobby....and then I'd be in deep trouble...again.

karenb said...

I just found your site and read the tutorial. You make it seem so easy
to bend that aluminum strip. I read and followed other instructions on making cookie cutters and was not sucessful at my attempts!! But, your instructions are much more detailed and seem easier to follow. The last time I tried making a cutter, I got so frustrated that I threw everything out!!! Tomorrow I'm going to purchase some more supplies and try it again!!! I'll let you know how it goes.
Love your blog, & your commentary!!
Very Funny and spot on!!!

Half Fool said...

Was directed here through FB..Sweetology to The Red Cooky to YOU! I am midlife crisising and considering following my dream of baking for a living. So, I saw your post about Homemade Cutters and HAD TO SEE THIS!!! (Can you believe I let my ex keep well over 100 cutters in the divorce? Oh well, they were dented and held memories, not so good.) So here I find an amazing tutorial- well written, great visuals, and LAUGH OUT LOUD commentary! You have a fabulous sense of humor and world perspective!! Thank you for this and thank you in advance for your blog, as I am subscribing once done with this; too often we don't let people know that they are truly extraordinary and made a mark in this world! Carry on!! :-)

Stacy @ Cardigans and Crayons said...

Oh man. And I just cut the shape I want out of an {empty} Cheerios box and cut out the dough with a toothpick. Your way is much cooler.

Jolene said...

This was so funny to learn. I mean you have me in hysterics's, & even so, I still want to run to my local hardware store. I'm looking for a cookie that resembles a Xbox video game controller. I'm wondering if your teachings can help me make this.

Eva Mari said...

Awesome tutorial, - and SO funny!! :D
Loving it!

Best regards from Eva Mari, Norway

Kalamity Kelli said...

I can't tell you how I actually got to your website because I took so many twists and turns through different blogs but I am sure glad I found you! I've been looking for months for a custom cookie cutter for my son's wedding's rehearsal dinner - to no avail. Purchasing a custom cookie cutter is cost prohibitive but now - I (or better, my husband) can make exactly what I want!! Thank you so very much. I truly appreciate it!

cheryl said...

Wow! You are Tre Fantastique!
Now WE can all make OUR OWN cookie cutters too!
Thank You for this tutorial and all the other great tutorials you so generously share with your fans. Now, we too have the opportunity to become better and better at this wonderful craft thanks, in great part, to you.

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