Each year as the weather begins to cool and frosty temperatures arrive; the mice begin to stir looking for a warmer abode. Soon enough we discover that they have decided to co-habitate with us and encroach on space that we consider sacred. Perhaps it is because we envision mice as occupying a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder that we strive to have them evicted. Mice, it turns out, have a strong celebratory sense of the season and enjoy nothing better than spending the holidays with their family and loved ones in thanksgiving and praise. With a little insight and glue, you can create your very own private mouse family to share your human family and friends.
*Always work safely and supervise younger children.
*CAUTION: Even low-temp glue guns can cause serious burns.
*These mice have small parts that can break off and create a choking hazard;
not suitable for children under five.
Tools you will need:
Yellow carpenter’s glue, or a low-temperature glue gun (*see CAUTION)
Small Japanese pull saw, or coping saw
Sturdy scissors, or pruning shears
Sandpaper- one small piece, or woodworker’s file
Woodworker’s knife, penknife, or utility knife
Tweezers- optional to position small eyes
Materials for each mouse:
One large English walnut or pecan for a body
One smaller walnut, pecan, hickory nut, or whole nutmeg for a head
Two acorn caps of similar size for ears
Two whole black peppercorns, or two black glass beads for eyes
Two large (loblolly) pinecone scales for feet
Two small pinecone scales, or small twigs to suit for arms
One grapevine tendril for a tail (small segment of a vine works too)
Base piece 1 inch diameter sawn ¼ inch thick, from a branch
Decorate your holiday mouse with whatever you desire- ribbon, yarn, tinsel, glitter, or paint to suit your taste. Usually, we try to make our mice from all natural materials as much as possible. Craft material can be found even in metropolitan areas in vacant lots, edges of parking lots, parks, or under streetside trees. I carry several zip-lok bags and gather materials in season as available. If kept dry and away from insects and rodents (the warm furry kind), they will keep indefinitely.
So, when it becomes time to construct your mouse, you will have plenty of parts on hand. I realize that not everyone is able to forage for materials, however you can purchase nearly everything needed in the supermarket. Substitute whatever you find and make a truly unique rodent. Don’t be bound by convention. Just let your imagination run wild. Children are not prejudiced by preconceived notions and have wonderful ideas. There is no right or wrong mouse here. You might be amazed by the creature they invented, and it will certainly be special to them.
Here is how I built the mouse illustrated (see photos). Saw a small base plate disk from the end of a well-seasoned branch and lay it on a stable surface. Remove two large pinecone scales from the cone with pruning shears. Trim the edges, if necessary. Glue these to the surface of the disk as shown. File or sand a flat spot on each end of the large walnut so it will stand firmly on the feet and the head will sit down better when it is glued on later. Glue the large walnut onto the feet. Set this aside and allow to fully dry in a warm place. (Alternatively, this can be carefully done by an adult using hot glue which
eliminates cure time but increases the burn factor).
Next work on the head. File or sand a small arc in the edge of each acorn cap ear to match the curvature of the head-nut selected. Glue the ears in place on the head. I used whole peppercorns for the eyes. First sand each peppercorn flat on one side to make a somewhat hemispherical shape. This makes a good glue surface for attaching the eyes. Put a small drop of glue on each eye and put in place. Set this aside to dry fully. Once the head and the body are dry the head can be glued to the body. Allow this to dry.
Finally the arms, whichever type you chose, are glued in place. We almost always glue a grapevine tendril on as a final step. You can substitute whatever you have, a small section of vine, a grass stem, or a pipe cleaner.
That completes the basic mouse. All that is left is to decorate and fit him out for the season. We display our mice in a rather elaborate mouse house but a simple cardboard box, or free standing on a shelf, is just as good. Once they are totally completed and decorated, they could also be hung on a tree using sewing thread or monofilament fishing line. Green-colored, soft, florists wire is available at craft stores and is easy to work with and makes good hangers, too. Whatever you choose, enjoy your mice.
Brandywine Critters, edited by Donna M. Gormel and Lucinda C. Laird
Lots of ideas can be found by an internet search.