This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in November 2014.
I know that a project goes well when my husband and kids comment on it with amazement – my newest holiday craft continues to be a head turner in our household.
Maybe you wouldn’t believe it at first glance, but these little trees were made of everyday wooden paint stirrers and a simple 3/8″ wooden dowel. They’re endlessly customizable, making them the perfect project to suit your own holiday decor.
The easiest way to 100 wooden paint stirrers is to buy them – aim to pay between $12-20 depending on length and supplier. It’s more expensive than slowly collecting them from your local hardware store, but you won’t have to deal with store branding painted on the handle.
Your vision might include a specific color paint or stain, and in any case, it’s easier to paint the wood while the sticks are in full-size and not yet assembled. I wanted to leave most of my trees a natural wood color, but edge them in white for a snowy tree effect. To do similarly, clamp the sticks together very tight, and then paint over the exposed area with a foam brush that will apply evenly without drips. Allow the sticks to dry completely, while clamped together.
If the sticks aren’t clamped tightly, you might find that some of the paint has dripped between the slots. I liken this to snow accumulation on branches, and let any imperfections roll off my back.
When it comes time to cut your paint sticks down to various lengths, I found it best to stagger bunches of sticks, clamp them together, and then do a cut with the chop saw that results in an assortment of sizes. Once you have some pieces cut, you can deduce what other lengths of paint stirrers you will need in order to have a full range on hand.
Depending on how you cut your paint stirrers, you might have enough to create three trees of assorted sizes. Maybe more than three! Sort the cut paint sticks into pyramids to determine how many you need for each tree.
Using the 3/8″ bit, drill through the center of each paint stirrer. Before you get too far, make certain that the bit you’re using will be a good match for your dowel. Check your work by sliding a few pieces onto the dowel. They should go on easily, but tightly, so they aren’t inclined to slide around unless under force.
When you’re done drilling holes, organize the pieces once again by length and prepare to assemble your tree.
The tree comes together quite easily. If you wish, keep a 1/8″ space between each board – less if you want a short tree, more if you want one that’s taller and skinnier.
Trim away the excess dowel using your handsaw, and using the chop saw, cut pieces of 2×2 or 4×4 board to length (8″-12″ is reasonable for bigger trees to prevent tipping), and paint it too if you wish. The base of your tree is made by simply drilling a 3/8″ hole in the center of the base, with the bit as perpendicular to the base as possible so that the dowel stands perfectly upright.
Complete assembly of any remaining trees, and organize them as a group as a unique and eye-catching mantle decoration this holiday season. Decorate with mini-LED lights, tree toppers, or ornaments if you wish!