Since moving from Ottawa, I've returned to the city annually to visit my friend Ashley. Last year I really wanted to find the perfect gift (to thank her and her hubby for putting up with me!). I searched high and low, but couldn't find anything. She loves tea, so I ended up buying a few specialty blends you can only find in my city. It was a good gift, but not a great gift. This year I still couldn't find anything, even though I scoured every local shop and artisan sale. One night, shortly before my trip, Ashley and I were texting back and forth, planning my visit and chatting about her holiday decorations because I had promised to help her decorate before I returned home. I texted her a photo of a wood Crate and Barrel A-frame ornament stand and she loved it! Then I realized that Crate and Barrel no longer sells the wood version (although a metal version can still be purchased). Oops! I had already sold her on it.
Undeterred, I rooked Handy Hubby into building a pair of tree-shaped wood ornament stands with me. They just barely fit in my suitcase but, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and cushioned with clothing, they survived the flight - and Ashley loved them!
Here's how to make these simple, DIY A-frame ornament stands.
- 3/8" Dowel
- 1/2" x 1-1/2" wood for the sides. Home Depot calls this Craft S4S (smooth four sides) and it would be in the moulding & millwork aisle of most home reno stores.
- 1/2" x 4" wood for the base. This is also referred to as Craft S4S. It is basically small lumber or project wood.
- Wood glue.
- Painter's tape (used for clamping corners without marking surface).
- Chop saw (or miter saw, hand saw...)
- Drill and bit (sized the same as the dowel, 3/8")
- Sliding T-bevel
- Brushes, rags, gloves etc. for stain application
- Varathane Ultimate Wood Stain - Chocolate
- Varathane Professional Clear Finish - Satin
First we laid out the pieces and determined what shape and angle we wanted for the tree. Using a T-bevel, we captured the angle between the two sides so we could adjust the miter to that angle.
Then, once we determined that our miter saw cannot cut an angle that steep, we adjusted the miter saw to the steepest angle possible and went with that. Your results may vary ;)
We cut one end of each our two side pieces to that angle and laid them out on a table with the newly cut ends together, but overlapped so the end grain of one is covered and the other is exposed. Here's a look at the peak of the finished stand, so it makes sense:
With the peak lined up, we measured down each side and marked on both sides (with a pencil line) where the bottom cross piece should be located. Specifically, we marked where the pieces met on either the cross piece or the side piece. If you're making one of these, keep in mind that these marks determine which pieces will overlap and have exposed end grain.
Using the T-bevel, we captured the angle of the lines we just drew. As this is an isosceles triangle, the angle should be the same for the left and right sides. We adjusted the angle on the miter saw blade to match the angle captured by the bevel and cut the appropriate ends to make the overlap.
Once all sides were cut, we laid them out and measured for placement of the dowels. We measured from the top peak down each side, evenly spacing the dowels. Of course, this measurement will vary based on how many dowels and what space you'd prefer between them. Both the smaller tree (which is 18 1/4" tall) and the larger tree (22 1/4" tall) have about 3 1/2 - 4" inches between the dowels. We weren't super precise with this measurement.
We marked off the points and drilled holes in each location (not all the way through - just enough to hold the dowels in place). These did not go in straight, but at the same angle that we had just used for cutting the bottom piece. We used the bevel that was already set from the last cutting step.
Here's a better look at the holes:
Once the pieces were cut and the holes for the dowels was drilled, we cut the dowel with a chop saw to length - the lengths were determined for us by the angles used to make the frame of the tree. With the dowel pieces cut, we laid all of the pieces out. Before touching the wood glue, we dry fit the trees to make doubly sure that everything was cut perfectly. When we were confident that everything looked right, we started gluing. We started at the top peak, and while Hubby held the corner, I worked down the tree, gluing the ends of the dowel and assembling the tree. We worked quickly to glue and then made a few adjustments so everything was assembled tightly. It was definitely a two-person job (and not without it's frustrating moments).
To make it a bit easier when you start gluing, use a pencil and put a mark on the places that will be glued. We numbered each joint, so we knew to put glue on the number three and stick it to the other number three.
To keep the trees together while the glue dried, we just used some painter's tape on the corners to keep everything tight. No nails required because the glue holds strongly - strong enough to withstand the rough handling of baggage handlers!
We let the tree shape dry for 24 hours and then we glued the base on, again using painter's tape to hold it in place while the glued dried (another 24 hours).
Before I stained them, they were already looking so cute:
If I had kept them for myself, I might have just given them a clear coat or stained them grey. Or (who am I kidding?), painted them aqua. My friend has a rustic, somewhat traditional Christmas scheme and favors warm, dark woods so I used the same Varathane chocolate wood stain I used for my DIY nautical rope accent table.
Before staining, I lightly sanded the surface, edges and corners with a fine grit sandpaper to ensure there were no sharp edges or rough areas. I wiped the dust off with a tack cloth and then got to work staining. I just applied the stain with a rag and removed it after a few minutes with a clean cloth - so simple. That same day I applied a coat of Varathane satin clear finish (also left over from the nautical table project).
I couldn't resist taking photos of them in the lakehouse because I love how the chocolate stain pairs with glittery teal and pale blue ornaments.
I really liked bringing something handmade as a gift, so now I need ideas for my next visit - preferably something a little more portable!