A Pine Tree for Christmas

Christmas ornaments up close

At the end of November, Remodelista featured the Filigrantrae, a Danish wooden Christmas tree that can be used year after year. I was taken, but the marthaandtom production budget didn’t exactly have $275 floating around with which to fulfill all our Scandinavian holiday fantasies.

Almost immediately after seeing the images on Remodelista and then Design Public, a little idea floated into my head… I could make this myself. A typical I-could-make-that feeling turns into “I could make it, I just didn’t” …but not this time.

With the aid of a math problem made Facebook status, I developed a plan, helped along by Emma’s Designblogg‘s sharing of a series of photographs originally from Bolig Magazine of a Danish family’s home with one of these babies in every room (at $275, you bet they come in multiple colors: rødt, lime, sort, hvidt, and lilla). This was the final inspiration I needed.

With only hours left before snow would seal us in our apartment for the foreseeable future, we made a mad dash for Home Depot on Friday night. While everyone else was stocking up on snowblowers and shovels, Tom and I were shopping lumber. At $26.86 before tax – power-sawing included – we were off to a good start.

dowels and pieces of wood on a cart

homemade Danish reusable Christmas tree

As of yesterday evening, we now have a fully-decorated tree that can be used again and again.

Before you head to your local lumberyard to buy out their dowel supply, I would share that this wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I have a renewed understanding of what it means to have the right tools for the job and a steadier hand with a drill. With all of the mistakes that went into this one, I was very tempted yesterday to throw out the central pole and begin again (I bought different drill bits midway through the project almost doubling the total cost. But at less than $50, I’m still not complaining).

While it’s not perfect, I’m taking the suggestion of my father (who I must thank for his willing participation in a video-chat planning session on Saturday) and living with all the character of this first attempt. With no further work in store, I finished just in time for my self-imposed deadline of December 15, the night before my family’s tradition of reading the Novena de Aguinaldo is to begin.

The Ingredients:

  • Four ½” round pine dowels, each 48″ in length cut into twelve sections in varying sizes*
  • One 5′ pine closet pole**
  • One tapped ¼-20 wood insert
  • One bolt to fit the above insert (mine was about 2.5″ long)
  • One pine 1×4 cut to lengths of 16.5″ (2 pieces) and 4″ (two pieces)
  • Wood Glue (you’ll need screws and/or wood clamps to get a tight seal)
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill (ours is cordless) with the following drill bits:
  1. Wood specific*** bit (for drilling into the center pole)
  2. A smaller but not too small bit for creating pilot holes before using the ½” bit
  3. ¼” bit (to create holes in the base and central pole for the bolt
  4. â…œ” bit (to create a hole in the central pole for the wood insert)

Don’t forget wood scraps for practice if you’re less-than-handy with your drill. I bought a 1′ section of a closet pole in addition to the 5′ central pole of the tree to practice making ½” holes and kept the extras from the 1×4 to prevent my drill from going through our living room floor.

All measurements included are approximations based on studying pictures and descriptions of the original Danish design. If you plan to make your own, don’t worry about sticking too carefully to the exact specifications listed here. Note also that the original design uses birch, which is no doubt much easier to obtain in northern Europe than in a big box wood retailer in the midwestern United States, where pine is widely available for a very low cost.

Notes & Tips

*My plan called for 1×4″, 3×6″, 2×10″, 2×16″, 3×20″, 1×18″, 1×26″.

** The original design has an angled cut at the top… I forgot to request this of the staff at Home Depot. This is probably best done with a handsaw at home, though.

***Using drill bits not made specifically for wood working may result in much less than perfect drilling. For best results, DO NOT use a flat bit, even if it is specified for use on wood. I used this brand and was able to buy a single ½” bit at the hardware store. For help getting to know your drill, click over to Design*Sponge’s new feature on building your toolbox.


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21 comments on “A Pine Tree for Christmas”

  1. trout caviar 13 December, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Too great. Way to go. Y’r biggest fans~ b & m

  2. Cassie 13 December, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Sweet! I love it! That is awesome, and you might have to make me a mini one. 🙂

  3. Marcela 13 December, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Beautiful, Martha. The pictures are great too. You are so talented!

  4. Delaney 14 December, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    This is lovely! I’m also curious where that adorable blue MN ornament came from.

  5. Merry Beck 14 December, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Hello Martha,
    Thank you so much for spotlighting one of our ornaments on your blog. The ornament is fused glass in the form of MN state cut out. It is made by local artist Vicki Olson, and we have them available in several different color combination, they sell for $15. Thank you so much again for the mention. Merry Beck @ Gallery 360

  6. Kevin 14 December, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Festivus is right round the corner!

  7. Martha 14 December, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for chiming in, Merry! I hope you can find one soon, Delaney.

  8. Amy 16 December, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Martha–that turned out beautifully! I love the simple, clean colors. what a treasure for years to come, adding to it each year. Definitely an educating project!

  9. Anna @ D16 18 December, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Thank you for doing all of the hard work, Martha!! You’ve made the entire project much much much easier for the rest of us. 🙂

  10. Jeri 24 December, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I stumbled upon this pine tree and I love it! I don’t have
    a spot on the floor for a big one like yours, but I could certainly
    accomodate a table top version for my dining room table or other
    tables in the house. It’s really, really cute and can be easily
    changed for each holiday or season. What a great idea! In fact,
    perhaps some lucky family members might just receive one next
    Christmas! Thank you

  11. Sara 28 December, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    M & T – you should sell these for sure! I’d pay
    $100 for that lovely tree. 100% profit is a pretty good

  12. Martha 29 December, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Sara… If folks want to buy a Filigrantrae, I’d encourage them to buy one from the original manufacturer (available at Design Public in the US, as noted above).

  13. Jessica 3 December, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    My husband and I made a tree following your specifications in four short hours today (including Home Depot and a visit with friends to use their drill).
    This is our first Christmas tree and we couldn’t be more proud of it! He wants to stain it tomorrow but I already have each ornament in place.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this!

  14. Martha 22 December, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Three things!

    1. Jessica: Thanks for sharing your success! I’m glad to hear you were able to create a similar tree using my “ingredient” list. Feel free to email a picture, we’d love to see it.

    2. Note: For the next time I make a tree (or the next time I drill through any piece of wood) I’ll be reminding myself of Benita @ Chez Larsson’s tips on drilling here.

    3. Update: Apartment Therapy’s 2011 “10 DIY Modern Holiday Alternatives” feature our tree.

  15. A 20 September, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. We have a family member that is planning to visit us over the holidays who is allergic to live trees. We didn’t want to buy a traditional fake tree and we were pondering what to do. This is a fantastic alternative.

  16. Ryan 16 November, 2013 at 5:54 am

    LOVE this idea! I plan on making it for this Christmas! I can’t wait to get started. I have one question – how far are the dowels spaced on the tree?

  17. Helen Tsatsos 13 December, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    I just finished my tree, thanks to your specifications. I am so friggin’ excited I want to post a picture before I even decorate it! Thank you so much!

  18. Amy 16 December, 2013 at 6:49 am

    My mother had a flat version of this that is table top size and would decorate it for Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

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