So, I’m not a fan of holiday decor. I want to avoid sounding super Grinch-y about this, but that might be impossible because I basically am the Grinch, minus the grand larceny. I don’t exactly hate Christmas, I just really… don’t care. Growing up, my family didn’t have any real Christmas traditions (or at least none that I can remember), so the entire season boiled down to one afternoon of tree decorating, 45 minutes of frantic toy unwrapping, then three super fun days of Winter Camp at Phantom Lake. I think my mom tried to create some traditions, but I was an obnoxious and skeptical child who had no patience for adults who were “trying things out,” so nothing ever stuck. (I will never understand how I made it past my 7th birthday un-strangled. My poor parents.) I guess it didn’t help that my very progressive elementary school’s attempts to encourage multiculturalism somehow left me with the idea that I was Jewish–for many years I set up a menorah next to the Christmas tree and my saintly father learned the shammus blessing in Hebrew, which he would recite while I lit the (birthday) candles. So Christmas as an adult is fine (presents!!) but it’s not, like, a thing for me.
Apart from my shriveled up robot heart, I also find holiday decorations pretty impractical. Like, I’m supposed to pay actual american dollars for a bunch of doodads I’m going to keep in a box 11 months out of the year? And where am I even supposed to keep this box? Is Santa going to bring me a storage space?
This year feels a little different, though. It will be my third Christmas in a row that I’m not spending with my parents, so I figure it’s reached a point where I only have two options:
- Maintain my sociopath-level indifference to joy and continue to ignore the holiday and then fret about what a monster I am
- Just be a normal human being and hang up some god damn twinkle lights because this is the weirdest thing to be conflicted about ever.
So, number two it is! I’m easing in with this super simple plywood Christmas tree, which takes up almost no room and doesn’t feel too aggressively Christmas-y.
- 1/2″ plywood–the size is up to you. Mine was leftover from my AC cover project and was about 2’x3′.
- Super awesome twinkle lights–I used some super old ones I had sitting around, but I just found these lights and I’m strongly considering replacing my old ones with them. They’re way cheap, don’t have to be plugged into a wall (they’re solar powered!) and automatically come on when it gets dark. The future is amazing!
- Small corner brackets
- Duct tape–I love white duct tape because it looks less less garage-y and also because I’m crazy
- Jig saw–this is the tool that got me into woodworking. It’s cheap, it’s super simple to use, and it’s crazy versatile.
- Corded drill–I promise if you try to use a cordless drill for this you will lose your mind.
- Clamp–this is just to secure the plywood while you’re cutting it.
- Sandpaper (optional-ish)
Step 1: Make a template for your tree or download mine (Illustrator file or PDF). Resize it if you need to and print it out on multiple sheets of paper. After you print it it’s fun to drop the stack of papers so you can spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to piece the outline together! Tape the pages together and cut out the tree shape, then trace it onto the BACK of your plywood. It’s very important that you do it on the BACK. I traced it onto the front and had to spend like 20 minutes erasing my pencil marks.
Step 2: Clamp your plywood to a table and start sawing! The reason its important to trace onto the back of your plywood is that a jigsaw cuts on the up stroke, which means the cut on the top of the piece is much messier than the bottom. It’s especially a problem with thinly-veneered plywood, because it’ll rip off the veneer in giant chunks. If you haven’t used a jigsaw before, just be aware that it doesn’t do tight curves or right angles, so you have to come at those from different directions. I made a slightly confusing diagram of how I did the cuts:
Step 3: Cut out the other side and check it out! It’s a tree! Made out of another tree! Sand the edges if you feel like it.
Step 4: Figure out where you want your lights to be. I was totally torn between doing a marquee-style outline of lights or a random scattering, but I think circles of lights or stripes would also look amazing. I used some chads from my three-hole-punch to lay out the “random” pattern, which it turns out is much harder than it sounds. If you don’t suffer from extreme project anxiety, you can probably skip this part.
Step 5: Mark your light holes (on the FRONT of the plywood this time) and start drilling! Use a bit that’s as close as possible to the size of your lights and take your time. Drilling through plywood takes forever. There might be smoke. Don’t worry, you’re doing an amazing job. There’s going to be a ton of tear out on the back of the piece, but that’s fine because it will look like garbage anyway once you attach the lights. Just peel off the splinters and don’t worry about it.
Step 6: Tape the lights on! Make sure to start at the top and work your way down, and leave some extra cord at the top in case you want to plug in a star or something. This is what mine looks like:
Step 7: Attach one of the off-cuts to the back with some angle brackets so the tree can stand on its own.
Step 8: Attach any extra decorations you want to the front. I used some gold paper circles I had sitting around but I think printing out some pastel birds or some communist hearts would be super cute too.
Yay I’ve officially decorated for Christmas! Maybe next year I’ll consider a wreath.