How to make a dowel Christmas tree

Simple and elegant, this D.I.Y. timber tree is a perfect festive centrepiece. Made using two thicknesses of dowel, it’s a straightforward project if you have a drill press. If not, clamp the dowel before drilling to make sure the holes are straight.

Bunnings magazine, December 2019

Tools and materials

Safety equipment

Measuring tape and pencil

Mitre saw

Drill press

10mm dowel drill bit

Sanding block with 180-grit abrasive paper

Two quick-grip clamps

28mm speedbor spade drill bit

Drill with 8G combination countersinking bit

Rubber mallet

2.4m length of 28.6mm-diameter clear pine dowel (x 1)

Timber adhesive

Drill press jig made from timber offcuts (we used 12mm moulding and 600mm length of 140mm-wide pine)

1.2m lengths of 9mm-diameter clear pine dowel (x 10)

1.2m length of 89mm x 19mm premium dressed pine (x 1)

8G x 30mm countersunk timber screws (x 4)

8G x 60mm countersunk timber screw (x 1)

1. Make the centre of the tree

To make the centre of the tree, measure and mark the 28.6mm-diameter dowel to 1300mm, cutting with a mitre saw. Draw a six-pointed star on the end grain then, from every second point of the star, mark lines down the side using an offcut as a straight edge.

Tip: You should have three lines to indicate the staggered set-out of the branches.

Branching Out

2. Measure and mark

From the top of the dowel, measure along one line, marking 80mm from the end, then measure and mark eight 120mm intervals to make nine marks. On the next line, measure 120mm from the top, then measure and mark eight 120mm intervals to make nine marks. On the remaining line, measure 160mm from the top, then measure and mark eight 120mm intervals to make nine marks.

Branching Out

3. Drill the holes

Make a drill press jig by gluing two lengths of 12mm moulding to a length of pine to hold the dowel while drilling, then set up a drill press with 10mm dowel drill bit. Working down one line at a time, make the holes, drilling through the dowel at each mark. Use 180-grit paper to smooth the holes and remove the lines.

Tip: If you don’t have a drill press, use a drill with the same jig, clamping the dowel before drilling to ensure straight holes.

Branching Out

4. Measure the branches

On the lengths of 9mm dowel, measure and mark out the branches, with three lengths each at 760mm, 690mm, 600mm, 520mm, 440mm, 360mm, 280mm, 200mm and 120mm, cutting with a mitre saw.

Tip: You should have 27 branches, with three of each length. Cut the longest pieces first then use offcuts for the shorter ones. Smooth the ends with abrasive paper.

Branching Out

5. Make the base

To make the base of the dowel tree, on the 89mm x 19mm premium dressed pine, measure and mark out two crossbars 360mm long and two feet 120mm long, cutting with a mitre saw. Mark the centre of the crossbars by measuring widthways and lengthways.

Branching Out

6. Drill a hole through the centre

Set up a drill press with a 28mm speedbor spade  drill bit, then clamp a crossbar  to drill through the centre to  form the top. Remove then clamp the remaining crossbar, drilling just halfway through to form the base that supports the centre dowel of the tree. Sand inside the holes to widen them slightly.

Branching Out

7. Add the crossbar

On the 120mm lengths, use a countersinking bit to drill two holes, then position the pieces flush at either end of the top crossbar, securing with 30mm screws. Centre this top crossbar across the base crossbar, with feet facing down and centre holes in line. Check the centre dowel fits in the holes and smooth base with abrasive paper if needed.

Branching Out

8. Insert the dowel and add the branches

Dab adhesive onto the half-hole in the base crossbar, tap in the centre dowel piece using a mallet and secure from underneath with a 60mm screw. Thread the dowel branches into the holes of the centre piece, starting at the base with the long pieces, working up.

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