home made christmas tree box
Photo: Helen Norman
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December: House-Parts Trimmings

While ceiling-high evergreens might be the norm today, up until the late 19th century most Christmas trees fit tidily on a table. But the fact that they were small doesn’t mean they couldn't make a big statement. Just check out our festive take, shown here. Set inside a box clad with tin ceiling tiles, and adorned with keyhole hardware and dollhouse doors and windows, this tree pays homage to the historic house in which it resides. To create your own version, simply pick out some architectural elements of your home you’d like to highlight. Then turn the page for pointers on building the tree box and assembling the ornaments.

1. Construct the legs. Glue and nail a 1x1 strip flush with the long edge of a 1x2 strip to form an L-shaped leg that’s more than tall enough to accommodate your tree’s pot. Repeat three times.
2. Build the body. Cut four panels from ¼-inch plywood, making two of them ½ inch narrower than the other two. All four should be as tall as the legs you just made. Glue and nail the panels so that they sit inside the legs, as shown. Make sure the narrow panels face each other and the wide panels face each other. You will now have a box that’s open at both ends.
3. Support the bottom of the box. Glue and nail scrap blocking to either end of the box, then tack on a center support at the same height. To create the bottom panel, cut a piece of ¼-inch plywood that’s slightly smaller than the box’s interior dimensions. Slide the panel down into the box, and rest it on your supports. Glue and nail, if desired, for extra support.
4. Trim the bottom of the panels. Create a bottom rail by cutting a 1½-inch strip of 1x2 to fit between the box’s legs. Nail, and repeat on all sides.
5. Insert the tin. Cut a tin ceiling tile with tin snips to fit snugly inside your box frame. (We used a standard 2-by-2-foot tile from americantinceilings.com that we cut into four equal squares). Apply vinyl adhesive caulk to the back of the tin, fit it inside the frame, and seal with the caulk.
6. Cap and paint. Turn the box rightside up. Line the top inside edges with 1x1 strips. Cap the box by gluing and nailing four 1x4 pieces with mitered corners to the supports you just made. Sand the wood, then finish by priming and painting it with a latex in a color of your choice.
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