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Picture of Christmas Tree Trunk Reading Light
lights off.jpg

Even if your township or city has a Christmas tree composting or mulching program, its hard to see such a lovely tree go. So why not harvest this year's Christmas tree to make next year's gifts or to make yourself a special memento?

This project upcycles a Christmas tree trunk into bases for lovely, simple reading lights. When used with an Edison bulb, it makes a natural, warm and cozy bedside reading light that's gentle on the eyes as well as the wallet.


  • Basic woodworking
  • Basic electrical

TOOLS (Required)

  • Standard cordless drill
  • 1-1/2 inch Spade or Forstner drill bit with shank compatible with standard 3/8 inch cordless drill chuck
  • 1/8 and 1/2 inch standard drill bits
  • 1/2 inch wood chisel
  • Mallet or hammer
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Heavy-duty stapler with 1/2 inch staples
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Gloves
  • A vise or two 6 inch bar clamps or c-clamps
  • Razor blade
  • Two small (think eyeglass kit) flat head screwdrivers
  • Hand saw

TOOLS (Optional)

MATERIALS (Required)

MATERIALS (Optional)

Note: I strongly suggest wearing gloves for all steps, until the wood dries out. Otherwise, as you can see from the picture above, you will get sap all over your hands, and its impossible to get off! Links to products are listed in case you don't know what a particular tool is, or are confused by all the options out there and all the lively debates you'll find on forums when doing your research!

Cost of materials can range from $0 (if entirely up-cycled) to ~$30 per lamp, if you purchase a new light pendant and Edison bulb and decide to apply stain and sealer (and need to purchase it). Re-use materials and borrow tools whenever possible! Look up local tool libraries and maker spaces, and utilize buy-nothing groups and thrift/re-use stores. You're also bound to have a neighbor willing to loan tools and scrap materials.

Step 1: Harvest the Trunk

Picture of Harvest the Trunk

Using a standard hand-saw, pruning saw or even a chain-saw, cut off the lower portion of the trunk from your tree. The location where you cut should be where the trunk becomes less than 3 inches in diameter. For a typical 6 foot Christmas tree, you should be able to salvage at least 1 foot of trunk which will make about 4 lamp bases. Although it doesn't have to be exact, a simple way to check the diameter is to cut a piece of string 9.5 inches long (Circumference = Diameter * PI, 3 inches * PI ~= 9.42 inches).

In order to make the cut, it might be necessary to first clear a few branches out of the way, either by breaking them or cutting them (pruning shears work best). Regardless of the method, be sure to not cut or break the limbs too close to the trunk, as you don't want to strip the bark. Its also suggested to make one continuous cut thru the entire trunk, rather than cut it from multiple directions, such that you have a nice clean cut that doesn't require excessive sanding to smooth out later. To do so, its helpful to have the trunk off the ground so its easier to saw.

Note: A sharp saw makes for easy work. Check out some videos on how to sharpen hand saws and cut wood just like butter!

seamster1 year ago

Very cool. I've made a few projects using old Christmas trees, so I really got a kick out of seeing this. Nicely done! :)

pduffey (author)  seamster1 year ago

Thanks! What kind of stuff have you made out of them? I've also re-used tree branches for wall hangers for stringed instruments, looks like they are growing out of the wall haha.

This was inspired a few years ago when I was walking around a shopping mall in Japan and saw some simple lamps in square wooden bases. They cost something like $50, and like any maker, immediately thought "hey, I could make that (for a lot less)!" haha.

Here's two things I made from Christmas trees:


I'm most proud of the didgeridoo - it has held up well and I still have it! : )