Every year, as Christmas rolls around, I always think that there’s no way we could possibly come up with another DIY wooden Christmas tree. Yet, here we are with another design. I love wooden Christmas trees because they can be such an easy way to add another tree to your space. I’m never giving up my real-life Christmas tree, but I love the idea of adding to your real-life tree with a DIY version. 

This year’s design was inspired by Nordstrom's Christmas decor. For the last several years, they’ve had a simple Scandinavian aesthetic for Christmas, and I absolutely adore it. Most of their decor is on another level from what I can make (like six-foot-tall wooden Dala horses). But I decided that this Christmas tree was something I just might be able to pull off. 

My biggest challenge in designing this tree was that I wanted it to break down for storage. I definitely don’t have room to store a six-foot Christmas tree, and I didn’t want to assume that others do. So, not only is this candlelight Christmas tree a beautiful addition during the holiday season—you can disassemble it for easy storage!

Step 1: Measure and drill post

Apply tape to two adjacent sides of a three-by-three post. On one taped-off side, measure 6” from the top, and then every 12” down the length until you reach 18” from the bottom. Measure down the other taped-off side, starting 12” from the bottom and marking every 12” until you’re 12” from the top. 

Place the post on top of a piece of scrap wood and clamp in place. The tape on the top and scrap wood on the bottom will keep your hole openings smooth and clean. Drill through each marking with a ¾” spade bit. Pay close attention to how you're drilling, trying to drill as straight as possible. The straighter you drill the holes, the more even your tree branches will be at the end. When you're done, remove the tape.

measure tree post
drill wood post
drill wood tree post
drilled wood tree post

Step 2: Measure and cut dowels

Measure and cut all of the dowels to length for the branches. Dowel sizing can be a little tricky—despite the assigned diameters, there can be slight variation in the width of the dowel ends. This is due to the fact that wood is organic matter that can shrink and expand. To ensure a fit that's snug but not too tight, I like to drill a piece of scrap wood and test out the dowels in the hole before purchasing them. Whenever I skip this step, I always regret it. 

Measure your dowels and mark with a pencil, then clamp down the dowel in a miter box and cut with a handsaw.

Cut list

  • Cut one dowel into one 8 ½” length and one 27” length.
  • Cut another dowel into one 11 ¾” lengths and one 24” length.
  • And cut a third dowel into one 14 ¾” length and one 18 ¼” length.
  • Then cut the rest of the dowels into one of each following length: 21 ½”, 30”, 33”.
  • Leave one dowel at a full 36” length. 

Measure to find the middle of each dowel and mark 1 ¼” on either side. This will act as a guide when sliding the dowel into the tree trunk and to make each branch perfectly even.

measure dowel
cut wooden dowel
wood christmas tree pieces

Step 3: Cut and drill full round moulding for candleholders

To make the candleholders on the ends of each branch, we’ll cut up pieces of round moulding (which is basically just a larger dowel) and drill holes for the candles. Then, we’ll drill holes to slide the holder onto the branch.

First, measure and cut the round moulding into 20 2” pieces and one 1 ½” piece. Make the cuts with a handsaw and a miter box, just like we did with the dowels. Next, drill a 13/16” hole (¾” deep) centered in the top of each cut piece with a spade bit, and drill a ¾” hole in the side ½” from the bottom. 

This part is a little bit tricky, so here’s my advice: First, finding the center of the circular top can be difficult to do with a tape measure or a speed square. I find that it’s easiest to trace the circle onto a piece of paper and then fold the circle in half in multiple directions to find the center. Line up the paper circle on the moulding and mark the center with a pencil or an awl.

Second, drilling with such large bits on such a small piece is tricky and can be dangerous if you don’t firmly secure the round moulding. After many improvised solutions, I settled on building a small holder out of some scrap wood around one of the pieces of moulding so that it was held snugly in place. I then clamped the holder down with a couple clamps, and then clamped the moulding to the holder to get a firm grip. This worked out wonderfully!

Lastly, be sure to add tape to your spade bits as a guide so you don’t drill too far! The top hole should only be ¾” deep, and the hole in the side should be as deep as possible without breaking through the other side. 

For the one 1 ½” piece, only drill a hole in the top. This candle holder will go on the very top of the tree.

Step 4: Cut base

Next, let’s cut out the pieces for the base. You can use white wood two-by-four, but we happened to have a vertical grain Doug fir two-by-four laying around, which was the perfect option because it matched the Doug fir three-by-three post!

Cut out four pieces with opposing 45° bevel cuts (think box vs. frame), making the shorter side equal to the width of the three-by-three post (approx. 2 ½”). These pieces will make the collar of the base. Cut four more pieces to 12” for the feet of the base. Wait to assemble until after sanding.

Step 5: Sand

This is the step where you get to sand everything you’ve just cut. You can get away with sanding everything by hand, but getting out the power sander will definitely speed things up. Sand everything with 150-grit sandpaper or with a fine/medium sanding sponge.

Whether you opt for a power sander or a sanding sponge, I’d keep a small piece of sandpaper handy to get into all of the drilled holes in the post and the round moulding. 

Step 6: Assemble base

To assemble the base of the tree, drill pilot holes through both beveled edges of two of the shorter two-by-four pieces (I did this with a countersink bit to give a really nice, finished look). Secure all four pieces together with glue and 1 ½” screws. 

Position the 12” lengths underneath the shorter pieces so that they overlap and spread out for support. Drill pilot holes through these pieces and then secure in place with glue and 3” screws. And there’s the base for the tree!

If the “trunk” is a little loose in the base, you can permanently add some plastic shims on the inside of the collar to make it more secure. Or you can fix it with a myriad of household solutions like pieces of cardboard, folded up paper, or cutting a makeshift shim from a wine cork.

Step 7: Treat with mineral oil

Before you assemble everything is a great time to apply a stain or finish to the wood. Because we used so many different species of wood in this project (Doug fir, hemlock, and birch) I decided to embrace the contrasting colors and wood grains to highlight the individual characteristics of each type of wood. If you want to take this route, a great option is to use something light and conditioning, like mineral oil. Mineral oil is an all-natural, food-safe option that oils the wood and brings out the color and the grain. Before you opt for this, know that this isn’t permanent (like a stain), and will need to be reapplied every year or two to keep it looking nice. 

I do love this product because it’s just a simple matter of rubbing on the oil with a rag and you’re good to go. Not to mention, it’s inexpensive and you can purchase it from the drug store. The key is to find the kind of mineral oil that’s advertised for your health, not the mineral oil that’s advertised as “food-safe” for use on cutting boards. It’s the exact same product, but the food-safe version is usually more expensive. 

Allow the wood to soak up the oil for a few minutes before moving onto the next step. 

Step 8: Assemble trunk and branches

To assemble the tree, place the “trunk” inside of the base. Insert the dowels into the post starting with the shortest dowel at the top and working your way down to the longest at the bottom. Line up the pencil markings with either side of the post so that each dowel is centered in the post. Adjust the base with shims or cardboard as needed to keep the tree straight.

Two sides of your post will have pilot holes drilled for nails to keep the candles from swiveling downward. Mark the center of the post, then drill through it and into the middle of the dowel with a 3/32” drill bit (see the last two photos in this step). This hole should be just big enough to easily push in a 4d 1 1/2” box nail. The nail will hold the branch in place so that it stays centered, and so that the weight of the candle doesn’t spin it around (no one wants a Christmas tree with upside down candles). Repeat with each dowel until all of the branches are centered and secured. 

Step 9: Attach candleholders

Along the two sides opposite from the nails in the post, secure candleholders onto the end of each dowel branch with glue. Place a candle in each holder to make sure it’s straight before leaving to dry. Add glue to the bottom of the 1 ½” piece and place it centered on the very top of the tree.

For the opposite sides, we’re going to secure the candleholders in the same way we secured the branches to the trunk so that they can be removed. Place a candleholder onto the end of a branch. Use a candle to make sure it’s straight. Drill through the side of the candleholder into the end of the dowel with a 5/64" drill bit. Push a 16 x 1 1/4" nail into place. If you place your nails strategically, you’ll be able to have the nails on the post and the nails on the candleholders all on the same side so you have one completely nail-free side of the tree. 

As a last step—so you don’t lose your mind next year when you go to assemble—remove each candleholder one by one and write a number on the inside of the hole and on the end of the corresponding dowel. This way, reassembly will be quick and mindless!

I also noticed later, when I got a chance to disassemble and reassemble, that it's important to note which direction the dowels are inserted into the tree. It should all be the same direction for each side, so I recommend taking out one of the branches on either side of the trunk and making a mark on the inside of the hole in the trunk (draw an arrow or write “in”). This way you'll always know which direction the dowels slide in so that the nail holes line up!

Step 10: Make candle rings

To really bring this tree to life, we’re adding a pop of green. Cut up your garland into 6” strips with a pair of cutting pliers. Bend the garland into circles and wrap the ends around each other to create 21 candle rings. 

Once the glue on the tree has dried, add each candle with its garland to the tree. The candle “flames” turn on with buttons on the bottom of each candle, but I intentionally picked these specific candles because they came with a remote which makes the job so much faster

candlelight wood christmas tree

With its easy assembly and simple aesthetic, this tree will be your favorite piece of holiday decor to unpack for years to come!

If you’re looking for more Dunn DIY Christmas decor ideas, head to DunnDIY.com and check out how to make a Christmas wreath, a gingerbread house, and a DIY Christmas stocking.