How-To: Build a Holiday Reindeer and Sleigh For $15

Many of the suggested holiday wood projects we see on project sites take on a Julia Childs approach to design - you know, using materials you don't have, tools you can't afford, and plans you couldn't draw up even if you were a rocket scientist. So to combat this effect we put together a reindeer and accompanying sleigh that you can assemble with few simple tools and under $15 worth of lumber - in under a day.

Note: As this is a Craftsman-sponsored project, you'll notice a number of Craftsman tools in the photos. But here's a secret: we already owned 'em all. You can, of course, attack this project with tools of your choice.

The complete list of materials consists of two 1x12x6' pieces of pine, a few nails, and two optional cans of paint.

5 in. Vibrafree Random Orbit Sander Craftsman
Nextec 12V Hammerhead Auto-Hammer Craftsman
Drill, Multi-Saw and Worklight Combo Craftsman
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Step 1: Sketch Out A Few Reindeer Parts

Picture of Sketch Out A Few Reindeer Parts
First you'll need to sketch out a few reindeer parts. This isn't an exact science here and is a great place to have some fun designing your deer. It basically will consist of six parts: the front and back leg pieces, a body, a neck, a head, and a set of antlers. Remember: your drawings don't need to be perfect. And don't worry about messing up. Just roughly sketch parts similar to what you see here in pencil. When you're happy with your pieces go ahead and trace over them with a sharpie.

Step 2: Cut Out The Pieces

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Now it's time to cut out the pieces. We grabbed Craftsman's Li-Ion Mutli-Saw which acts just like a regular jigsaw (except it's a bunch smaller) and cut along the black lines to free our new pieces up. Slower cutting will actually help you stay in inside the lines and will and save you a bit of time trimming the fat later on.

Step 3: Fastening Pieces Together

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Fastening the reindeer's pieces together is simple. Just take a piece of scrap you just cut with a straight edge on it and mark a notch in the wood using the scrap as a guide. Mark the depth of the notch at about an inch, though super accurate measuring isn't really necessary.

Step 4: Cut The Notches Out

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Cut the notches out as best you can. Remember to error on the tight side. Cutting too much out of the joints will make them loose and wiggly and the reindeer will tend to want to fall down or parts fall off. Trust us: there's nothing that kills the spirit like a reindeer with a head that falls off all the time.

Step 5: Fit The Pieces Together

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Fit the pieces together. Attach the legs and neck to the body and the antlers to the head, then fit the head to the neck. If you've done it correctly you should have an uber-adorable reindeer standing in the shop. If you have a wobbly reindeer you might have to re-cut notches or make a new piece or two. If you have a misshapen reindeer some work with the multi-saw might be in order. Make adjustments as necessary.

Step 6: Sanding

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Next, knock it back apart for a bit of sanding work. We went to town with Craftsman's VibraFree palm sander to smooth out the rough edges and rid our deer of annoying potential splinters.

Reassemble the reindeer and it's ready for finishing.

Step 7: Draw a Rough Sleigh Shape

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The sleigh to accompany our reindeer is, well, more of the same. First draw a rough sleigh shape with pencil. Again it's not super-critical to be perfect here. You're just looking to get your idea down on the wood.

Step 8: Outline The Shape

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Next outline the shape you want in sharpie or something you can see easily (and not mistake for pencil).

Step 9: Cut The Shape

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Cut the shape out the same as before and try to stay close to your line.

Step 10: Trace The First Piece

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So you don't have to try and re-create the last shape you made, place the piece you just cut out on the wood and trace it in sharpie. This will give you a dead-on match to the last piece. Once you have the new piece traced, cut it out. At this point you have both sides of the sleigh ready to go.

Step 11: Add Bottom

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To give the sleigh a little depth we added three 8 inch spacers in the middle that form the bottom front and back as well as keep the sides standing straight.

Step 12: Attach Bottom, Front and Back

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Instead of gluing and clamping we shot a few nails in with Craftsman's 12V li-ion Auto Hammer, which drove the nails in with ease and little or no hassle. We we're also happy with the sans-rosebud effect the Auto Hammer provides since the last thing the side of our sleigh needs is battle damage.

Step 13: Sleigh Rails

Picture of Sleigh Rails
Since our sleigh was a bit short compared to the reindeer, rails were in order. The now-familiar method of pencil, sharpie, cutout applies here as well. Size and design is meant to be free and not bogged down by templates and tape measures on this project, so go with whatever personal style strikes your fancy.

Step 14: Sleigh Supports

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The last pieces are the supports that will hook the rails to the sleigh. At this point you might be running a bit low on lumber but the good news is these don't have to be very large. Draw a piece that looks like it might work and cut one out.

Step 15: Cut The Other Supports

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Next, surf through your scrap and find a few pieces large enough to cut the remaining three supports out of, and cut them out.

Step 16: Notch The Supports

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Once the supports are cut out, notch them to fit over the rails like the pieces of the reindeer. This step may take a few times to get right but take your time and get a snug fit on each support.

Step 17: Fit Lower and Upper Sleigh

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Fit the bottom assembly to the sleigh body and fasten the supports to the bottom board. At this point you're ready for finishing.

Step 18: Finishing

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Finishing your project can be done any number of ways - or not at all. More than anything else your imagination and creativity are the name of the game here. In our case a few cans of Mocha brown and Cardinal red spray paint are in this project's future.

Step 19: Finished

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We're fans of this type of project because it's simple and because it can be taken much further, made less complicated, or scaled up in size. Whatever your end results or changes in design, just keep in mind that there is no wrong answer and the entire goal here is to have a good time building something fun. Ours didn't turn out half bad. And for our $15 investment in a few pine boards we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of building - a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

5 in. Vibrafree Random Orbit Sander Craftsman
Nextec 12V Hammerhead Auto-Hammer Craftsman
Drill, Multi-Saw and Worklight Combo Craftsman
layasera2 years ago
For a cheaper price, used cardboard boxes, strengthen them by sticking two boards and cutting the patterns shown here. What a great idea for Christmas decors bigger or smaller. Thanks for the patterns! :)
michgrun5 years ago
Very nice project and easy to follow instructions. Thanks.
sgsidekick6 years ago
Love knock-down furniture and decorations. Nice job! The best part is that packing them for next year they take up very little space!
Good point. Storing holiday decorations is usually a pain - this makes sense.
Love the Julia Child reference; Great job - and someone who wanted to could even make it fancier, but it's accessible to 'most everyone as a start!
LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Nice! Could probably be done for even cheaper considering home depot's 51c pile :)