This tutorial will show you how to make a 22 to 24" wooden star with a single 8 foot 1x4 or 2x4.
Three years ago my wife decided she would like to have a wooden star hung above our fire place. I tried to find information on the web on how to make one and did not find anything at the time so I sat down and worked out how to do it.
Huge pile of scrap and sawdust later... I succeeded and then decided I liked making them. Now these years later, I have made hundreds and hundreds of stars in sizes ranging from 12" to 48".
Step 1: Construction....
These stars are constructed with 10 separate pieces of wood, all cut to the same shape. The wood grain runs parallel to all the outside edges of the star, which looks really great and there is no exposed end grain in the finished star.
Also, the star is laid up with alternating sides of the board, up and down, i.e. A, B, A, B. (Like cutting boards are made) This helps to prevent warping of the finished piece. They are very stable and work well whether hung indoors or outdoors.
The trick to making wooden stars this way is in cutting the angles accurately so that all the pieces fit together with no gaps. This can be accomplished without using expensive precision measuring tools.
Here is how I do it.
Step 2: Tools and Supplies You Will Need
18 Degree Angle Cutting Jig or sled (you will make this)
Ruler or tape measure
20" x 16" x 1/2 inch plywood (this will be cut to construct the jig)
1 - 8 foot 1x4 or 2x4 (I like Pine or Spruce) but.... your pick... (This will be used to make the star)
Wood glue (I recommend Tightbond 2, or 3 if you are going to hang it outdoors)
5 Minute epoxy (I like Devcon)
Wood stain (your choice)
Paint (your choice)
Table saw cross cut sled
Router and T-Slot bit (if you want to cut T-Slots in the back to hang the stars on)
Kreg screws 1 1/4"
Kreg Vise grip Clamp
Screw Gun w/ Kreg square driver bit
Step 3: Make a Jig for Cutting the Angles:
First, make a jig so the pieces can be precisely cut to the exact angle of 18 degrees with your table saw.
The Math... (base measurement times (tan18) = height measurement) ( 20" times 0.32491969 = 6.498) Therefore... we get 20" by 6.5" --- 40" by 13" would also net you an 18 degree angle.
It's Important to be as precise with these steps as you possibly can but don't worry if it's not perfect!
Cut two pieces of 1/2" plywood to exactly 20" by 6.5". All corners 90 degrees (precision)
On one rectangular piece, mark a diagonal line from corner to corner (precision)
Cut the board along that line. (Leave the line and sand to it) (precision)
Note: a good trick is to temporarily attach the two 20" X 6 1/2" and use the board as guide to cut the board on the table saw. (see drawing)
Pin nail or glue the cut off triangle piece to the Rectangle base piece as shown. Be sure the top (long edges) of the parts are precisely aligned! (Discard the other triangular piece or use as a future star jig).
That's it... You have an 18 degree angle jig.
Next, make a removable stop block in the jig by drilling a hole for a dowel in the base of the jig (whatever size dowel or pin you may have on hand) at a point 12" from the right edge and "at least" 3/4" away from the angled face of the jig. (see drawing) Cut off a piece of dowel about 3" long and insert it into the hole. It should fit snug but, Do not glue the dowel into the hole!
You may wish to glue some 120 grit sand paper to the base (shown yellow in the drawing) to improve the friction when cutting pieces. I also installed hold a down clamp on my jig but it's not shown in all of the drawings. It really improves safety and ease of use!
Save the left over 20"x3" piece of 1/2" plywood for later use as a support for the parts on the left side of the blade when cutting pieces.
Step 4: Cutting the Parts for the Star
Next we will cut the 8 foot 1x4 or 2x4 into 5 pieces... each 14.5 inches long and set them aside. (I use a miter saw for this step)
With the table saw not running... set the blade angle to 90 degrees vertical and raise the blade up some... place the jig (as shown in the drawing) between the blade and the fence. Bring the fence in toward the blade until the jig just starts to have some friction when slid forward and back. Lock the fence down.
Pull the jig toward yourself so you can position the board you are cutting against the stop pin and along the angled edge of the jig. Raise the blade high enough to cut the board thru when the cut is made.
Start the table saw. Keep pressure, with the jig, against the fence and the board held down firmly... and make the first cut. Pull the jig back toward yourself and clear of the blade. Take the part that was on the jig when you made the cut and set it aside.
(Always check for and remove wood chips or sawdust along the edges of the jig that could throw off the angle of the next cut)
Take the cutoff piece, flip it around, place it on the jig, cut that piece as well. It should now be a duplicate of the first piece. Set it aside and repeat until all five boards are cut and you have 10 matching pieces.
(If the second piece is not as large as the first one you cut we will make an adjustment to the jig itself. Slide the jig back clear of the blade... unlock the fence and bring it in 1/4". Lock the fence. Trim the 1/4" from the left hand edge of the jig itself. Repeat with scrap until both pieces cut from a 14 1/2" piece match. Now the jig is set.)
Step 5: Trimming Parts
Line the parts as shown with all the pieces up against the table saw fence, "cut face" down and trim about 1/8" to 1/4" from the tips using a table saw crosscut sled. (as shown in the drawing) This step helps ensure proper alignment when gluing up pieces and removes the sharp points of the star.
You want the tips and edges to be exactly aligned on glue-up.
Step 6: Glue the Pieces Together
Sprinkle some fine sawdust on your work surface to prevent the pieces from sticking to the surface when you place the glued-up parts there.
Run a bead of glue down the "cut edges" (see drawing) and spread it into a thin layer on each pair. Use pressure and a sliding back and forth motion until you feel the parts seizing together. Carefully align them at the tips and edges. Wipe off glue squeeze out and lay them down on your work surface to set.
The drawing shows to pin nail the parts together near the tips at glue-up. It is moderately useful.
Do not use pin nails if you intend on beveling the star at a later stage of building unless you position them so the saw will not cut into them when you cut the bevels.
I built a small block jig to facilitate tacking a Romex staple to hold the parts tight while they set. (see drawing) This works on solid stars but not for center cutout stars. It can eliminate the need for clamps and speeds up the process as well as facilitating perfect alignment of the parts..
Let them set up at least 2 hours before moving to the next step.
Step 7: Second Cuts on Jig
After the 5 "petals" (I call them that) are set up... We will make the second cuts on the pieces.
Remove Romex staples from the petals (if used)
Using the same jig... re-position the stop block dowel to the end of the jig. Drill a hole and place the stop block at least 1" away from the edges as shown in the drawing. (not critical but it does have to be away from the edge of the angled part of the jig somewhat.)
Set Up for the Second Cuts
With the saw OFF...
Move the fence out from the blade, place the petal in the jig and line up the jig with the fence positioned so that the blade will cut the part. (as shown in the drawing)
Use a strait edge held along the blade to help determine where it will cut) Lock down the fence.
This is the point where the leftover strip of 1/2" plywood can come in handy to help support the cut off piece on the left side of the jig when making your cuts.
Make the cut..... (Remember to hold the jig firmly against the fence as you make the cuts)
Flip the piece over and cut the other side. Repeat.... until all petals are cut.
You will end up with five petals that look like the drawing.
Note: If you wish to make a solid star, with no cutout in the center, you may align the cut to that point (see drawing) and you will end up with a solid star approx. 22 inches in dia.
Step 8: Test the Fit for Gaps and Assemble the Star
Place all the pieces on a flat surface and test fit them. It is almost certain that there will be a gap of some sort either toward the middle or toward the outside edge of the star where the pieces fit together. It all depends on how accurately the jig was cut in the first place. Ten pieces with a 1/10 degree error would still net an accumulated error of one degree on the finished piece.
This is where we will make corrections to the jig and recut the parts using shims.
Study the drawing and determine where to place the shim. Keep re-cutting all the pieces using different shim thickness until you find your stars fit together with no gaps. Work your shim thickness up in little steps. (Note: Do not move the fence from the original position when you made the cuts... just recut the petals using the desired shims)
I used a couple of playing cards to make my shims and ended up with an error of 3 playing cards as my shim thickness.
Once you determine the correct shim placement and thickness... all stars produced with this jig will use the same shim and shim placement when making the 2nd cuts to the pieces.
Make a note right on the jig to place x number of playing cards, or whatever, at that location when making the second cuts to the petals from then on. (I have found that different size stars may require different shim sizes.)
Step 9: Drill Kreg Screw Holes (Optional)
If you are going to use Kreg screws... drill the holes for them now.
Since I use Kreg screws to do final assembly of stars and for extra strength of the joints and also makes the assembly process so much easier! ... (read... no clamps needed!) I drill kreg screws in one edge of the back of each petal at this point of the operation.
Step 10: Beveled Stars (Option)
Bevel the petals of the Star
At this point... Before glue up... if you started with a 2x4 in the beginning, you can bevel the petals of the star. (skip this step if you are not making a beveled star)
NEVER PUSH THESE PIECES THRU THE SAW WITH YOUR HANDS! Use Push Sticks in both hands!
and... Very important! Make sure you completely cut away each piece with each pass or you WILL get kickback!!!
First Time Set Up
Raise the table saw blade all the way up. Set the fence to around 3/4" from the blade. Tilt the blade approx. 13 degrees in order to put a bevel on the pieces for a 24 inch star or 18 degrees for a 12 inch star. You may need to make successive cuts and bring the fence in until you are happy with the profile Some experimentation of the angle of the blade may be needed to suit your taste and set up but the most important thing is, AVOID KICKBACK!, Make sure the blade would still cut the cutoff piece away to that profile setting with one pass!
Cutting Bevels on the Petals
Place the bottom against the fence, (side of the petal down), make a cut (tip end first), then flip end over end.... place bottom against fence again and make the other cut. (wide end first)
Do the same to all 5 petals... You will end up with a beveled star when you put it together.
(See some of the pictures of 12" and 24" beveled stars made on the same jig, same process... different stop block positions in the setup and different cut lines)
Step 11: Optional Jig for Glue Ups With Kreg Screws
If you are making more than a few of these and are using Kreg screws to assemble them, it may be worth your time to make up an assembly jig for non beveled or flat stars. I have found a piece of 1/2" plywood with a couple of stand off pieces of 2x4 at each end will also work a clamping table. I use two kreg 6" automax clamps to assemble my stars.
Since you are basically gluing end grain to end grain which does not result in very strong glue joints we can use Kreg screws to fasten and help hold the short glue joints. This in and of itself is not perfect either but I have made hundreds of stars using this method with no problems. They also act as a clamping system on assembly.
Apply a thin layer of glue to the edges being joined... clamp the first petal down with an automax clamp place the next petal in posision and align and clamp it down with the other clamp ... drive in a Kreg screw, pick up and rotate clockwise... repeat until the star is assembled.
This jig will work on flat stars but not with beveled. (see Next step... Gluing Petals Together Without Kreg Screws or step 13 to learn how to make a jig for assembling beveled stars using the two clamp method and plywood clamping table.
Step 12: Gluing Petals Together Without Kreg Screws
On Beveled stars...You can use Devcon 5 minute epoxy on the final assembly.
I find beveled stars are much easier to assemble on final glue up with epoxy glue if you are only making a few stars.
I still like to use Kreg screws (for insurance) but I wait until the glue sets up and then drive in the Kreg screws.
If you are making a lot of beveled stars.... see the next step for instructions on making a glue-up jig.
Step 13: A Way to Assemble Beveled Stars With a Jig
Make a "glue up jig" for the assembly of beveled stars.
1. Cut 2 - 2x4 8 inches long
2. Mark and cut off a 36 degree wedge from the end of each 2x4
3. Raise the blade on the table saw all the way up... Set the fence at 1/4" from the blade.
4. Tilt the blade to the desired bevel. (I use 18 deg. bevels on my 12" stars so I would set the table saw blade to 18 degrees)
5. Make the cuts on the two pieces as shown in the drawing above.
6. Glue the two parts as shown.
7. Apply glue to both edges of the first petal and place it one the jig... clamp it in position. (clamp it to the table) Apply glue to the next petal, align it and clamp into place on the jig. Drive in a 1 1/2" Kreg screw. (NOTE: I built a small table with a piece of 1/2" plywood and some blocks at each end as a clamping table) see drawing
8. Release the clamps... rotate the part clockwise and repeat until star is assembled.
9. If you build other size beveled stars you may have a different angle of bevel. Just make a jig for assembling that size star.
10. I have found the Kreg automaxx 6" clamps invaluable for this operation.
Step 14: Finishing
You can distress the star and stain or paint it whatever colors you like.
The star picture above is a 12 inch beveled star painted yellow mounted on the front of a 25 inch flat star painted green. Hey! John Deere lovers!
You may use picture hanging wire or Routed T-Slots in back to facilitate hanging the stars.
I hope you enjoy this build and I would love to hear from you and see what you come up with.
If you would like to see more of our work just look us up at waterfallmountainart on ETSY
You can contact us thru that site. or firstname.lastname@example.org
Be Safe and have fun with this!
Duncan and Jean
Step 15: Notes on Making Larger Stars
Several people have asked if you can make larger stars than 24 inches.... Yes, I have made 48 inch stars so far with this setup.
Here are some pictures I took this week of my setup as I was cutting 48 inch barn stars.
No details.... just pictures in sequence.
(Not shown in the photos are the 3, #20 biscuit joints I used to assemble each petal and the drilling of two Kreg screws holes per petal.)
Step 16: How the Center Star Cutouts Work
The drawings illustrate how the center star cutouts work.
In this illustration we are starting with a board that measures 20" x 5 1/2" x 3/4", a typical 1x6.
The diagonal cut in this case does not start or end at the corners of the board. (see drawing)
First.... All center star cuts are done before glue-up of the 10 pieces into the five "petals"
Second..... After glue-up of the petals.... the second cuts are made as shown in the drawings.
Another way to accomplish a center star cutout is to place the pieces on the table saw as shown. The closer you bring the fence to the blade the larger the center hole will be. Try cutting off only a little at a time on all the pieces and test fitting until you are happy with the results. (see drawing)
Most important thing When you make the second cuts, align the fence and make the cut so it passes thru the point shown in the drawing.
Step 17: Practical Size Limits From Nominal Lumber
The actual width of the lumber controls the largest size of solid stars that can be produced with it.
If you make a larger star with any size lumber than the chart nets above, you will have a star shaped hole in the center. This is often desirable.
In practice.... this is done by cutting the boards longer than needed, starting and ending your cuts as shown above. Divide the excess length of board so that the cut starts and ends with the same amount of left over wood length at each end. I add from 2" to 4" overall length if I am making stars with cut-outs.
In the case of the 24" stars... the base star (solid) is cut from 11" boards but notice we are using 14.5" boards and splitting the difference so the cut leaves about the same at each end. This leaves about 2" extra on each end of the boards in this case.
So..... Bottom line.....
For solid stars, cut from the corners.
For center cut-out stars... cut away from the corners using longer boards. (again.... see the drawing)