Turn a Used Christmas Tree Into a Didgeridoo

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Introduction: Turn a Used Christmas Tree Into a Didgeridoo

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A didgeridoo is a primitive aboriginal wind instrument. If you are unfamiliar with what they are or how they work, you can learn more about them here.

Last winter when I was taking down our Christmas tree, I decided to save the trunk just in case I came up with something to make out of it. I trimmed off all the branches and stuck the bare trunk in the corner of my garage. It sat there drying out for almost eight months waiting for me to come up with a good project for it.

I eventually decided to try to turn it into a didgeridoo. This ended up being a fun, challenging project, and I was happy with the results. Here are the details.

Step 1: Acquire a Used Tree

For most traditional-Christmas-celebrating people, acquiring a used tree should be easy.

For everyone else, check around your neighborhood after Christmas. Really, any type of appropriately-sized tree or large tree branch should work for this project. I believe this particular tree was a noble fir.

You can see this actual tree in action in the background of the intro pictures in this instructable.

Step 2: Remove All the Branches

I left the tree in its stand to make it easier to trim off all the branches.

I used pruning shears for most of the smaller limbs, and a hand saw for some of the bigger ones.

Step 3: Let It Dry Out Completely

I trimmed off the top of the trunk before setting it aside to dry out.

Over the period of eight months while this was just sitting there, I was tempted to throw it out many times. But I've learned to hold on to neat stuff like this.

Step 4: Remove Branch Nubs and Strip Bark

With the trunk all dried out and a plan in place, I used a reciprocating saw to cut off all the branch nubs.

This saw also worked well to carefully shave off the outer layer of bark, along with much of the remaining bark underneath.

I used clamps to secure the trunk to my work table while I was sawing.

Step 5: Sand Until Smooth

The reciprocating saw left a lot of tooth marks in the wood.

I used 80 grit sand paper on my palm sander to remove any remaining bark and smooth out the blemishes left by the reciprocating saw.

Step 6: Draw a Line

A line was drawn along the length of the trunk which helped while reassembling all the pieces (as explained in the steps to come).

Step 7: Bore Out the Center a Few Inches Deep

I used spade bits to bore out the center of the trunk a few inches at a time. Each bored out section was then cut off with a miter saw.

I began with a 3/4-inch bit, and ended with a 1 1/2-inch bit. The idea was to bore out the center as straight as possible, while keeping the sidewalls around about 1/2-inch or so.

For sections of trunk that were more straight, I was able to make deeper bores. For areas that were twisted or curved, shorter sections had to be bored out and cut off.

I began with my normal drill, but soon switched over to a high-torque, low-speed drill. This worked much better.

Step 8: Cut Off Bored-out Section

After boring out the center a few inches deep, I measured the distance in and placed a mark on the outside, taking a little off my measurement to ensure that the entire piece being cut off had been bored through completely.

Step 9: Bore, Cut, Repeat

I continued boring out the center and cutting off sections until I reached the other end of the trunk.

I lined up all the pieces in order in preparation for reassembly.

Step 10: Glue It All Back Together

Starting with the base, I began gluing all the pieces back together. The line I drew on the trunk earlier was used to help match up all the pieces correctly.

I used clamps or weights where I could to ensure a good bond.

When gluing, it's important to put an even layer of glue on both surfaces to be joined. The glue immediately grabs the wood and begins seeping into the tiny pores, preparing for a good bond. Plus, if you let the two pieces sit for a couple minutes, the glue will start to get tacky. When the two pieces are joined together, the two sides of tacky glue will grab onto each other and create a really solid, fast bond. This is an especially useful technique when clamping is not feasible, which was the case with the upper half of the trunk.

Step 11: Sand the Joints

With the entire trunk glued together I sanded all the joints smooth.

Step 12: Widen the Openings

I found that mouth-end opening needs to be at minimum about 1 1/4-inches wide to work properly. The original opening was too small, and the only sounds I could make through it sounded more like a trumpet.

I fixed this by widening the mouth-end opening of the didge using a rotary rasp attached to my drill. I fluted out the bottom end as well, just for good measure.

Step 13: Finish Sand and Stain/lacquer As Desired

I wanted a plain, natural finish so I opted for no stain and only a light coat of lacquer.

I gave the entire didge a few final sandings with progressively higher grits, and then gave it three light coats of spray lacquer and a light sanding to finish it off.

Step 14: Add Mouthpiece

I used some sugru to make a mouthpiece. The stuff reminded me of trying to model with silly putty, but it cured to a nice soft-touch rubbery finish.

Step 15: Play It!

The only reason I've included a video is to prove that this actually works... I have very little idea what I'm doing, but it is kind of fun to experiment making funny noises with it. I've been working on the whole circular breathing thing, and I think with some more practice I'll get it down.

My video is only 15 seconds. If you watch it, be sure to check out some of the links that pop up on the bottom when mine is over. These guys are the real deal.

That's it. Thanks for looking!

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93 Comments

Sounds like a fog horn, but looks fantastic and works fantastically. Really nice job!

I love this! Now you've had it for awhile, any trouble with the glued joints? Gluing endgrain can be tricky which is why I ask.

Ha! Good question.

I must have used enough glue, because it has held up great. In fact, a couple months ago I was going through a "cleaning phase" and planned to throw this out.

I whacked it hard over the lip of my metal trash bin a couple times, thinking it would bust into pieces. After a couple good whacks and no breaking, I assumed it meant I needed to keep it!

I've got it right here... here's a photo, and you can see the dent marks from my trash bin. Crazy! :)

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hmm... i may just need to make one of these! and it just so happens my pops has a pair of ex christmas trees; one of which is actually from 2013. Ive actually always wanted to learn to play a didge. Awesome project man!!!

I think better idea is -

just cut it in 2 half sides all the way long..

take out the wood from the middle with some tools, chissels and chainsaw..

glue it back together. than its more solid.. and should ring better as well

Yes! That sounds like a very good option. I just didn't have the tools at the time to efficiently remove the wood from the middle, so that method wasn't a good choice for me. Great idea though!

That is so awesome! Amazing instructable! Sounds like a whale's mating call! But really cool!

This is so cool!!! Thanks for sharing.

Seamster,
Thank you for your interesting approach to repurposing a christmas tree into a didgeridoo.
I have been building didges for many years. Part of my experience is that you have to be really careful with what you make your mouthpieces out of. Some materials can be toxic over a period of time without you knowing. Since I am always looking for temperature stable mouthypiece materials, I contacted the manufacturer of SUGRU. I am pasting my inquiry and their responses here:
Sugru,
I recently saw a design for making a didgeridoo using Sugru as the mouthpiece. I have been making didges for many years using the traditional beeswax method. A problem being that beeswax deforms when playing on a hot day. My question is: Since people are doing Surgu to make more permanent mouthpieces, is there anything in the formula that could be potentially toxic especially since saliva ( ingested in small amounts while playing ) and lips come into hard contact with the Sugru? This is a serious issue. Lots of people seem to be starting to use this technique to construct mouthpieces. Please help the digdin’ community stay safe.
Thank you,
Carl Fallik
cfallik@kc.rr.com
____________________________________

Hi Carl


Thanks for the email, I totally understand your concern. I've heard of this use of sugru, but it is something we are not yet able to endorse. We don't have knowledge of anything that would make sugru harmful to the user, though in it's un-cured state we've seen very rare cases of skin irritation. But the main point is that sugru has not been tested for food safety.
It seems like a great application for sugru, but **until it has been tested and certified food-safe we can't recommend sugru for a didgeridoo mouthpiece.**
Did you see a photo of this use on our website? I had a thorough search, but couldn't track it down.
Let me know if you've any more questions or concerns!
All the best
Cameron
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Yours in digi'n friendship,
Carl