Introduction: 1-Sheet Plywood Christmas Tree With Full Plans

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

Hi guys, here's a brand new design I came up with for a laser cut Christmas Tree with practically zero waste!

I made it for the office lobby, with the following goals:

  • As tall as practical given our laser cutter size
  • As few sheets of material used as possible, with as little waste as possible
  • Flat-packable after Christmas, to keep for next year.

Step 1: Previous Christmas Tree Ideas

Here's some of the other Christmas Tree ideas I had come up with as miniature tests first.

The see-through ones with the red bauble are a variation on my previous Minimalist Christmas Tree from 2016, but with 6 sides instead of 4.

The conical tree is just a slice-formed tree, where I modelled a simple conical shape in Sketchup, then used a Slicer plug-in to generate the gridded pieces in the x and y directions. The Slicer plug-in provides all the slots for the lap joints, tailored to your material thickness.

I really like the look of the slice-formed tree, but it took a lot of material, even for a small test. So it wasn't worth it to scale that up to a taller tree as it would take a lot of material and a lot of cutting time.

Step 2: Designing the Tree

The inspiration struck one morning in the shower: I could make the tree like a nested russian doll! Each slice of the tree fits within the next larger slice.

I modelled this up in Sketchup, making the whole tree exactly 1400mm tall, which is twice the maximum length of the laser cutter bed (500x700mm). Then I cleaned up the cut drawing in AutoCAD to add all the slots and rounded corners cleanly.

Step 3: Cut a Plywood Sheet Into 8 Pieces

First, cut a single 4x8' (1220x2440mm) plywood sheet (5mm thick) into 8 pieces as shown. This should yield 8 pieces of 710 x 485mm sheets which fit the design template.

Step 4: Full Plans / Cut Files

If you look at the plans attached, the top half of the tree fits exactly over the bottom half of the tree to form a full 475x700mm rectangle, so there was really practically zero waste in all my cuts. (Except for the slots) You can see in the photo how this cut pattern uses up every square inch of the cutting area on our laser, except for a 5mm border all around.

The files attached are for both a small 277mm tall tree with 1mm slots, or for the big 1400mm tree with 5mm slots. You can scale them accordingly to fit whatever size material you have. For the full 1400mm tree, I had to cut 4 sheets of one pattern and 4 sheets of the other interlocking pattern, total 8 sheets of 480x700mm plywood. In turn these sheets came from a single 4x8' plywood sheet, so this is really a 1-sheet plywood project. Each sheet's cut time was about 8 minutes using an 80W CO2 laser at 80-90% power. So the total cut time was only about an hour.

Step 5: Assembling the Top Half of the Tree

One way to do this is to assemble the tree quadrant by quadrant, top half first then bottom half.

All the quadrants are tied together with thin floral wire or cable ties.

Step 6: Assembling the Bottom Half of the Tree

Bottom half slots together quadrant by quadrant as well. Two quadrants are connected with wire, and they can stand up by themselves pretty well.

Step 7: Joining Them Up to Make a Half-round Tree

At first I just made a half tree, thinking that I could stand it up against the wall. It does look pretty cool, but my colleagues loved it and asked me to do the full 360 tree, so I did!

Step 8: Completed 360 Tree

The fully completed tree was the centrepiece of our design office's Christmas decor. Others pitched in extra baubles and a Santa hat, as you can see!

I really like how it looks both like a single Christmas Tree, as well as a forest of smaller fir trees. Pretty neat, if you ask me.

Hope this inspires you all to do something similar.

Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy New Year!

Holiday Decor

First Prize in the
Holiday Decor