Introduction: Birch-Base Reception Placeholders

I am getting married in August of 2011.  Having almost no experience with weddings or wedding planning, I dove right into finding ways to frugally personalize the wedding and reception.  Of course, the first place I turned was Instructables, knowing all you brilliant people would have some great ideas for me.  Little did I know there was a WEDDING CONTEST happening right now!

Anyway, I stumbled across this 'ible, which I really liked both for its simplicity, and cool-factor.  The only problem is that our reception hall will be very well-lit, and I didn't think that a single LED would be bright enough to be noticed.

In the end, I abandoned the LED idea, although I do have some prototypes with 3 white LEDs embedded in the wood, powered by a 9-volt battery.  I chose not to go with this design simply because of the time factor, but I will be updating this instructable later to include those steps as well.

Step 1: Materials, Tools, and Planning

The best part about this project is how cheap, yet cool it is! I had almost all of the tools and materials lying around my house already, so this project was dirt-cheap for me (that’s the idea right?).


- Birch Wood Bases: When the land was being cleared to build my house, I saved one beautiful birch tree as the focal point for my back yard. Unfortunately it became infested with grubs and died... But it gave me the material to produce this instructible, so life goes on!

- 3/8" Plexi Glass: I bought a sheet of 2' X 3' plexi at Lowes for about $50. The friendly employee told me that he would be happy to cut the sheet for me...until I told him how many times I needed it cut... I would up having him just cut the sheet 6 times lengthwise, giving me 6 4" by 36" sheets.

- Scotch Tape
- Wood Glue (If needed)


Chainsaw (for cutting the branches off the tree)
Miter Saw or Table Saw
Safety Goggles (safety first!)
Ear Plugs/Muffs
Ruler/Tape Measure


You will need one placeholder per guest, plus a few extra to account for accidents and mistakes. My fiancé and I decided to keep the guest list to just over 100 people, expecting between 80 and 100 of them to RSVP.

Depending on the quality of the wood you find, you should be able to get between 4 and 6 bases per foot of birch branch.

You will also need enough plexi or acrylic sheet to make all of the cards. I went with Lowes (because I am impatient), but you may want to look online, or otherwise find a cheaper option.

Step 2: Cut Out the Base

Select a nice, clean, 4" length of wood to use as the base. It should be between 3" and 6" in diameter, and have no knots, mars, or major imperfections for at least half way around. Using a miter or table saw, cut the chosen piece of wood out of your branch/trunk/tree.

Once cut, try to identify where the "center line" is. Sometimes the branches do not grow perfectly round, and can be more oval. You want to cut the base in half at the widest point so that the cut line (which will become the bottom of the base) will be at least 2x wider than it is tall.

Inspect the cut piece for holes. These holes could mean that the wood has grubs, termites, or other nuisance bugs in it. This is a bad thing, but not a deal-breaker. As long as the damage from the bugs isn’t too bad, all you need to do is remove them.

Step 3: Notch the Base

Now we need to cut a 3/8" notch in the base for our plexi to sit in. I used a miter saw for this, but I bet a table saw would have been easier, neater, and maybe even safer.

To use a miter saw, you need to prop up one side of the base in order to get a slightly angled cut. I propped mine up about 1/2". You then CAREFULLY make 2 or 3 cuts right next to each other so you have a little slot for the plexi to slide into. It needs to be just barely larger than the plexi itself so that you can fit the paper with your place card design as well.

Step 4: Cut the Plexi

I used the same miter saw and coarse blade to cut the plexi sheets into smaller pieces. Ordinarily I would use the score-and-snap technique, but that would take forever with this much to cut, and it doesn’t always come out clean.

The two things you need to worry about when cutting plastic with a power tool are heat and flying shards of plastic. There really is no way to prevent plastic from flying everywhere, so wear your protective goggles!

I made 4 short, smooth strokes to cut all the way through. This prevents the plastic from heating due to friction, which would cause it to melt - a very undesirable outcome. I recommend leaving the protective plastic film on the sheet (if the plexi came with it) as you work with it. This helps to keep scratches, mars, and gunk from ruining all your hard work.

The pieces need to be the same width as the base, but can be as tall as you like. I went with 4" x 4" squares.

Step 5: Create the Card Image

This is where you get to be all artsy and creative! Use a computer to design a pretty card with the information you want on it. This can include table names, table numbers, guest names, bride and groom names, dates, etc... Go crazy and make it personal!

All you need to do is ensure that the card width and height match the width and height of your plexiglas square. The paper will be placed behind the plexi so that the image shows through. We don’t want excess paper along the sides of the plexiglas, so take care when cutting and measuring.

I waited until this stage to remove the protective film from the plexiglas.

Step 6: Put It All Together

Once printed, carefully cut out the card, and attach it to the top of the plexiglass with a 4" strip of scotch tape. Attach the strip to the top ridge of the plexiglass, place the paper design side towards the plexi and slide it up until the top of the paper is level with the top of the plexiglass, then fold the scotch tape down behind the paper.

On the bottom, attach some scotch tape to the paper and fold it down and onto the plexiglass, making sure to pull the paper tight the whole time. If desired, more tape can be added to the sides. This shouldnt be neccessary unless you are working in a very humid environment.

Unfortunately, my printer ran out of ink just as I was printing my sample card. But yours will look much better I promise!

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Woodworking Contest