Introduction: Christmas Tree Snow Village Display

For nearly 40 years now I have been collecting Christmas snow village houses and figures. I started in the early '80s with the Dept 56 brand, and still have my first piece, the ceramic large Christmas tree in the middle shelf. Once I discovered the Lemax brand of houses and buildings and figures, I started collecting those, as the cost was less prohibitive and the selection far greater.

Over the years I have used bedroom dresser tops, coffee table tops, a former built in aquarium space above a stairwell, and for the past 20 years a long, built-in bookcase counter; to display my village(s). Last week, while scanning the internet for new build ideas, I discovered a number of Christmas tree shaped displays for snow villages.

The following Instructable is my take on a light weight, Mid-century Modern styled Christmas tree display for my snow village; which I call Pine Mountain Ski Village.


My supplies for this project, with a total cost around $30 (not including paint I already had on hand and the village pieces) are listed below:

- 1 4'x8' sheet of 1/4" veneer plywood with one finished side

- 2 1" x 2" 8 foot long pieces of furring strip

- 1 box of 50 1/2" wood screws

- 1 box of 50 1 1/4" wood screws

- 9 AA batteries

- 5 scraps of cotton batting

- 4 used cans of spray paint

- 3 battery operated puck lights

- 2 pieces of sand paper

- 1 can of used enamel paint

- and a partridge in a pear tree!

Step 1: Configuring the Shape

I wanted the display to resemble a Christmas tree, but not try to look exactly like a tree. And I wanted a large surface area behind the houses and figures to provide a background to the village. My artistic skills, drawing and painting, aren't the best, but some day I might try to paint a backdrop on the tree panel to give it even more depth of field and effect.

Anyway, I laid out a basic outline on the plywood and used my table saw to make a few cuts. After the initial round of cuts, I decided to 'taper' the tree a bit more (not pictured here) and was satisfied with my first step.

Step 2: Designing and Adding the Shelves

Most of all, I wanted this display to be lightweight, as I will likely have to lift it up on to a top shelf in my garage for storage the other 48 weeks of the year! And, I didn't want it to look too bulky in my family room. That's why the back and the shelves are all 1/4" birch veneer plywood. The shelves are also graduated in depth, the bottom shelf being 12" deep, the second 10" deep, the third one 8" deep, fourth 7" deep, and the top only 5.5" deep. This helped 'shape' the display as well, tapering to the top like a real tree would look. Plus, veneered plywood was a big deal back in the '50s ( I know, I was around then) and my village pieces are '50s themed as well. So it was a 'two birds with one stone' kind of decision.

I used the 1" x 2" furring strips to attach my shelves to, and then screwed the shelf and brace to the tree. I used the 1/2" screws to hold the shelf onto the brace strip, and the 1 1/4" screws to hold the shelf to the tree stand. In order to achieve this second step, I laid the tree on my saw horses, upside down, and lined the top of the shelf up with the 'notches' on the tree design. I then clamped the shelf brace with a clamp on each end, and then marked a center line that ran down the middle of each shelf brace on the back side of the tree stand for my 'screw line'.

Spacing my wood screws about 4-5 " apart, I got a good result and a very strong bond between the shelf and the tree stand piece. So I continued with shelves 2 - 5.

Step 3: Adding a Finish to the Display Stand

Since I was going for a '50s look, and wanted it also to look like it had been around for the last 50 years or so, I went with a 'distressed' finish to my project. I first lightly sprayed the wood with 4 different colors of spray paint I had on hand. The colors are pictured in photo #2 above. Then I found a can of a really nice Benjamin Moore base that had been colored to this sort of mint green. It was left behind by the original owners of our house, probably didn't turn out to be the color they wanted, but perfect for my project!

This process of spray painting is really just a 'misting' of spray paint, and even after all the colors were applied, the grain of the birch veneer was still visible. Why go to all this bother? Well, after the top coat of the Mint '50s Green was applied, I used a couple different grades of sandpaper to first remove some of the green and expose the colors / wood underneath. It's a subtle technique, but has that look of a kitchen cupboard that might have been painted two or three colors before arriving on the Mint Green. And, it adds to the distressed wood look. Then I used a finer grade of sandpaper to smooth out the surface to give it that look like old wood that has been around for many years of use.

I also drilled holes just above each shelf with my 1 1/2" hole bit, to pass the cords of the lit houses, mini tree light strings, and other lit accents through.

Step 4: Adding the Accent Lights and Village Pieces

We use a 3M Insulation kit on our patio door here in the northland for winter to keep the draft out on that lower level. So that becomes kind of a 'dead corner' in our family room. It's still accessible for a fire exit, but cross our hearts, we haven't had to use it for that purpose yet! This would be the location for my new village display.

My past experience with previous displays of my village told me that the little lights in the buildings and other pieces wouldn't be enough to highlight all of the scenes. So for a mere $4, I purchased these 4 in a pack LED Tap Lights that you might use in a closet or under a cupboard to light a counter top. They each take 3 AA batteries, but have a long life as the LED doesn't draw much power.

The soft white of the lamp was still too 'white' for my liking, so I sprayed the lenses with a Krylon Stained Glass spray paint that I had used previously on head light lenses for my custom vintage bicycle hobby. This created a nice vintage glow on my display to highlight the non-lit parts of the village scenes.

The last three photos are some close up shots of various scenes. Each shelf is kind of a thematic scene of parts of this vibrant Pine Mountain Ski town. They also represent my passions; music, outdoor sports including biking and skiing, and cutting wood.

Step 5: Happy Holidays!

I hope you have enjoyed my Instructable, and will consider trying your own twist on this Christmas Tree Snow Village Display! Happy Holidays!

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