Introduction: Christmas Village
One of my favorite Christmas memories as a child was watching and staring at my Uncle Durwood's Christmas tree. He had a train going around it and inside the track were figurines and scenic nick knacks they had bought on vacations and other travels. I loved that tree, and I vowed to have one of my own someday.
My first Christmas out on my own I bought a train and a tree and set it up....and it looked pitiful. But I started collecting buildings and figurines and it was only a few years before I had a Christmas Village that I was proud of and that has become a tradition in my family.
Step 1: Village Base
My Village base is made of pressed wood. I'm not sure a base is absolutely necessary, but I do think it gives a stable base to the train tracks and provides the means to get electrical chords out of the way.
My board is just a standard sheet from the home improvement store, which happened to perfectly fit the space I wanted. You might need to make it smaller to fit your space.
Step 2: Village Board 2
I've cut my board in half and joined with hinges. This makes storage and moving it about the house a lot easier.
I've cut several random holes in the board. These are for electrical chords so that the chords do not lie on top of the village and create unnecessary bumps.
I also added small feet to the board; this helps the electrical chords from being crushed. I might make the feet larger some day. But as the board is not walked on, it is only a platform for the village, it hasn't been a problem for me.
Once the board is down cover it with white felt. This is just a base layer of white for the whole village. I usually replace this layer of felt every two years. You will be walking and crawling on this felt while you decorate your tree and construct the rest of the village.
Once the board is down and covered, cut a hole in the felt at one of the holes in the board and place a power strip on the board with the cord going through the felt through the hole, under the board to a power outlet.
Step 3: The Stand
On the board I next place a stand. The stand provides the tunnel for the train to go through, and creates visual variety. The stand is also made of pressed wood. Simply cut two pieces of wood (mine are approximately 2 feet by 8 inches) and cut notches in the center of each. This allows them to be joined together as an X and is a very stable base. Whatever size you decide for your stand, the higher you make it, the wider it should be. Tall and skinny is a recipe for disaster.
The first couple of years I had my village the stand was used for the Christmas tree, and the village sprawled out below. Lately though, the tree has been next to the stand and this has allowed me to create more interesting layouts.
Step 4: Place and Decorate Your Tree
Once the stand is in place it is time to place and decorate your tree. Don't do anything else until it's decorated, and don't forget the put the star or angel on top. It's very difficult to put it on later once the village is finished.
Step 5: Laying the Track
Now I lay the train track. I don't always lay the track all the way around at this point, but I at least lay it in the tunnel (under the stand) and behind the tree. The rest can be done later.
My train is a Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer. I've added 8 sections of straight track to what comes in the standard Lionel package. This makes it fit the standard piece of plywood very well in a standard square oval.
Step 6: Placing Risers
I use legal books as my village risers. The risers allow me to create hills and valleys for the buildings to be on or in front of. Cinder blocks, bricks, boxes, or anything could be used for the risers. The legal books I use are decorative books on our shelves the rest of the year. At Christmas they come down and are used in the village and Christmas decorations go on the shelves, so it's a great solution for us.
The first year I rearranged the books 5 or 6 times before I was happy with my layout of the town. Now I generally get it right the first time because I can usually imagine it in my head correctly first. I don't change the layout every year. I'll keep the same layout for two years and then change it.
Step 7: Placing Buildings
After you have your risers where you think you like them, start placing your buildings. Here you are testing your layout to see how it looks. You may have to switch out books because they make certain buildings too high or too low. You may end up moving books because it just doesn't look like you visualized. This is your testing phase and it's the time to make your major changes. Once you lay down your cover felt, it's difficult to move books around and make design changes.
Step 8: Cover Felt and Replacing of Buildings
After you have the placements right, take everything off the risers and lay down your cover felt. The cover felt will be the main floor of the village that people will actually see. It will help you make the hills and valleys out of the risers and it will help hide the electrical cords. After you have the cover felt generally in place, start putting the buildings back where you had them.
Fluff the cover felt to make it look natural. Avoid hard edges. After it looks how you want it start laying the cords. Cut the cover felt and snake the lighting cords underneath to your power strip. I've switched to the multi-light cords verses the single light chords that come in with the buildings. This allows me to light more buildings with fewer outlets, and allows fewer cuts in the cover felt, but does hinder building placement as the lights are a set distance apart.
Step 9: Figurines and Finishing
Last is placing the figurines and scenery. This is mostly people and trees, but can also include bridges, fire hydrants, benches, Christmas tree farms, city lights, etc.
Most important of these is trees. I have 4 or 5 different kinds of trees that I've collected over the years. They add variety, scale and depth to the village.
I don't think you should over do using people figurines. In my opinion the people are best when they are slightly noticed, verse jumping out at you. I use them to soften the landscape, not to populate the village.
After all your figurines are placed there is one last important step. Fake snow. The little bags of snow sold at craft stores. I resisted paying for the snow for a couple of years, and then one year I broke down and bought some. What a difference it makes!! The fake snow is like the magic you sprinkle on at the end. A thin sprinkling is all that is needed, but put it everywhere; on the buildings, on the people, trees, etc. It really seems to make the overall village look better.
I hope you've enjoyed my first instructable. I've been a fan of the site and all the wonderful things everyone posts. Merry Christmas!
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Homemade Holidays: Holiday Decorations