I've been looking around for an Advent Calendar for my kids, but couldn't find one that really suited my tastes and price. There are some very nice ones out there, but all too expensive in my opinion. This one is pretty easy to make with only a few tools.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
I was originally going to make the entire Advent Calendar out of wood, but it was December 1st when I decided to make it and it would take too long to make all the boxes and or doors like other Advent calendars. I decided to use some watchmaker tins that I had bought from Harbor Freight. I think they are a pretty good solution, however you have to watch the sizes of the prizes as some may not fit.
Here are the tools I used:
- JigSaw (you could also use a coping saw...will just take longer.)
- Drill with 1 3/4 inch hole saw. (This happened to fit my tins perfect, if you use some of the other options below, you will need to adjust the hole size accordingly.)
- Orbital Sander (again...sandpaper will work fine...just takes longer.)
- 3/4 Plywood about 24 inches square - Available at most Big Box home centers.
- Watch Maker Tins. You can try finding the big ones I used at your local Harbor Freight, but mine said they were discontinued, and I can't find them online. Luckily I found probably a better solution here: Lee Valley Tools They have a set of 56 cases of various sizes for about 15 bucks.
- Spray On Polyurethane (optional)
- Christmas Craft Paper
- Marker or Paint Pen
- Glue or Epoxy
You can obviously use something other than Plywood, but it's what I had around and seemed to fit 25 tins in the configuration I wanted. In retrospect I should have used a pine board as the plywood edges were difficult to dress up. If you used a pine board you may need to change the proportions of the tree to fit the reduced width of the board.
Step 2: Layout the Pattern
The next step is to layout your pattern. I'll attempt to scan in the pattern I used, but you will really need to layout your own as I'm not sure you will have the same size tins as me.
Basically I just played with the different containers till I found something that looked good and was roughly triangular. Then I drew the tree around it. Once everything looked okay, I traced around the big tins so I knew where to drill holes.
I had two different sizes of tins. Some that were about 2.5 inches deep and 1.75 inches in diameter, then I had these tiny cases. I originally thought about just gluing everything to the face, but it just didn't look right. So I eventually decided to recess the larger ones and then glue on the small ones.
In the end I think it turned out okay. If all of your tins are the same depth, I would recommend just gluing them on, as it makes this a much faster project.
Instead of a tree, you could also do a Wreath. I though that would be pretty cool, but I made two trees so the kids wouldn't fight over who got what.
Step 3: Butcher Your Wood.
Time to cut.
I'd recommend cutting the holes first, then cutting out the pattern, but it really doesn't make a difference. Not too much to this step. Just drill a bunch of holes, and then cut out the pattern. There isn't any need to stay to close to the lines as this is sort of a free form pattern.
Make sure you wear safety goggles and follow your power tools instructions. I won't be held responsible if you lop off a finger.
Step 4: Sand and Paint
Sand and Fit:
Take your sander or Sandpaper and start sanding. Make sure to round off all the edges and sharp points. I also noticed that not all of the tins are uniform, so you will need to fit the tins and make any adjustments by sanding the holes bigger.
Again...not too much to this step. Grab a can of green spray paint and go to town. I "Intentionally" sprayed lots of paint on and caused drips. I felt they added some texture to the Christmas tree.
I also sprayed a coat of gloss polyurethane on, but that is optional. While the paint is drying you can move on to the next step...
Step 5: Cut Lots of Paper Circles
Using your lids as a guide cut lots of paper circles out for the lids. I found the pad of holiday paper at the local craft store. My goal was to make the tins look like ornaments so try to vary the pattern and colors as much as possible.
Step 6: Final Assembly
Now that the paint is dry and you have lots of little paper circles you can start assembling. I found that the watchmaker tins that I used weren't very uniform, so some required some special fitting into the holes. In retrospect this is something you should do prior to painting as I had to sand some of the holes to make them bigger. Something you should do before the final paint.
The smaller tins were just glued on with an epoxy. I'm sure other glues would work and the epoxy is overkill, but it's what I had laying around.
The Stand was just made out of a scrap piece of wood and screwed to the bottom.
Overall this was a fun project and the kids love it. It's sometimes a challenge to find things to fit in the tins, but here are some ideas, I'm sure others will have better ideas:
- Candy, chocolate, and jelly beans.
- Small Ornaments
- Folded money
- Coupons for things like Ice Cream or trip to Movies (we found these were good things to put into the small tins.)
- Small Toys
- Lots of things that can be found at Party Stores.
Overall this was a really fun project to do. With proper supervision, it would probably be a good project to do with the kids as long as an adult operates all the power equipment.
Again, depending on the size of the tins you get, you don't have to drill the holes and recess the tins. This was pretty time consuming and if I had this project to do over again, I would have used some shallower tins and just glued them on. This would have also allowed you to hang the tree from the wall, which would be cool too.
Like I mentioned earlier I think this would also make a cool Wreath.
Have fun and let me know what improvements you make.