For this holiday season, I wanted to celebrate the purchase of my first home and also the creation of my first Instructable by creating our first holiday decoration by hand. I have many hobbies as I am sure most of you reading this do. They come in many forms but nearly all of them include building, making, putting together, or otherwise crafting something, and for this project, I wanted to get to the soul of this seemingly universal obsession.
For this project, I did my best to create a wreath for our front door, as completely out of hot glue sticks as I could possibly manage. This is not only an adhesive that I use on a daily basis for its ease of use and versatility, but also one of the only "behind the scenes" materials that is not stuck in a supporting role.
The principal is simple for this project and it can be adapted to your style and taste very easily. I decided to help embody the "cobweb" that tends to occur when your glue gun is not quite hot enough, or the temperature rating of the glue sticks you are using does not match the temperature rating of your particular glue gun.
This section is fairly lenient when crafting your own wreath, but there are a few items that I believe to be invaluable when dealing with hot glue in a setting where it is being unconventionally utilized.
- A bunch of Glue sticks - I ended up using 27 large glue sticks, but I could have easily used more if not pacing myself
- Glue gun - Something reliable and compatible with your glue of choice; if you get multi-temp glue, you'll be fine either way. I prefer something corded for constant use, but I did fine with a cordless Ryobi and several batteries
- A Wreath frame/base for mounting to the wall and to add some much appreciated structural support (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0054G5JLA)
- Parchment Paper - I cannot tell you how useful this stuff is; once hot glue is completely cooled, it doesn't stick to the stuff at all (note: not wax paper, though that sort of works in a pinch, parchment is a silicone impregnated paper that is used in modern baking applications and can be found at most grocery stores
- Lights! - (If you want it to twinkle and look generally awesome) There are many options for this. I initially wanted to work in some arduino RGB lighting and make this a multi-season, color assignable wreath, but decided to go with a string of white lights that have 8 settings, remote and a waterproof battery pack for outdoor use. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QB16N7Q)
- Scissors strong enough to cut dry hot glue
- Sharpie for marking parchment paper
- Masking tape (always comes in handy, much like hot glue itself; hmm... masking tape Christmas tree?)
- Patience, and lots of grip strength
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Step 1: Creating the "Sheet Material"
For this step you will need to determine the dimensions of the wreath that you would like to create.
Mathematically, the donut shape of a wreath is called a torus, and the formula and "flattened" shape is quite complex, much too overboard for our purposes here today, especially since most wreaths are made of branches and foliage, which are inherently "imperfect" and irregular.
Instead of trying to determine the dimensions of the torus, we will instead pretend to "unroll" the donut shape, as a tire being stripped from it's hub while driving, and measure the length of this would be cylinder (this will be the outer circumference of the wreath).
The next measure is going to be for the circumference of the cylinder itself, which will of course translate to the girth or bulk of the wreath once assembled.
These two linear dimensions should be then translated to a flat piece of parchment paper, that has been secured to a suitable, flat and heat resistant surface, such as a work bench or dining table, insulated with several pieces of foam-core. My flattened shell of a wreath ended up measuring 46' by 11" which conveniently fit lengthwise on the parchment paper with plenty of overlap, as I did not want to get glue on the table surface.
Once the preparatory work is complete, it is time to start laying down the glue. This is where the fun beings.
I opted to create a seemingly random, Jackson Pollock-esque web of glue strands ranging in size as I saw fit to fill gaps. I started with a fairly robust lattice of thicker beads of glue to give a good foundation to the project, followed by many thin, wispey strands that were achieved by holding the glue gun roughly two feet above the surface and shaking the glue gun about wildly while pulling the trigger steadily. This made for quite a cool effect.
Again, I believe this is the perfect step to add your own designs into the work, be it swirls, checks, your name, or anything that your heart desires. However, read ahead and plan for the eventual cutting of this sheet into strips, and make sure that this doesn't ruin your design in the final product.
Step 2: Preparing the Wreath Frame
In this step, you will simple mount the battery pack to the convex side of the frame, as shown, and wrap your lights as you would like. You could wrap them loosely, coil them and glue the bottom of each coil, or even weave them through the frame. However, I opted to simply wrap the wires for the lights around the frame, making sure that the spacing of each light was even enough to become negligible once shrouded in the hot glue sheet material.
Note: I did make sure that these lights do not get very hot, but you may have to take precautions, as hot glue is intended to have a relatively low melting point and I would not want you or members of your household to be in danger of dripping glue or fire if your particular lights tend to get warm to the touch. Please be careful. I did make sure that none of my LEDs on my wires were facing outward where they would come in direct contact with Hot glue in the next step.
Step 3: Mount the Sheet Material to the Outside of the Frame
In this step, we are making the sheet material as structurally stable and well bonded to the frame as we can, using of course, hot glue!
I did this by laying the sheet flat on the table, standing the frame vertically on, parallel, and against the long edge of the sheet material, and gluing slowly, letting the glue cool before rolling the frame slightly and gluing more. This was a slow process, but it made for a very strong bond and a very nice looking... lampshade. (but really, cool project idea noted). When making the sheet material, you will have a smooth side that was against the table, and a rough side that faces up. I opted for the smooth side up in this particular step, so that the rough glue surface that was not against the table initially is facing outward on the final product, as i thought that this gave a more rough and traditional wreath-like appearance.
Once I had glued the entirety of the edge to the wreath and it was able to stand as a vertical, open cylinder all on its own, I trimmed the overlap and glued a few suturing-beads (*coined) along the seam with a partially cooled glue gun. This technique allows you to apply glue to glue, without melting away your sheet material pattern. I did this by turning on and off the glue gun when it got respectively too cold or too hot for this application. Mastering this technique will help immensely in ways that you may have never realized. Or just buy a heat adjustable glue gun and let my techniques fall to peasant-ish ramblings.
Step 4: Cut the Sheet Material Into Strips
At this point, test your lights, conspiracy theories, and your glue joints for any loose connections, fixing as needed.
Once you are ready to move on, you will begin by cutting the sheet material into roughly two inch strips that are all attached at the frame. Leave the slits uncut to roughly two inches above the frame for structural support and rigidity.
Fold all of the flaps/strips into the center of the wreath, and flip the entire thing over.
Step 5: Gluing the Final Shape
In this step, you will take the strips, and glue them, one by one, in order, to the inside ring of the frame, leaving as much slack as you would like to give you the final shape of your wreath size/bulk.
As you go around the wreath, take your time and be sure to check the general shape of the wreath. Most importantly, make sure that you are consistent with the circumference of each strip from outside frame to inside, as this will greatly impact the final shape and symmetry of the wreath. I used a sharpie to hold down each strip while the glue cooled as we all know it can burn you.
Once you have gone around the entire wreath, you are essentially done and the wreath can be mounted on the wall, door, or mantle for all of you guests and neighbors to be jealous of! (Optional elements in final step)
Step 6: Optional Additions
Optionally, you can "tidy" up the shape of the wreath using suturing-beads, as I mentioned in a previous step, with partially cooled glue ran over the seams between each strip. This will add strength and can help to round the wreath in places where the strips did not want to cooperate. I had to cut a few v-shaped slits in the strips to allow for folding in some protrusions, and glued the sides of the slit down together. This small bit of additional work made for quite a wonderful and uniform shape.
I also opted to make the wreath look "traditional" for the holiday season by creating a large bow out of glue. I did this by drawing the shape of the bow that I wanted, slightly over-sized, and traced and filled it with hot glue. I put this in the fridge, hoping to cool it quickly enough to cause wrinkling, making the bow appear more fabric like, which it did... somewhat; it turned out fine either way. The shape is made over-sized because I knew I would want to trim the edges, to create as clean a bow as I could manage. This turned out to be the cherry on top, and the element that made the entire project pop. I highly recommend not skipping the addition of some sort of decoration, as these additional elements really do stand out in the final product.
Step 7: Hang It Up and Enjoy!
Thank you for following along! If you make this Instructable, I would love to see how it turned out. Keep in mind that this is a guideline, not a definitive guide, and any innovations or tips that you find success with would be a fantastic addition to the project.
Happy holidays and hot gluing to all!
First Prize in the
Hot Glue Speed Challenge