My mom has had one of these as long as I can remember and asked me to make one for my sister and her family. In the process of making one, I used some scrap wood and ended up with three of them. It is a great way to use scrap wood and end up with something worthwhile.
Step 1: Gather Materials/Tools
5/16" or similar dowel
1x4" or other scrap material
Table saw with miter gauge
5/32" drill bit (or bit slightly larger than lollipop sticks)
5/16" drill bit to match center dowel
Step 2: Rip Scrap Into Square Material
Rip your scrap material into equal dimensions. Ie: if your material is 3/4", rip it to 3/4" x 3/4". The lengths can vary because you will need various lengths to build the tree. You will need one piece for the base that is double this dimension or 1-1/2" x 3/4". If you miss that and cut all of your scrap, it just means you'll have to glue feet on the last row.
Step 3: Setup to Drill Center Holes
Setup a stop on your drill press to drill as close to the center of each of the pieces as you can. When setting it up, drill a test hole, then flip the piece 180 degrees to see if the hole is within 1/16" of center.
Step 4: Drill Center Holes
Now drill the holes all the way through ALL of the pieces including the one that is 1-1/2" x 3/4".
Step 5: Trim Center Dowel and Thread on Drilled Pieces
Now cut your center dowel about 1/4"-1/2" over the length of your tree. The bottom pieces in this picture are the ones to be cut. Your dowel should fit snugly into the freshly drilled holes. Too tight and too loose are both not going to work well. Sand your down if it is too tight.
When threading the pieces on, try to build something that looks like the tree your are expecting to end up with. Shorter pieces should be a the top. And do not forget the double-wide piece at the bottom.
Step 6: Setup Table Saw Gauge and Cut Angles
Set your miter gauge with a extended fence (in my case 3/4" plywood) to the angle of your choice. And make your first cut.
After doing this three times in rapid succession, I have some tips. As you can see, I miscalculated on the last one and ended up with a shorter tree. It worked out well because the other two would not fit in a standard USPS flat rate box...
Tip #1: Make sure your dowel is trimmed to protrude <1/2" This one was longer than pictured and snagged the blade on the first pass
Tip #2: After you have made your first cut, make sure your saw has stopped. Then rotate the top two rows to the other side. This will help you set the position for the second cut. It is also the reason to make sure your holes are as close to centerline as possible.
Tip #3: Stepper angles will make the tree look more full.
Tip #4: Make the top row at least 2" long.
Step 7: Drill Lollipop Holes
Now it is time to setup the drill press for the lollipop holes. After you have switched out the bit, use some cut off scraps to center the hole and set the distance in from the end. Also, use your drill press' stop to make sure you don't go through the bottom. I drilled about 3/8" or 1/2 the distance through the wood.
Don't forget to drill the double-wide one just to ~3/8"
Step 8: Cut Double Board for Cross Piece
Now that the holes are all drilled, you need to trim the double-wide board to accept the bottom board. In the picture of the finished tree, you can see how the squared board fits into the space removed on the double-wide board and extends to support the tree when standing.
Set your table saw to just over the width of your boards, then nibble away at the double board using the miter gauge. After you have some cut away, you can use a router, bandsaw or more time to cut the rest of the board.
Cut your squared off piece to fit and make sure there is enough room for it to pivot flat both directions.
Step 9: Assemble the Tree
Now assemble the tree. Keep a little bit of extra space between the boards as they may warp and twist a little over time. I like to keep about 1/8" over the height of the tree(you can see the gap in the picture below on the tree to the right). You will only have to glue the base and the top of the tree. I used 5/8" brads to hold the dowel in place while the glue dried.
Trim off and sand your dowel so it is just a little proud of the top board, and you are done. Of the three of these, I did not get to keep any. The original plan was to give one to someone on Instructables, but I ended up giving one to my neighbor, one to my sister and one to my mother-in-law.
It really is a great way to get rid of scrap material. You can paint it or stain it, or sand it, but the bare tree is what I grew up with and what I am used to. Plus it collapses flat for easy storage!