Welcome to another JP's Workshop Instructable! In this one I'm going to show you how to make a quick and easy Christmas tree out of a single pallet and some screws using only simple tools. My inspiration for this project was my missus who decided she wanted some outdoor decorations this year and what with me being a big fan of making things out of pallets, this was the ideal solution with the added bonus that it's virtually free to build and 100% sustainable.
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Step 1: Chopping Up the Pallet
My preferred kind of pallet for this project is the type that are held together by cubic blocks at the corners as these blocks can be salvaged and are very useful in building the stand to hold the tree up, however pallets that have 3 bearers holding them together can also be used albeit with a bit of bodging. Also try and avoid using pallets stamped with MB as these have been treated with Methyl Bromide which is toxic.
To make a Christmas tree I first had to cut the pallet into a triangular shape. I marked out two lines with a straight edge from the bottom corners to the middle of the top edge where the line starts and ends just outside of the wooden cubes (see pictures) so it is symmetrical around the centre line. I then moved and clamped the straight edge to a position where it would act as a guide for the circular saw to cut the straight line I just marked (i.e. I moved it out by a distance equal to the distance from the circular saw blade to the saw baseplate's outer edge). Once I was happy with its position I cut along both marked lines with a circular saw.
Once that was done I flipped the pallet over and cut through the last bits of wood holding the pallet together immediately to each side of the wood cube at the top and immediately above the wood cube at either end of the bottom. This part was easier as I was using a one sided pallet, if you have a two sided pallet the easiest thing would be to repeat the cuts you made on the front.
Step 2: Creating a Stand
Now we have our basic Christmas tree shape the next step is to build a stand so it stays upright, and to do this we need to salvage some pieces from the offcuts. If you are using the same sort of pallets as me you need to dismantle the offcuts and retrieve three of the cubic corner blocks as these are going to be reused to make the three corners of the triangular support stand. (N.B. if you are using the other kind of pallet with three solid bearers you can fasten your stand directly to the middle bearer though you will need to cut down a piece of bearer from the offcuts to use on the bottom corner of the stand.)
The first two blocks need to be screwed into the gap in the centre beam on the back of the Christmas tree, the first one as close to the ground as possible and the second about one "rung" from the top. Fasten these with 70mm wood screws using two from either side for a good solid fix.
Next you need to find two short planks about 18 inches long from the offcuts and attach these with two wood screws each to the bottom cube you attached earlier so they stick out at right angles to the Christmas tree. It is important these are the same length and are fixed at the same angle as each other because the next job is to fix the third wooden cube in between these short planks at the other end for what will become the bottom corner of the triangle. As before use two wood screws each side for a solid fix.
The last step is to find two longer planks from your offcuts which will be used to complete the triangular stand and give it strength. Before you go any further you need to have a look at where you intend to site the Christmas tree once it is finished. If it's going on a flat level surface then you will want to use planks that extend a bit beyond the bottom corner of the stand so it touches the floor level with the bottom of the Christmas tree, however my tree was going on a slope so I cut mine a bit shorter to compensate. A good way to check this is to lay your Christmas tree face down with its base butted up to a wall. You can then essentially use the wall as a giant set square to check the position of your stand before fixing it into place.
If you want to paint your tree then this is the time to do it, I however like the natural pallet look so I left it completely natural.
Step 3: Making the Star
This is a really simple step, I used part of an old orange box but you can use any piece of scrap hardboard or thin plywood would work well. Using the star off my inside Christmas tree as a guide I placed this star on top of my board and marked out the five points with a sharpie. I then joined up the points with a ruler to make a pentagram which I then cut out with a jigsaw, however if you don't have a jigsaw a small hacksaw will work just as well.
Once you have cut it out you can then paint it in the colour of your choice, I chose a matt white out of a rattle can, though silver can be quite effective too.
Finally I fixed it to the top of my tree with a single wood screw.
Step 4: Setting in Place
Once it is all finished, position your tree in its final position and assuming you built your stand correctly with reference to the surface it is stood on it should be standing nice and straight. When you are happy with the position use something like a sand bag or bag of compost or topsoil over the lower arm of the stand to weigh it down and stop it blowing over. As my tree was in an exposed position I used a garden waste sack filled with rocks to give it a bit of extra security.
Finally decorate it with some lights and hang any decorations you like and watch your neighbours go green with envy.
Step 5: Finished Photos and Tools and Materials Used
Here are a selection of photos of the tree in action
Straight piece of wood
One shipping pallet
Scrap piece of hardboard
70mm wood screws
White spray paint