I've always been of the opinion that the best Christmas trees are the ones that are adorned with hand made ornaments. Seeing a handmade ornament and recalling the memories associated with it always warms the soul more than a commercial ornament and the memories of you buying it in the store. If you have similar ornament views, you may enjoy this popsicle stick sled ornament. For this ornament you'll need popsicle sticks, both the regular size and the medium size), a method to cut the popsicle sticks (scroll saw, coping saw, kitchen shears), sand paper, glue, paint, and string. I have included a youtube build video if your interested. If not, simply keep reading.
Step 1: The Template
I've provided three different templates. The "four slat sled" template and "five slat sled" template are comparable in terms of difficulty. The "three slat sled" template is a little more difficult. Once you have decided on a template, it needs to be cut out and fastened to the popsicle sticks. I use spray adhesive. If you don't have spray adhesive, wrap your popsicle sticks in painter's tape as I've shown in the third picture for this step and then use a glue stick to glue the template to the painters tape. Once the pattern is fastened to the popsicle stick, I wrap everything in see through shipping tape. This keeps the template for lifting. Nothing is more frustrating than being in the middle of a cut with a scroll saw and having your pattern come off!
Step 2: Ready to Cut
Now we are ready to cut them out. I prefer to use a scroll saw. If you don't have a scroll saw. A coping saw will work, but will require some means of holding the popsicle stick, such as a vise. TIP: When cutting the cross pieces, cut the long curved bottom cut first, as I've done in the second picture. By cutting it first you are able to used the entire length of the popsicle stick to control the piece and keep you fingers away for the blade. If you cut the long curved cut last, the piece will be half the length of a popsicle stick and your fingers will be much closer to the blade, making the cut much more dangerous. WARNING: If you choose to use popsicle sticks and a scroll saw, your finger will be in close proximity to the scroll saw blade. If you are not comfortable with this, DON"T. An alternative is to use 3mm craft plywood, instead of popsicle sticks. The larger piece of plywood will keep your fingers farther away from the blade.
Step 3: Sanding
Once all the pieces are cut, you'll need to remove the pattern. If you used spray adhesive simply wet the pieces with some mineral spirit and the pattern will lift off. If you used the painter's tape method, simply remove the tape. Now sand all the pieces to remove the fuzzy edges and smooth any jagged cuts. I use 120 grit sand paper, both attached to a sanding block and cut into small 1" x 1" squares.
Step 4: Steering Piece
In the video I made notches on the end of the steering piece for the string to attach to. I have since changed my mind and started drilling holes to attach the string. Sometimes drilling the hole makes the steering piece split, in which case you may to have to throw it away and make another. I originally did the notches so that the sled would hang straight on the tree. I didn't like the way it looked though, so now I do the holes. The "holes" method causes the ornament to hang crooked but I still think it looks better. Either way works. Which ever method you chose to attach your string, now is the point when you do it. Either make the notches or drill the holes.
Step 5: Now What?
Where we go from here depends on how your plan on painting your ornament. If the rails and crosspieces are to be painted the same color (like the one on the right in the first picture), I usually glue them together at this point. If however, they are going to be painted different colors (like the one on the left in the first picture), I paint the cross pieces and the INSIDES of the rails first, then glue them together. Don't paint the outsides of the rails. You'll just end up sanding the paint off in the next step. Once the paint dries, go ahead and glue the crosspieces and rails together.
Step 6: More Sanding
Now that the crosspieces and rails are glued together, you will need to sand the glue point. Generally there is a small nub sticking out and some glue squeeze out that must be sanded off. This is where the sanding block comes in handy. If you don't have a sanding block, just wrap some sand paper around a small chunk of board to make an improvised sanding block.
Step 7: Paint
Time for paint! (maybe some lacquer too!) It's time to make it your own! Paint or finish painting the base, slats and steering piece. In the second picture I have used lacquer on the slats. This let the natural wood show though while providing some protection.
Step 8: Glue Up
Now, we will glue the slats to the base. I like to glue the two outside slats on first, then space the rest of slat accordingly. Once the slats are dry, I glue on the steering piece.
Step 9: Add a String
We're almost finished. The ornament still needs a 6-7" string. You might have noticed that the string on green sled doesn't match any of the string colors in the middle. I used food coloring to dye the white string. I just think it's a nice touch when the string matches the sled colors.
Step 10: Hang It on the Tree
The last step is to hang it on your Christmas tree.
Check out this video to see some the sleds I've made and get a tip for making more than one of these ornaments.
If you're wondering about the green / yellow combination, this sled was made for a little guy that likes John Deere tractors, so I painted his sled in John Deere colors.