Turn a Used Christmas Tree Into a Didgeridoo




About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

A didgeridoo is a primitive aboriginal wind instrument. If you are unfamiliar with what they are or how they work, you can learn more about them here.

Last winter when I was taking down our Christmas tree, I decided to save the trunk just in case I came up with something to make out of it. I trimmed off all the branches and stuck the bare trunk in the corner of my garage. It sat there drying out for almost eight months waiting for me to come up with a good project for it.

I eventually decided to try to turn it into a didgeridoo. This ended up being a fun, challenging project, and I was happy with the results. Here are the details.

Step 1: Acquire a Used Tree

For most traditional-Christmas-celebrating people, acquiring a used tree should be easy.

For everyone else, check around your neighborhood after Christmas. Really, any type of appropriately-sized tree or large tree branch should work for this project. I believe this particular tree was a noble fir.

You can see this actual tree in action in the background of the intro pictures in this instructable.

Step 2: Remove All the Branches

I left the tree in its stand to make it easier to trim off all the branches.

I used pruning shears for most of the smaller limbs, and a hand saw for some of the bigger ones.

Step 3: Let It Dry Out Completely

I trimmed off the top of the trunk before setting it aside to dry out.

Over the period of eight months while this was just sitting there, I was tempted to throw it out many times. But I've learned to hold on to neat stuff like this.

Step 4: Remove Branch Nubs and Strip Bark

With the trunk all dried out and a plan in place, I used a reciprocating saw to cut off all the branch nubs.

This saw also worked well to carefully shave off the outer layer of bark, along with much of the remaining bark underneath.

I used clamps to secure the trunk to my work table while I was sawing.

Step 5: Sand Until Smooth

The reciprocating saw left a lot of tooth marks in the wood.

I used 80 grit sand paper on my palm sander to remove any remaining bark and smooth out the blemishes left by the reciprocating saw.

Step 6: Draw a Line

A line was drawn along the length of the trunk which helped while reassembling all the pieces (as explained in the steps to come).

Step 7: Bore Out the Center a Few Inches Deep

I used spade bits to bore out the center of the trunk a few inches at a time. Each bored out section was then cut off with a miter saw.

I began with a 3/4-inch bit, and ended with a 1 1/2-inch bit. The idea was to bore out the center as straight as possible, while keeping the sidewalls around about 1/2-inch or so.

For sections of trunk that were more straight, I was able to make deeper bores. For areas that were twisted or curved, shorter sections had to be bored out and cut off.

I began with my normal drill, but soon switched over to a high-torque, low-speed drill. This worked much better.

Step 8: Cut Off Bored-out Section

After boring out the center a few inches deep, I measured the distance in and placed a mark on the outside, taking a little off my measurement to ensure that the entire piece being cut off had been bored through completely.

Step 9: Bore, Cut, Repeat

I continued boring out the center and cutting off sections until I reached the other end of the trunk.

I lined up all the pieces in order in preparation for reassembly.

Step 10: Glue It All Back Together

Starting with the base, I began gluing all the pieces back together. The line I drew on the trunk earlier was used to help match up all the pieces correctly.

I used clamps or weights where I could to ensure a good bond.

When gluing, it's important to put an even layer of glue on both surfaces to be joined. The glue immediately grabs the wood and begins seeping into the tiny pores, preparing for a good bond. Plus, if you let the two pieces sit for a couple minutes, the glue will start to get tacky. When the two pieces are joined together, the two sides of tacky glue will grab onto each other and create a really solid, fast bond. This is an especially useful technique when clamping is not feasible, which was the case with the upper half of the trunk.

Step 11: Sand the Joints

With the entire trunk glued together I sanded all the joints smooth.

Step 12: Widen the Openings

I found that mouth-end opening needs to be at minimum about 1 1/4-inches wide to work properly. The original opening was too small, and the only sounds I could make through it sounded more like a trumpet.

I fixed this by widening the mouth-end opening of the didge using a rotary rasp attached to my drill. I fluted out the bottom end as well, just for good measure.

Step 13: Finish Sand and Stain/lacquer As Desired

I wanted a plain, natural finish so I opted for no stain and only a light coat of lacquer.

I gave the entire didge a few final sandings with progressively higher grits, and then gave it three light coats of spray lacquer and a light sanding to finish it off.

Step 14: Add Mouthpiece

I used some sugru to make a mouthpiece. The stuff reminded me of trying to model with silly putty, but it cured to a nice soft-touch rubbery finish.

Step 15: Play It!

That's it. Thanks for looking!

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    93 Discussions

    Brokk Hrafnsson

    1 year ago

    Sounds like a fog horn, but looks fantastic and works fantastically. Really nice job!


    4 years ago

    I love this! Now you've had it for awhile, any trouble with the glued joints? Gluing endgrain can be tricky which is why I ask.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Ha! Good question.

    I must have used enough glue, because it has held up great. In fact, a couple months ago I was going through a "cleaning phase" and planned to throw this out.

    I whacked it hard over the lip of my metal trash bin a couple times, thinking it would bust into pieces. After a couple good whacks and no breaking, I assumed it meant I needed to keep it!

    I've got it right here... here's a photo, and you can see the dent marks from my trash bin. Crazy! :)


    4 years ago

    hmm... i may just need to make one of these! and it just so happens my pops has a pair of ex christmas trees; one of which is actually from 2013. Ive actually always wanted to learn to play a didge. Awesome project man!!!


    4 years ago on Step 14

    I think better idea is -

    just cut it in 2 half sides all the way long..

    take out the wood from the middle with some tools, chissels and chainsaw..

    glue it back together. than its more solid.. and should ring better as well

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 14

    Yes! That sounds like a very good option. I just didn't have the tools at the time to efficiently remove the wood from the middle, so that method wasn't a good choice for me. Great idea though!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    That is so awesome! Amazing instructable! Sounds like a whale's mating call! But really cool!


    6 years ago on Step 15

    This is so cool!!! Thanks for sharing.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for your interesting approach to repurposing a christmas tree into a didgeridoo.
    I have been building didges for many years. Part of my experience is that you have to be really careful with what you make your mouthpieces out of. Some materials can be toxic over a period of time without you knowing. Since I am always looking for temperature stable mouthypiece materials, I contacted the manufacturer of SUGRU. I am pasting my inquiry and their responses here:
    I recently saw a design for making a didgeridoo using Sugru as the mouthpiece. I have been making didges for many years using the traditional beeswax method. A problem being that beeswax deforms when playing on a hot day. My question is: Since people are doing Surgu to make more permanent mouthpieces, is there anything in the formula that could be potentially toxic especially since saliva ( ingested in small amounts while playing ) and lips come into hard contact with the Sugru? This is a serious issue. Lots of people seem to be starting to use this technique to construct mouthpieces. Please help the digdin’ community stay safe.
    Thank you,
    Carl Fallik

    Hi Carl

    Thanks for the email, I totally understand your concern. I've heard of this use of sugru, but it is something we are not yet able to endorse. We don't have knowledge of anything that would make sugru harmful to the user, though in it's un-cured state we've seen very rare cases of skin irritation. But the main point is that sugru has not been tested for food safety.
    It seems like a great application for sugru, but **until it has been tested and certified food-safe we can't recommend sugru for a didgeridoo mouthpiece.**
    Did you see a photo of this use on our website? I had a thorough search, but couldn't track it down.
    Let me know if you've any more questions or concerns!
    All the best
    Yours in digi'n friendship,

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Very interesting! Thank you for posting this. Are there really "lots of people" using Sugru for didge mouthpieces? I thought it was a good use for the stuff, and I haven't had any adverse reactions to it yet. Nice work, let me know if you come across any more info.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! You live dangerously, balancing a paint can on top to use as a clamp. I might have to try it with using this giant 36" drill bit extender, one used by electricians to run holes through walls to fish the wire through. Slicing the whole thing in half with a bandsaw would just be cheating.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Here is the thing about spade bits and extenders: I have tried this with the help of a fellow didge maker and clamps to stabilize the shaft. I every case, the bit "wanders" to the outside damaging the shell you are trying to create. This is what the bit and extender do. It is the nature of the beast. Never got a shaft longer than 6". Gave up and went to splitting which has worked very well. My best.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    every year i think of doing this after christmas i love the idea of recycling christmas trees into didjs. this is an intresting method but it has extremly low strength because of the joints and will break eventualy when it falls over and it will. trust me they all fall. this is a great example of making do, and getting the job done with comon tools everone or almost everyone has.

    6 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You are exactly right, and I was aware of the weakness of the joints.

    I considered shooting a few small brads into each section to attach it to the one below it, and then filing the holes with putty. I didn't like the idea as the marks would still show, but I may go ahead and do it just to strengthen the whole thing.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I have made the joints much stronger by putting a thin wood "sleeve" inside the didge.
    If you do it right (this is hard to do) Glue only one side of the sleeve and you can take to didge apart for travel. It works, I've done it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    honestly i wouldnt go with brads. the strongest and easiets thing you can do at this point to strengthen the whole piece significantly would be a light layer of fiberglass wraped around the entire didj.otherwise anything else that you could of done to really strengthen your christmas tree didj really probably needed to be during construction. 3 -4 hard wood dowel pegs glued into every section druing assembly would have added a tremendous amount of strength. drill a 1-2" inch deep hole in each piece with matching holes on the other one glue the peg in and assemble. or you could have cut veritcal slots in each section so it looks like the end of a tinker toy, and put vertical strips of wood in the slots. contratsting wood could look amazing with this.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I like the idea of dowels, very much a stronger bond. Alternatively, you could rev up your bandsaw (everyone has one, right?), and do some dovetailing. But that's of course only if you want to increase the time and difficulty of your project by like a million percent! - Pj