Learn how to make 3D wood trees to add a bit of rustic, wintry charm to a tiered tray, shelf, or entryway table.
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BEHR Paint + Primer (Congo)
When I attended the Haven Conference, I received a complementary can of BERH Paint + Primer in the color Congo. I knew this luscious shade of deep green would be perfect for painting my rustic 3D wood trees. The spray paint + primer combination provided great coverage and the Congo green color was beautiful.
3D Wood Tree Project Overview
This project consists of two 3D trees, each made from two interlocking pieces of wood.
Stack Cutting the Trees
In order to cut two pieces at once, I stacked two pieces of 1/4″ plywood and then affixed a simple template to the top. The free template is available for download further down this page.
Since the trees consisted of two interlocking shapes, I used a small drill bit to drill a hole through the stacked wood to identify the place where the shapes will align. The hole marks the end of the interior channel cuts so that the pieces fit together once assembled. This point is marked with a circle on the template.
I cut out the shapes with my awesome Pegas scroll saw. To learn more about the Pegas Scroll Saw, visit Bear Wood Supply. Because the pieces of plywood were stacked, I was able to cut two identical shapes with one cut.
Cutting the Channels
After cutting the stack tree shapes, I separated the pieces of wood. I then cut channels into each of the matching trees equal to the width of the plywood. The channels are used to interlock the pieces to form a 3D tree. The center line on the template marks the location of the channel, but you need to adjust it to match the width of wood you use for your project.
On one piece, I cut a channel from the bottom of the tree up to the hole (see yellow tree in the image below). For the other piece, I cut a channel from the top of the tree down to the hole that was drilled (see the green tree in the image below).
Assembling the Pairs
After cutting the channels, I set the piece with the long channel down perpendicularly over the piece with the short channel. See how I assembled the pieces in the illustration below.
Instructions for Making 3D Wood Trees
Here’s What I Used
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- 1/4″ plywood (for the template below you need two pieces of 6.25″ x 6.25″ wood)
- Sheet of paper for printing template
- Painters tape
- Spray adhesive (I prefer 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Spray Adhesive)
- Wood glue (I prefer Titebond II)
- Paper towel or cloth to wipe up excess glue
- BEHR Aerosol Enamel Paint and Primer (Congo)
- Printer (for printing template)
- Scroll saw
- Safety Glasses (mine contain readers so I don’t need to wear my reading glasses and safety glasses)
- Dust Mask (for use when cutting wood and sanding)
- Drill with small drill bit
- Sandpaper (medium and fine grade)
- Small brush for applying glue
- Respirator (for use when spray painting)
Safety first! Before cutting and sanding, put on protective gear because saw dust is dangerous. Wear a dust mask for your lungs and safety glasses for your eyes. Also, because spray paint vapors are harmful, wear a respirator appropriate for painting, work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, and follow the instructions on your can of spray paint.
3D Wood Trees Project Steps
Time needed: 1 day.
Learn how to make 3D wood trees with a scroll saw.
- Print tree template
This free template is available for download further down on this page. Print and cut the box around the two trees.
The base in the downloadable template is a bit wider than in the steps below. I widened the base to make the trees a bit more stable.
- Apply template to wood
Cover the top of one piece of 1/4″ with painters tape (this will be the bottom board). Cover the top and bottom of a second piece of 1/4″ plywood with painters tape (this will be the top board). The tape is to protect the wood from the spray adhesive.
Apply spray adhesive to the tape on the bottom board. I like 3M Super 77 Adhesive Apply more adhesive to the tape on both sides of the top board. Finally, spray the back side of the paper template with adhesive. Stick the template to the top board and then stick the top board to the bottom board.
Spray in a well-ventilated area or outdoors and wear a respirator to protect your lungs.
- Drill hole in template.
Use a small drill bit to drill a hole through the stacked wood at the point marked with a circle on the template. The hole marks the end of the interior channel cuts so that the pieces fit together once assembled.
Tip: place a piece of scrap wood under your templates, so when you drill the hole you won’t damage the table underneath. This will also minimize tear out on the back side of the project wood.
- Cut outline of trees
Using a scroll saw, cut the exterior lines of each pine tree. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask and eye protection when using the scroll saw.
- Separate stacked trees
After cutting the two tree shapes, separate the stacked trees (you may need to pry them apart). Leave the template on the top piece.
- Cut channel into each piece of matching pairs
Trace the width of the wood over the center line on the template. This will be the channel width. On the piece with the template, cut a channel from the base of the tree up to the hole. The channel must be just wide enough so that the other piece of the tree fits in snugly.
- Trace channel width on piece without template
Use a pencil and trace the channel width on the other piece of wood from the top of the tree down to the hole.
- Cut channel on second piece of wood
Cut the top channel on the second piece of wood from the top of the tree down to the hole.
- Check if the pieces fit together
After cutting the two channels, check if the pieces fit together and the bases are flat. If they don’t fit, cut the channels a bit wider. If the bases don’t align and the tree is unable to stand on its own, you may need to cut one of the channels deeper. Make small cuts and keep doing test fits until they align.
- Cut out second pine tree
Repeat steps to cut out the pieces for the second pine tree.
- Remove template
Peel the template from the wood pieces.
- Sand base
Using a medium grade sandpaper (e.g., 80 grit), sand the base of the trees so that they stand flat and don’t wobble. Mine weren’t level, so I still had to flatten them out with sandpaper. I used paper glued to a stick so that I was sanding with a flat surface.
Continue to wear a dust mask when sanding to protect your lungs.
- Check if trees are level
Keep sanding until the trees can stand on their own without leaning or falling.
- Sand wood trees
Using a medium grade sandpaper (e.g., 80 grit), sand the flat surfaces of the trees. Follow that with a fine grade sandpaper (e.g., 120 grit) for a smoother surface.
- Sand edges
Using a medium grade sandpaper (e.g., 80 grit), sand the narrow edges of the trees.
- Round over edges
Using a medium grade sandpaper (e.g., 80 grit), sand the sharp edges of wood to round over the edges.
- Smooth sides and edges
Using a fine grade sandpaper or sanding sponge (e.g., 120 grit), sand the sides. Continue smoothing and rounding over the edges so that no sharp edges remain.
- Glue channel
Apply wood glue with a small brush to the interior channel of one piece.
- Glue other channel
Using a small brush, apply wood glue to the interior channel of the other piece.
- Wipe off excess glue
Wipe off excess glue from exterior of shapes with a paper towel or cloth.
- Assemble pieces
While the glue is wet, assemble to the two pieces so that they interlock and stand flat.
- Wrap with painters tape
To hold the pieces together while the glue dries, wrap the glued trees with painters tape.
- Paint trees
After the glue dries, remove the painters tape, and wipe any dust off the trees with a cloth.
Work outside or in a well-ventilated area. Wear a respirator and eye protection. Protect your work area from overspray with an excess piece of cardboard or a tarp.
Shake can of BEHR Paint + Primer vigorously for one minute after mixing ball begins to rattle. Hold can upright. Move from side-to-side while spraying lightly and evenly about 12” from the trees. Apply 2-3 thin coats until trees are fully covered. Shake the can often during use too.
Set trees aside while the paint dries.
3D Wood Trees Template
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Displaying the Trees
These 3D trees look great on a shelf, a fireplace mantel, or an entry way table during the holidays. Check out this post to see how I used them to style a holly jolly tiered tray.