Would you like an eye-catching Christmas ornament for your garden? We’ve got just what you need: this DIY guide gives you step-by-step instructions for creating a reindeer from tree trunks and branches.
Selecting your wood
In principle you can use any coniferous wood or hardwood for this DIY reindeer’s body and head. You can use larger branches for the legs and neck, and we recommend choosing forked, thinner branches for the antlers.
Tip: You can make the reindeer more stable by using glue during assembly. However, glue doesn’t dry easily on damp wood, so we advise using dry wood. If you only have damp wood available, you can always put it together first, and then glue the parts in place when they’re dry.
Safety comes first; not just when using a chainsaw in the woods, but also when sawing for creative projects. You should therefore always wear safety glasses or face protection and some form of personal noise protection – e.g. ear defenders. If you’re using a cordless chainsaw you won’t need any ear protection.
Don’t forget to also protect your hands and legs. Make sure you wear work gloves, trousers with cut protection, and boots with cut protection inserts when sawing. You can find out more about protective equipment when using a chainsaw here.
Please note, some countries may have specific requirements for personal protective equipment, and be aware that protective clothing is no substitute for working safely. Therefore, please also always follow the operating instructions for the tool you’re using.
Step 1: Materials required for the wooden reindeer
- For the body:
- Log (about 20 cm diameter)
- For the head:
- Log (about 10-12 cm diameter)
- Forked branches for antlers
- For the legs and neck:
- Thin trunks or thick branches (about 5 cm diameter)
- STIHL chainsaw
- STIHL pruning saw
- FELCO secateurs
- Drill with wood drill bits
- Wood glue
- Angle grinder
- Folding ruler
Step 2: Cut the body section to length
Lay the larger log on a workbench or stable sawhorse and measure a length of around 60 cm. Make a small incision to mark the length (e.g. using the chainsaw), or alternatively you could just use a pencil or marker spray.
Position the trunk and fix it in place so that the shorter end from the mark extends over the edge of the workbench. Don’t cut all the way through the log initially: stop when you’ve gone about two thirds of the way. Otherwise, the piece being removed may break off early and splinter. To avoid this, saw the last third from below, or turn the trunk over so you can make the final cut from above.
Step 3: Drill holes in the body section
Fix the wood securely to your workbench. Use your drill to make four holes in the log for the legs. These need to be around 5 cm deep and drilled into the wood on a slight diagonal towards the middle of the trunk: this will ensure that the legs ultimately stand at a slight angle, and give the reindeer a more stable footing. Turn the wood over and drill a further hole for the neck. This should also be on a slight diagonal, so that the head will eventually look straight ahead.
Tip: In order to choose the appropriate drill bit, use the thickness of the branches for the legs and neck as a guide, and select a bit that has a slightly smaller diameter.
Step 4: Cut the legs and neck
The reindeer’s four legs and neck are easy to make by cutting lengths from a thick branch or narrow trunk, as uniform in diameter as possible (e.g. trunk sections from young trees). For the legs, use a pruning saw to cut lengths of about 40 cm each. In addition to the four equal pieces for the legs, cut an extra section to make the reindeer’s neck: this only needs to be 20 cm long.
Step 5: Taper the legs and neck
Use an angle grinder to taper one end of each of the legs and both ends of the neck piece. Use a vice to clamp the branches in place so they don’t move around while you work. We recommend that you don’t make the ends too sharply pointed, and that you test them for fit against the relevant holes as you go, so you can ensure a snug fit.
Step 6: Mounting the reindeer body
If you’re using dry wood, you can put some wood glue straight into the four drilled holes and use a hammer to gently tap the legs into the body. Once the glue has dried, you can stand the figure up, glue the neck and push this into the body by gently tapping it with a hammer. Remove any excess wood glue by wiping it away with an old, damp cloth.
If the wood you’re using is still damp, you can assemble the parts without glue. If the legs become wobbly once the wood has dried, you can glue them into position later.
Step 7: Cutting the head to size
Fix the middle-sized log onto the workbench and mark a length of around 25 cm. As before, only saw two thirds of the way through the log from above, cutting the final few centimetres from below.
Step 8: Drill holes in the head section
First drill a hole for the neck in the lower side of the head section. This should be drilled straight, so your reindeer holds its head at a natural angle.
Turn the log over, and then use a smaller wood drill bit to drill two holes for the antlers. These should be angled slightly towards the centre of the log.
Step 9: Create and mount the antlers
Use pruning shears to remove all leaves and smaller twigs from the antler branches until you’re happy with how they look. Then taper the lower point of each branch using an angle grinder. Secure the delicate branches in a vice, using a cloth to protect them from damage.
Finally, attach the head. Don’t forget: avoid using wood glue on wood that’s still damp. As a final step, push the antlers into the pre-drilled holes.
Your handmade wooden reindeer is finished!
Your handmade reindeer is finished and ready to add to your Christmas decorations. If you like, you can wrap a scarf around the reindeer’s neck, or give it a Santa hat.
Your reindeer would obviously love to have friends of different sizes.