I liked the idea of having our Christmas tree standing in a basket, wooden box or galvanized tub. Tree skirts have never been my favorite because every year it seemed like I was constantly vacuuming green ‘pine needles’ off our white skirt and I really didn’t like that it was always bunching up (but what doesn’t with 4 kids!?).
The legs on the metal base stick out so far that if I built something to accommodate them there wouldn’t be any room for presents under the tree! I also didn’t like the metal legs on our wood floors.
I saw an idea where someone made their own base so they could make a smaller box for the tree to sit in. I made my base out of cement – it’s definitely sturdy and it cost under $4 to make! I know what you’re thinking, “I CAN’T do cement!” I’m here to tell you that if you can make cookies with 2 ingredients… YOU can do cement!
I knew I wanted my box to look like a rustic crate and have chunky rope handles – I’m very happy with how it turned out!
This will be a 2-part post where I will first show you how to make the cement base so while that’s curing you can build your wooden box! Isn’t that wonderful!?
-An object you can use for your form/mold*
-A tube that will fit the circumference of your tree ‘trunk’ inside
-50 lb bag of Quikrete Concrete
*plastic is ideal for the mold because you can drill a hole for your center post and break it if needed to get your cement out
-A wheelbarrow or large plastic container for mixing
-Drill + Large (2″?) Bit
ESTIMATED COST: $4 – can’t beat that!
I felt very lucky that I had this perfect-sized plastic flower container in our shed and this extra leg from a plastic shelf we were no longer using.
I used a 2″ forstner bit to carefully drill a hole in the center that my tube could fit through (you want it to be snug). TIP: wedge some scrap wood underneath the area you are drilling to avoid your plastic from cracking under the stress.
I used gorilla tape on the outside to keep my tube in place.
You’ll want to prop your container up since your tube is sticking out of the bottom. TIP: make sure your working surface is level for the concrete to cure flat.
I poured 90% of the cement bag into our wheelbarrow and reserved 10% incase I added too much water.
Follow the directions on the package – I believe mine said to add 1/2 gallon of water for the whole bag and add in increments until the desired consistency was reached. The package also said to complete your work within 20 minutes (the time limit made me anxious but after I was done I realized there was no reason to freak out-it was easy!).
Fill your mold!
I patted and knocked on the sides of the container to get air pockets out.
I found a utensil in the kitchen that worked perfectly to smooth the top out.
Last step was to use painters tape to center the tube perfectly while it cured.
Don’t forget to wash your mixing container and shovel as soon as you finish.
After 24 hours the cement was hard enough to handle – but still soft and easy to break so I dumped it out onto the grass carefully. I was able to push the tube so it was flush with the bottom of the cement.
Leave your base somewhere undisturbed for a few days to harden enough before you put it to use. After I let it cure for a few days the tube was no longer moveable and I could carry the cement base with it.
-5 feet Manila Rope*
-1″ Wood Screws
-Wood Finish of Choice
-Drill + Bits
FINISHED DIMENSIONS: 19″-tall x 19″-deep x 16″-high
ESTIMATED COST: For lumber and rope this box cost under $25!
Because this is a very straightforward project I’m not going to do diagrams and cutting layouts 😬
These cedar pickets are not treated so they’re safe to have in your home. I especially love cedar because it’s so fragrant!
This rope is cut by-the-foot… ask for help!
The cedar pickets are really rough and not perfectly dimensional. Rip down the long edges of your fence pickets with your table saw to clean and straighten them up. This also creates a uniform width for all your boards making them easier to build with. My boards came out to be 5-1/4″ wide.
For 2 of your pickets, rip one 2″-wide strip and two 1-1/2″-wide strips… giving you a total of 6 strips.
Rip 3/4″-1″ strips from your 2×4 board.
From 3 pickets, cut six 18″-long pieces and six 16-3/4″ pieces. TIP: Cut 2 of each length from each board so you can have the ‘dog ear’ end as scrap.
Layout the 16-3/4″ pieces so there’s 2 sets of 3 stacked on top of each other. Cut 4 pieces of your 2×4 strips 15-3/4″ long for the side pieces.
Glue your 15-3/4″ pieces on the sides of your boards and use a square to make sure they create a 90-degree angle from the bottom edge of your cedar boards. Pre-drill and screw 1″ screws along wood strip (I did 2 screws for each cedar board end – see pic below).
Stand your box panels up like this and glue along one panel edge (the other side is just holding the boards for now while you pre-drill and screw 1″ screws along the glued edge. You’re gluing your 16″ boards to make the last sides of your box. I didn’t take a picture of this side but you can see the picture below for what I did for the last side.
Glue ends, pre-drill and screw.
I added more 2×4 strips around each side of the bottom of my box to give me something to screw my bottom boards to. Measure and cut as you go. Glue, pre-drill + screw using 1″ screws.
The strips don’t need to meet up to the corners perfectly and I only did 2 screws per side.
Measure along the bottom of your box and cut your last picket into boards that will fit. I spaced these boards out slightly and used a small part of my cedar strips I already had cut (you’ll have enough). Glue, pre-drill + screw using 1″ screws.
Cut four 1-1/2″ pieces of cedar strips and four 2″ pieces of cedar strips that will run along the entire height of your box, even including the bottom you just attached. Attach your 1-1/2″ pieces to 2 opposite sides of the box with the edges meeting flush with the forner of your box. I glued and used nails to attach.
Add your 2″ pieces on the last box sides, overlapping the other strips. Glue + nails.
Use your 1-1/2″ strips to cut pieces that will go along each top & bottom of your box sides. I measured and cut as I went since all my sides aren’t exactly the same (it’s rustic, right!?). Attach with glue + nails.
Cut two pieces from your 2″ strips for added bulk where the ropes will go through. Glue these on opposite sides of your box – location isn’t important… whatever you think will look best!
I measured 7″ in from each corner along my ‘rope board’ to find my hole placement. I used a 3/4″ forstner bit to drill holes.
Sand smooth. Because this is a rustic crate I only used 100 grit paper!
I finished my box using Danish Oil. I’ve been using this for the last few projects I’ve been working on and I’m totally sold on this stuff! Super easy to wipe on, doesn’t stink too bad, dries fast, keeps the beauty of the wood, has a pleasing-neutral wood color AND once it cures it feels super smooth.
Cut your rope in half and tie a knot on each piece as close to the end as possible. Fish through the holes starting from inside the box, going out and coming back through the second hole. The last knot can be tricky because you have less rope to work with… but it IS possible!