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How to Make Rustic Nail-Head Christmas Trees

To add rustic charm and curb appeal during the holidays designer Dan Faires makes tree silhouettes with plywood and nail heads.

Brian Patrick Flynn, Flynnside Out Productions

Materials Needed:

  • three 3/4" sheets of plywood
  • large piece of cardboard
  • box cutter
  • jigsaw
  • palm sander
  • medium-grit palm sander pads
  • dark walnut stain
  • disposable rags or staining pads
  • box of penny nails
  • hammer
  • pencil
  • two 2x4s
  • landscaping spotlights
  • straight edge
  • measuring tape
  • shovel
  • drill
  • 1" wood screws

Trace Christmas Tree

Lay cardboard out on a flat, level surface. Trace one half of a Christmas tree silhouette, length-wise, onto cardboard using the edge of the cardboard as the center point.

Cut Christmas Tree Template

On a flat, level surface, cut half Christmas tree template from cardboard using box cutter.

Find and Mark Center Point of Plywood

Use measuring tape to determine center point of plywood sheet. Mark center point with pencil and straight edge. (This will create a perfectly straight line up the center of the plywood.) This line will be your guide for placing, then flipping and reversing, the half Christmas tree template.

Trace Template to Plywood

Line half Christmas tree template up with straight center line of plywood. Trace using pencil. Flip half Christmas tree template over to its mirror image shape, trace with pencil, then remove template from plywood.

Cut With Jigsaw

With plywood laid out securely on a flat, level surface, use jigsaw to cut out Christmas tree silhouette.

Sand Edges

Use palm sander and medium-grit palm sander pads to smooth edges of plywood.

Add Paint or Stain

In a well-ventilated area, apply stain to plywood using disposable rags or staining pads. Due to sun-fading, it's wise to use 2 to 3 coats of stain, allowing approximately 2 hours dry time between each coat. Note: For a more graphic, high-contrast wood-grain effect, use a dark stain such as dark walnut or ebony. For a colorful, painted look, apply 2 coats of exterior paint with paintbrush or roller handle, allowing approximately 2 hours of dry time between each coat.

Add Penny Nails to Perimeter

Add penny rounds along perimeter of tree silhouette by applying penny nails, one at a time, with hammer. Tip: To cut down on the amount of time and the amount of penny nails needed, leave 1/4-inch space between each nail head. For the most graphic effect from a far distance, consider adding two or three rows around the perimeter.

Add Words With Nail Heads

For an extra layer of decoration, consider adding words to your tree silhouette by tracing letters or numbers directly to cardboard, cutting with a box cutter, then tracing directly to plywood. Add penny nails to traced outline with hammer.

Secure in Yard

Force 2X4 into area of yard with soft soil. Hard surfaces such as clay may require a starter hole to be created with a shovel. Once stakes are secure, attach plywood tree silhouette to 2X4 with drill and 1-inch wood screws.

Illuminate With Spotlights

In order to be able to see the tree silhouettes at night, add landscaping spotlights to the ground in front of the silhouettes, angled halfway up to the top.

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