Reindeer figurines hand-crafted from birch wood make charming Christmas decorations that fit with a rustic or Scandinavian style of holiday home decor.
Birch logs are ideal as the basis for these reindeer decorations due to the attractive papery texture and wintry vibe of birch bark. Find birch logs, poles and branches at craft stores, or gather fallen branches from your own birch tree.
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You can use hand tools or power tools, and scale the reindeer to any size. Craft tiny reindeer to hang as small Christmas tree ornaments, or create a medium-sized reindeer family as table decor, or a larger reindeer set for outdoor Christmas decorations on the lawn or by the front door.
As a DIY holiday decor project, birch reindeer require some basic woodworking tools and skills, but are definitely achievable for beginners. In fact, imperfections and raw edges are key to the charm of these birch wood reindeer.
Things You'll Need
Birch poles or logs
Assorted twigs (birch or another wood)
Wood-carving knife or sharp pocket knife (optional)
Drill and bit set
Wood glue or hot glue gun
Red bead, pompom or button
Making a birch wood reindeer
1. Mark the body piece
With a pencil, draw a line across a straight birch pole or log to mark the length you desire for your reindeer's body. For a small ornament, this might be 2 or 3 inches; for a larger one, it could be 12 inches or more. Choose a length proportional to the diameter of the pole or log to be somewhat realistic as the body of a reindeer.
2. Cut the body piece
With a hand or power saw, cut the birch pole or log along the marked line. Follow proper safety precautions for the tool you are using, and hold the pole or log in a vice or clamp while sawing, if necessary.
3. Mark and cut the head piece
Mark the remaining log at a length suitable for the head of the Christmas reindeer. It should be approximately one-third to half of the length of the body. Cut the head piece with a saw, in the same manner that you cut the body piece.
4. Taper the reindeer’s nose
With your saw, a wood-carving knife or sharp pocket knife, depending upon which is appropriate for the size of your project, cut a little bit of wood off one end of the head piece at an approximate 45-degree angle to create a nose shape.
5. Prepare twigs for the neck and legs
Examine your array of twigs and identify individual pieces that are a suitable width and straightness to be the reindeer's legs and neck. They need to be strong enough for the reindeer to stand straight, so avoid overly thin or flexible twigs.
With pruning shears or a knife, cut four lengths of twig to be the reindeer's legs. They should all be approximately the same length as the body piece. Cut a fourth piece of similar width, but around one-third to one-half of the length of the legs, to be the reindeer's neck.
6. Prepare twigs for the antlers
Look at the smaller pieces of twig that branch in different directions. Find two similar sections of branching twigs that resemble a reindeer's antlers. Cut and trim them with pruning shears or a knife to a suitable size for your reindeer.
7. Mark holes on the body and head
With a pencil, mark four spots on the underside of the body piece where you will insert the legs. On the opposite side of the body piece, mark the spot near one end where you will drill the hole for the reindeer's neck. Mark a spot on the underside of the head piece for the other end of the neck, plus two spots on the top of the head piece for the antlers.
8. Drill the holes
Select a drill bit that's just slightly narrower than the diameter of the pieces of twig that you cut for the legs and neck. Drill into the body piece at the four marked leg spots, drilling into no more than one-third of the diameter of the birch wood. Drill a hole at the spot marked for the neck on the body, and also on the head piece, in the same way.
Select a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the branches you trimmed for the antlers. Drill two holes at the spots marked for the antlers.
You can drill the holes straight, or at a slight angle if you want the legs, neck and antlers to be positioned slightly outwards from the body.
9. Insert the legs, neck and antlers
Try to insert the legs and neck twigs into their correct holes. If they don't easily go into the holes, either taper just the very ends of the twigs with your knife, or re-drill the holes with a drill bit one size larger.
When you're ready to permanently insert the leg twigs, add a drop of wood glue or hot glue into each drilled hole, followed by the twig. For the neck hole, add a drop of glue to the hole in the top of the body and insert the neck twig. Then, add glue to the hole in the underside of the head piece and press it onto the neck twig.
Add a tiny spot of glue into the holes you drilled for the antlers, and then insert the antler twigs into the reindeer's head.
10. Add the final features
When the glue has completely dried, add the reindeer's eyes, nose and ears. For the eyes, press two upholstery tacks into the top of the head piece. To make your birch wood reindeer into Rudolph, glue on a red bead, pompom or button as a red nose. For any other reindeer, select a brown or black bead, pompom or button, or use an additional upholstery tack.
Cut two reindeer ear shapes—ovals with a tapered top—from brown felt, and glue them in place on the reindeer's head.
Other options for adding the eyes and nose include paint, a marker or wood-burning tool. You can also substitute small ovals of wood for the felt ears.
Ready to Make a Beautiful Birch Reindeer?
This DIY holiday decor project is fun and easy enough for beginners. Making a birch wood reindeer is a great way to hone your woodworking skills and create some delightful ornaments, centerpieces for the holiday table or even larger-scale lawn decorations. Plus, Santa will be thrilled to see the reindeer who pull his sleigh replicated in festive white birch wood.