Monday, February 25, 2013

Make a tree branch centerpiece & Drink chamomile citrus tea

This is the perfect project for a lazy Sunday afternoon. You know, the kind of day when you have a bunch of stuff you should do (like fold that mountain of laundry), but you've run out of procrastination ideas and you find yourself roaming the house aimlessly? This project will get you outdoors, out of that funk and hopefully get your hands dirty too.

Yesterday I was stuck at home with the dog while everyone else went skiing. I've been recovering from a terrible flu and didn't quite feel up to hitting the slopes yet. My inspiration for this project came from the blog SAS Interiors, found through Pinterest. I had been wanting to try my own version of Jenna's autumn centerpiece for months now. It may not be autumn, but I think this centerpiece can work all year long. Plus it was a good excuse to give my restless doggie a romp!

Here's what you will need:
A branch (or piece of driftwood)
A hand saw
A power drill
A spade drill bit (preferably 1 1/2")
A pencil
A ruler
Strong glue (hot if you have it)
Tea candles

As you can see from this list, this project is a bit heavier on the tool requirements than my previous posts. It is my firm belief that everyone should own a power drill and know how to use it. It makes so many home projects easier, especially hanging curtains! You can get drills with a cord attached or with a rechargeable battery pack. Both have their limitations and advantages (ie. battery life vs. mobility).

I received my corded drill from my dad as a Valentines Day gift one year, but there are plenty of places you can get one without denting your wallet too much. Thrift stores and flea markets are actually a great place to find used tools that are still in fairly good condition. I found my practically new power sander at a local thrift shop for less than $20 and I bought the spade drill bit for this project for $1 at a summer flea market down the street from my house. I considered getting a saw second hand too, but decided I wanted a nice, new, sharp one.

The first part of this project meant going for a walk and doing some exploring. I loved the childish sense of adventure this gave me! I grabbed my saw and Denali's leash and headed for the forested area down the street from my house. As Denali frolicked in the mid-winter sunshine, I began hunting for dead branches. It wasn't long before I found a dead tree with lots of promising possibilities.

I'm lucky enough to live near wilderness, but that's not necessarily a requirement of this project. The inspiration blogger found her log in a pile of tree trimmings in her neighborhood. You could even make a day of it and bring your saw on a hike or out to the beach. Just make sure that wherever you go allows for the removal of dead branches. I wouldn't advise hacking away at a live limb in a national park, for example. Keep in mind when you hunt that dry wood is much easier to work with (and more eco-friendly).

Now, back to my fallen tree. I found a nice thick branch I liked that was covered in pretty little termite patterns. Make sure you choose a branch thick enough to drill tea candle-sized holes into without it splitting or looking disproportionate. After contemplating what section to cut for a few minutes, I got to work with my saw. It's a good idea at this point to keep in mind the size of the spot you're planning to display your new rustic candle holder. I also recommend choosing a bare branch with few attached twigs or dead leaves for critters to hide in. Since it's still the dead of winter here, I was fairly confident there wasn't anything living in my selection. Also, remember that sawing requires patience and works best with strong, deliberate strokes in both directions.

Dog provided for scale.

Next, Denali and I headed home with our prize and for some much need warmth. I left my branch outside then went inside and threw the kettle on the stove. Since I've been sick lately and am still fighting a lingering cough, I decided to choose a citrus flavored tea: chamomile citrus by Mighty Leaf with a generous dollop of honey. This is the fanciest bagged tea brand I know of; their tea sachets are even made of silk! If you order tea in a nice restaurant, they often bring you a big box of Mighty Leaf packets to choose from. If you're just getting into tea, a variety pack like theirs is a great place to start exploring your tastes.

Once my throat was soothed and my hands were warm I headed for the garage with my drill, spade bit, pencil and ruler. Before starting on the drilling, I used some rough and medium grit sandpaper to smooth the raw edges of my branch. This makes it look nicer and also reduces the chance of scratching surfaces and skin. I also ran the finer grit paper along the length of the branch to eliminate any random splintery spots.

Next I experimented with placing the branch at different angles on the ground until I found the position in which it was the most stable. Then I eye-balled how many candles would look good on my branch and made four marks on it with my pencil, about nine inches apart. Choose whatever spacing and number of candles you think will work best for your piece of wood.

Now the fun part: drilling! I secured the spade bit into my drill and braced the branch with my foot. I find this kind of drilling is easiest when done from a standing position. You get more stability. Making sure the drill was straight up and down, I started with light pressure as the pointy end of the bit dug into the wood. I made each hole fairly shallow at first, then gradually deepened them until I was satisfied. My holes aren't a uniform depth, but you could certainly use a ruler to make sure yours are.

My drill bit was actually a little too small, at just 1 1/4". I definitely recommend the 1 1/2" size used by Jenna from SAS Interiors. I just ended up giving myself a little more work to get candles into my branch. More on that later.

Once I brought my newly drilled branch inside, I decided it would be a good idea to add pads to the parts that touched the table. Luckily I had some cork board material left over from another project, but you could use small felt furniture pads too. I cut out little circles of cork board and hot glued them to the four bottom points of the branch.

In order to fit the tea candles into my drilled holes, I had to trim down their sides a little. I took them out of their metal cups and took a knife to them until they were the correct diameter. You can keep the candles in the cups if you want to, but I liked the idea of the wax melting right into the wood.

Finally, I placed the finished piece on the dining table and lit the candles. It looks a bit plain by itself, but I'm planning on surrounding it with other small decorations and foliage to fit the season. Dried flowers for spring. Seashells for summer. Mini pumpkins for fall. And I can't wait to use it at Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. It looks great Brittany! Wait until you start using it to build your holiday centerpieces- it'll be a gorgeous backdrop. xo Jenn