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This simple tree art uses positive and “negative” space thanks to a cutout in the background to create unique holiday decor.
Today, I have two projects for you based on the same identical frame. First, I’m sharing this DIY tree art, and later, I’ll share another version that’s more functional. It was kind of a “make cuts, see how it comes together” type of scrap wood project, and you know how I love those!
I enjoyed making these two projects because it shows that with the same cuts of wood and the same plywood background, you can go in completely different directions with your creative project. I started by making 4 identical cuts from scrap wood that lined up with the throat plate on my miter saw (the colorful area on the saw where the blade comes down). My logic: shits n’ giggles, because it required no measuring. And then I realized it would make for an easy frame!
Catch the video:
How to Make This Tree Cutout Art
Time needed: 1 day.
This tree art was fun to make! All it took was a little scrap wood.
- Cut frame pieces
I didn’t actually measure the frame width; I lined up the edge of the wood with the grooves in my miter saw to create the cuts and it made 4 identical widths.
- Cut the inside pieces of the frame
I did a similar “measuring” with the pieces that make the inside of the frame, only I used the small width between the blade and the edge of the cutting area. I then trimmed them down so the pieces could fit inside of the eventual exterior frame (tip: using some scrap as a jig helped stabilize these smaller cuts and makes me feel much safer when cutting them).
- Glue and nail the frame
In a spiral fashion, I glued and nailed each piece together to make a square box (there was a little warping due to this being scrap wood, so clamps helped). I then glued the small thin cuts inside the frame, offsetting it so that the plywood would sit deep inside the frame (which makes a shadow box effect to include the thickness of the MDF tree when it’s glued in place). After the frame was dry, I filled holes with wood filler and sanded everything smooth to prep for stain.
- Cut thin plywood to size
I had some scrap walnut plywood left over from my jewelry organizer project, so I cut this down to fit inside the frame. Using painter’s tape along the cut line helped minimize splintering (it is less of an issue when cutting in the same direction as the grain, but I do this for all cross-cuts).
- Cut out tree shape from plywood backing
I grabbed a tree image from a stock photo site and duplicated it to make a overlap in Photoshop. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get every tiny detail (I don’t have the patience for that), so I used these as a general template and did some freehand cutting once the basic shape was done.
- Oil/apply finish
I then sanded both sides of the plywood and added Maker Brand Simple Finish to bring out the color in the walnut. It’s one of my favorite things about working with walnut! I also applied some white wash stain to the outer frame.
- Cut out tree from MDF
I had some scrap MDF (from the same supply from where I made this leaf wall art) and cut out another tree, then sanded and spray painted it black.
I glued everything together and done! Since the scrap wood was a little warped, I had to make a few trim cuts in the plywood to get it nice and snug, but it worked!
There you have it! Be sure to come back in a few hours to see the next project I made with this same frame (you’ll see some duplication in instructions for the first few steps).
Even if you don’t replicate these projects exactly, I hope you’ll see that you can use this as a starting point for your own creative DIYs using this simple base. After making the tree cutouts, I think a set of stars or ornaments or other holiday symbols could look nice at other times of year, too. Or possibly a larger piece with multiple cutouts, with the glued-on pieces in a pattern of some kind. There are tons of options to make this your own!
This project is part of a series of DIY gifts, decor, and other fun inspiration that I’m calling my “25 DIYs of Christmas“! Check out the list below to see each post (step by step tutorials, recipes, videos, free patterns, and woodworking plans available for each (where applicable). Lots of these ideas have multiple versions to show you the possibilities of each DIY. Even better, you can subscribe to make sure you don’t miss a single post!