“Keep that old fence!”
I’m creating gorgeous topiary trees (Christmas Trees or any-time-of-the-year wooden tree decorations!) using wood repurposed from an old cedar fence.
This project lets you unleash your creativity with color and mould castings in so many ways. (Brain explosion!) Read on and let my divine creations inspire you! You're going to wish you had more wood...
You can scroll down to get a complete supply list for this project and step-by-step instructions. If you’d like to watch me in action, check out this video as I go through my wooden topiary tree creation project.
You’ll see time-stamps from the video in the step-by-step instructions to help you, too. [The beauty of the video is you can pause and rewind whenever you need to!]
Here are all the things I used to make the Wood Topiary Trees
All products that can be purchased from Serendipity.House are clickable links that will take you right to the product!
- Sections of cedar fencing cut into large and small pieces (rectangular)
- Thin dowels for tree trunks
- IOD Air Dry Clay
- IOD Trimmings I Mould
- IOD Birdsong Mould
- DIY Paint in Bohemian Blue, Skeleton Key, White Swan, and Aviary
- DIY Paint Black Wax, White Wax, and Clear Wax
- French Gilding Wax in Gold, Copper, and Silver
- Chip Brush
- Broad flat brush
- Flour or Cornstarch for dusting IOD Moulds
- TiteBond Glue
- Paper towels to wipe off waxes
- Paper plates for miscellaneous use in project
- Putty knife
- Small Terra Cotta Pots or other pot for Tree
If you haven’t used IOD Moulds before, watch my video on how to use them right here on my Youtube channel (hit subscribe while you’re there to be notified when more gold is posted! And to earn my undying gratitude...)
How to Create Wood Topiary Trees, Step-by-Step
Step 1: Measure and cut your wood ‘rectangles’ into 2 triangles.
I rescued some old six-foot cedar fence posts and had them cut into rectangles in a couple of different sizes. (Timestamp:50) I line up a ruler on the diagonal, from corner to opposite corner, and draw the cutting line. Once you cut the pieces (I used my Reciprocating Saw) into the two triangles, you will glue the triangles together to create the tree. (1:44)
Note: I didn’t need to clamp the pieces after glueing them together, either.
Step 2: Grab the IOD Air Dry Clay, Some Flour/Cornstarch, a Paintbrush, and the IOD Moulds - You’re Making a Casting!
I add a little bit of flour (you can also use cornstarch) to a paper plate and brush it into the moulds to help the casting easily slide out. Then I begin loading the clay into the moulds, pushing down well to make sure all the space is filled out with clay.
Pro Tip: You do this to make sure the casting picks up the details of the mould.
Once you have the clay in the mould, take a putty knife (any flat surface tool will do, like a table knife) and scrape the excess off. You’ll notice there are micro rims (the rim around each design) to use as a guide while scraping. This allows you to get a flat back on the casting, which will help the casting piece stick to your project surface (yep - you’ll be glueing it onto the wood tree!)
Now turn the moulds over and remove the castings. Do this with the mould facing down and rolling back the edge of it. The casting should begin to fall out, but if it sticks, as mine did, gently nudge the end out and continue to slowly roll the mould back so the entire casting comes loose.(4:05)
By using this technique, you’ll get a nice, clean casting without stretching.
Refill the moulds and repeat this process several times until you have enough castings to use on your trees.
Pro-Tip: roll some clay into a long snake form and lay it in the Trimmings I mould for faster fill.
Step 3: Glue the Castings Onto the Trees.
Here’s where your creativity comes out to play! The design on your trees is all you. You might want to sketch out how it will look before you start glueing.
I’ll share the steps I took to add castings in a pattern on the trees, but there's no right way to do this step. You could:
- Lay them across the face at random intervals.
- Wrap them around the tree and decorate both sides.
- Decorate both sides completely differently.
- Decorate one side as well as the side edges.
Titebond glue can be poured onto a paper plate for easy access and application. I use my finger to dip and spread onto the back of the castings.
[If you don’t want to use your fingers, try popsicle sticks or even the transfer tool that comes with IOD Transfers.]
Turn the casting upside down and cover the bottom with the glue, then hover the casting over the tree form to position it before laying it down. I used the putty knife to cut the casting where it overlapped the edge of the tree. (6:42)
You don’t have to cover the entire surface as you’re creating because negative space is important in your design.
After the castings are glued down, make sure they completely adhere to the surface of the wood especially around the edges of the casting. Go over each one and push it down while trying to squeeze in lightly. If you push the castings out, you’ll get more cracking with the clay. (9:40)
You can then take your putty knife and trim the excess clay from the edge of the tree. If the clay dries, sand those bits off later.
Now set the tree aside to let the castings completely dry. If you go on to the painting step before it's dry, your brush could smooth out and remove some of the details of the casting.
I also created a tree with castings from the IOD Snowflakes Mould! I used all the same techniques and steps as I followed with the IOD Trimmings I Mould above.
Step 4: When the Clay is Dry - Add the DIY Paint.
Paint the decorated trees with the DIY Paint after all the clay is dry. I used DIY Paint Bohemian Blue, Skeleton Key, and White Swan on my trees.
Step 5: Create Your Topiary: Dowels and Pots.
You can drill a hole in the underside edge of your tree and glue a dowel into it. Decide on a pot to use, or a few different types like I did, to complete the look. For one of the topiaries, I painted a terra cotta pot in the same DIY Paint Bohemian Blue for a monochromatic look.
But we’re not done “jujjjing” them up yet!
Step 6: Wax On - Wax Off
I added DIY Paint Black Wax with a chip brush (a 30 cent brush from the hardware store - use them and toss them!) to the tree with the IOD Snowflake Mould castings. I work the wax into the details of the snowflakes and apply it pretty heavily to the project surface.
Once I’ve covered the entire surface, I use a paper towel and wipe off all the wax, except the wax that hugs in the small details of the snowflakes. (11:39) For an alternative finish, you can use a paint wash in another color or just leave it as is for a full monochromatic look.
Then I go to work on the tree painted with the DIY Paint Bohemian Blue and add DIY Paint White Wax using the same process as above. (12:59)
Custom Color Wax
Taking it one step further, I create my own custom color waxes by mixing DIY Paint Clear Wax with some DIY Paint in Aviary (green) and Bohemian Blue.
To do this, put a large spoonful of wax onto a paper plate (one spoonful for each custom color you’re going to mix.) Next, add some of the paint to the scoop and then mix together. (please note, I mix with a plastic fork!)
Apply the custom color wax fully on a painted tree using a broad paintbrush. I cover the entire tree, front, back, and sides, holding it by the dowel I’ve glued into the bottom.
Then I let this dry for one hour before buffing off the wax. (13:21)
Step 6: Make it Shine with Golden Gilding
Once everything dried, I went back and added in French Gilding Wax in Gold. Using my fingertip to dip into the wax, I rubbed it onto the surface of my castings. Then I used a paper towel to wipe off a bit of the gilding wax as I did with the other waxes. (14:43)
This is another place in your design where you go off script! Pour out your creativity! (Or you can use copper or silver gilding wax.)
Follow Serendipity House LLC on Facebook because you never know what you might find there to inspire you. Please don't forget to share your creations with me!