Saturday, July 12, 2014

DIY Tree!

I was going to be really clever and do a "Flashback Friday" post about my DIY Tree that my rock star of a husband and I built 3 years ago for my first grade classroom..however, my goal to post yesterday was interrupted by a little someone who boycotted naps! So here it is today!

After my first year of teaching I had my heart set on making an awesome free standing tree for my classroom that my students could read under. I had an Explorer theme going and I really wanted to make my classroom look like a forest! I really should give all the credit for this tree to my husband..even though I helped...he really made my dream come to life! I have to admit what I thought would be a simple thing-no problem-turned into a month long project. Every night when my husband came home we went down to our little garage at our apartment building that we turned into a workshop. I will try and give as many detailed instructions as I can remember and post pictures to help!

You Will Need:
Ply Wood
1 4x4
Chicken Wire
Rosin Paper (construction roofing paper)
Flour/Water (paper mache mixture)  - a lot
Expandable Spray Foam
Brown Paint
Different shades of green tissue paper

Tacky Glue
Wire Cutters
Skill Saw
Staple Gun

We made a pedestal base with a cut of ply wood and the 4x4 cut to the height we wanted (we made the tree in two parts the base and then the branches). We put a top on the pedestal base that we will later adhere the base of the branches onto. The base itself was close to 5'8" because it was as tall as my husband.

Then we wrapped the chicken wire around the wood to mold into the tree. We used the staple gun to attach the chicken wire to the wood. 

We then made our mix of paper mache (flour and water) in a big bin and cut the rosin paper in strips the width of the paper roll (3' strips). We dipped it in the paper and started wrapping it around the tree. We would do one layer and then wait until dry then repeat the process over again. Sometimes we would do one layer a night and just left the fan running all night to make sure it dried...come back in the morning...back at get the picture.

While the first layer was drying we went on to make the branches. We started with a base that matched the same size and shape as the top of the base for the tree bottom half. Then we screwed on three anchors for the branches (we used some scrap wood - can't really remember where we got them).

Next we started molding the chicken wire to make branches. This is kind of do whatever you feel looks right to you. We started with three main branches and then cut chicken wire and added little ones to make it look more realistic. We cut the wire and just attached them by twisting the cut wires around. Some (as I remember) needed a little reinforcing so we got different wire to support it.
(You'll also notice that we used some scrap wood to reinforce the longer branches so they stayed upright). A lot of this project was just guessing and hoping it turned out right...we just kinda rolled with it!

Next we started spraying the expandable spray foam in all the small branches. The spray foam just made it easier to wrap the strips of paper around and made them super sturdy.

After the foam was dry we went back and forth between the base of the tree and the branches and just laid layers and layers of paper mache on them - we must have done about 5-7 layers of paper mache on it until we thought it was thick enough. We did leave a little opening on the back bottom of the tree base. We later sprayed expanding foam up into the tree base and the rest of the branches when the paper mache was done drying and we were finished layering (before we painted).

Here's a look at the branches all finished with paper mache. Our garage definitely smelled like flour for a long time!!

We hilariously transported it to my classroom in two pieces...barely made it through the door! We screwed the top of the bottom piece and the base of the branches together once we got it inside then used some left over rosin paper and just glued the seam so it looked seamless. We then painted over it to make it match the rest of the tree.
For the leaves we just started making little bunches of two pieces of tissue paper. On most of the little branches we made little bunches of leaf pods - my awesome mom came to help make these look awesome. With the leaves, the tree was almost touching the ceiling!

It took about a day or more to finish the leaves in the classroom. I'm so thankful my mom came to help because at the time I was trying to get all the other stuff you need ready for the school year to start...and this tree pushed us right up to the beginning of school. It was definitely a bigger project than we anticipated but it was SO worth it. I love my tree. It's still in the classroom 3 years later standing strong! It did help that we sprayed the base with the rest of the expandable foam from the small opening in the back to make it even more sturdy. I never had any problems with my kids pulling or climbing it - we did anchor it to the wall with a hook at fishing line just in case! 

PROJECT COMPLETE! Can't believe it!! My husband rocks...seriously! 

Later in the year it even snowed on the tree... :)

Thank you for reading this extra long post and I hope some find it helpful if you are feeling adventurous enough to make one of your own! If you have any questions I will do my best to answer them! 



  1. Absolutely incredible!! All that hard work paid off:-) It looks even more amazing in person!!! You and your rock star husband make a grrrrreat team! Go Dodds! Thanks for sharing.

  2. If I had an empty corner in the library, I would so make one of these. Love Love Love your tree!
    Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms

  3. Now that is a project!!! So awesome! It looks fabulous!
    Kids Math Teacher

  4. WOW! WOW! WOW!! This is amazingdotcom!! Love it!!


  5. WHOA! That tree is beyond AWESOME! I would love to have one of those!!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  6. This is so wonderful! I've been looking for a way to make a tree for our "7 Habits" display in my classroom... Now just need to convince my husband to help! (:


  7. Thank you for all the kind responses! Y'all are too sweet! It was definitely a labor of husband just read my post and was cracking up about how much work we actually put into this! It was a fun project and if you feel brave - DO IT! Thanks again!!

  8. I LOVE your tree!!! I have spent many hours searching the web for ideas on making a tree for my classroom. Yours is by far the best! I can't wait to get home and begin this project! My kids are going to love reading under it.

  9. AMAZING!!!!! Thanks for linking it up:)
    4th Grade Frolics

  10. All I can say is... WOW!! I would have loved having this tree when I had camping and owl themes. You did such a fantastic job!

  11. This is amazing!! That took a lot of work and it totally paid off!!
    A Tall Drink of Water

  12. This is damn good.....amazing...I wish I could made one for me too....

  13. This is damn good.....amazing...I wish I could made one for me too....

  14. How did you form your leaves and then attach the leaves to the tree?

  15. I love the trees! I would also like to know how you made the leaves!!!

  16. Muchas Gracias! y siempre con Cristo.

  17. Terima kasih untuk inspirasi yang luar biasa ini.
    Anda dan suami anda adalah satu team yang sukses dengan proyek pohon besar yang menarik perhatian anak didik saat memulai hari pertama masuk sekolah.
    saya akan melakukan hal yang sama di kelas saya.

  18. I m having problem in making leaves buches... can u please explain me with pics if having...

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. I loved your Tree, that's what I was looking for.
    Thank you, I'll make one.
    Meu nome é Karina, Brasil.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm working on one for our sunday school class. how thin of strips did you cut your paper into? I'm hoping once it's all done you don't see all the paper lines. Thank you!!

  22. Amazing! How did you attach 1) The tissue sheets together and 2) the tissue bunches to the tree trunk?

  23. hermoso árbol, felicitaciones


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