Christmas Display - My First Commissioned Project #1: Project Intro

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Blog entry by GrumpyCub posted 11-03-2016 05:48 PM 1129 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Christmas Display - My First Commissioned Project series Part 2: Building the Base and Shelves »

A friend has commissioned a special project from me for his wife. She collects “Christmas Houses”. I gather that these are porcelain or ceramic buildings that light up and are displayed in “Villages” around the house. His wife wants a set of tiered shelves that are round, allowing a 360 degree display of her collection. Requirements for the project are as follows:

1. 60” Tall
2. 4 Circular Shelves
3. General shape is consistent with a Christmas Tree
4. Must break down for storage

I added a few personal goals as requirements as well:

1. Attempt at least 1 new wood working technique, joint, etc
2. Use the fewest number of metal fasteners possible

I fired up Sketchup and arrived at the basic design below, which was approved by the client.

As you can see, the concept is fairly simple: a center post supporting 4 circular shelves. As anyone who knows me can attest, simple will not do!

The center post will be tapered on all four sides. This emulates a real tree trunk getting narrower as you go to the top.

The taper begins 20” off the floor, and takes the thickness of the post from 2.5” at the bottom to 1.25” at the top. The tapers are not just there for looks, however. Each shelf will incorporate 4 “arms” on the underside. These arms will be mitered at a complementary angle to the taper of the post. In this way to the shelves can be slid onto the post and will “grab” the post at the appropriate point. Gravity and geometry will do the work of angle brackets or pocket screws!

In the pic above, you can see how the shelves will rest against the tapers, and you can also see my thoughts for the base. Like the top 3 shelves, the bottom shelf will have four supports. We’ll call those the “legs”. The legs will attach to the bottom of the post via sliding dovetails. Picture the base shelf sitting on the floor. A square hole is in its center to receive the square bottom of the post. Protruding into the square hole are four dovetails. The post has a dovetail shaped slot on each side. Simply line up the dovetails with the slots and push down. No fasteners! Here is what the bottom of the post will look like:

This is all great theory, but can I do it? I’ve never done a four sided taper before, but I do have a tapering jig for my table saw. I’ve also never done sliding dovetails. I decided to give it a shot.

First I milled and laminated the pine stock to make the post. After cutting it to length, it went into the tapering jig. To complete the tapers, I used the cut off from the first taper cut to keep the post square in the jig. Here is the result.

I set up a 1/2” dovetail bit in my router table and set the fence to cut the slots in the post. In the future, I hope to be smart enough to cut the slots before the tapers, so the post is square while I’m working on the router table. I made it work as it was. Here is a shot of the bottom of the post with a test “leg” in it.

I will make more blog posts as I get things accomplished. For now I appreciate anyone who took the time to read this and I appreciate any feedback you may have about my design for this project.

3 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


8105 posts in 3364 days

#1 posted 11-03-2016 06:03 PM

I like your work ethic, so an interesting build should result by the looks of it.

I dont think cutting the dovetails before the taper will work as the top of the support leg will have a gap at the post, cutting them after and adding the replica angle to the leg would be the go. No doubt the test leg will disclose all, either a gap at the top or a kick up at the ends and produce an uneven base for the round platform.
Even if you do arc the bottom section out to correct it the top will require taper sawing too.

Either way it will be an interesting build to spectate on.

BTW did you know trees conform to the Fibonacci principle so from the trunk to the smallest limb has the 1:1·618034 ratio applied, (just a bit of trivia)

-- Regards Rob

View GrumpyCub's profile


64 posts in 1949 days

#2 posted 11-03-2016 06:26 PM

Thanks robcastle! I think I take your meaning with regard to the dovetails and the tapers. However the bottom of the post is not tapered. The taper begins 20” up. I believe this would eliminate the gap you refer to. Again thanks so much for the feedback!

Also, I am not familiar with the Fibonacci principle. I guess I have some studying to do.

View robscastle's profile


8105 posts in 3364 days

#3 posted 11-04-2016 06:44 PM

What a dope I am …I took the time to re read the atricle too and saw the info too
Fibonacci … well when you study it you will see all objects in a different way and appreciated why life has a natural form to it,
Then why man made items and structures either look out of place or look cosmeticly pleasing.

-- Regards Rob

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