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Reindeer Season is Open

It's Reindeer Season

With a little time, tools, and effort, you can turn a piece of fallen wood into the

absolute icon of the North and the Season.

"Woody" the Reindeer

The materials needed can be cut from one medium sized branch, perhaps shared by a neighbor, or the result of storm damage. The only tools you will need are a few simple hand tools:

Always work carefully and safely. Eye protection and gloves are recommended.

Children should be carefully monitored.

  • Small handsaw (a pruning saw, curved banana blade, or small bow saw)

  • Hand drill (battery powered or corded)

  • One inch drill bit (spade-tip or Forstner)

  • Half inch drill bit (spade-tip or Forstner)

  • Sharp craft knife, utility knife and/or small woodworker’s chisel (to pare down the parts to fit into the mortises).

  • Optional-Woodworker’s file or rasp can also be used for the same purpose and is less dangerous.

  • Optional- pruning shears to trim antler tips.

  • Glue-yellow woodworkers glue is best because of its slow drying time and easy soap and water cleanup. Silicone and polyurethane glues are nearly impossible to get out of clothing. A low temperature, crafting glue gun works well since the parts are instantly bound together but children should be carefully monitored since they can cause serious accidental burns.

This project can be scaled down to any size desired and every part can be

fashioned with a pocketknife.

A second smaller Reindeer

Using the measurements given will make an 18 inch-tall reindeer that can stand proudly in the corner of the entryway and will suffer being decorated for any season. Be flexible and use whatever tools you have on hand. Some extra hands are useful to hold things while they are being cut or glued. Use push pins, tape, or bungee cords when working alone.

Personally, I always work outside. A workbench can be rigged up using two 5-

gallon plastic pails and a plank. A picnic table is great. Just be sure to protect the

surface some way. You know me as you will see from the photographs, my reindeer was mostly completed in the forest with copious “spare parts” to choose from.

The dimensions are just suggestions. If you’d prefer a leggier deer, or fatter, or to have knobby or crooked legs, then go for it. The antlers might be large branched Irish Elk, six-point, eight-point, fork, or spike- it’s your personal deer.

This is a list of the pieces and dimensions needed to make the reindeer

photographed which stands two feet tall.

  • Body- 1 piece 3 ½ in. dia. x 8 in. long

  • Neck- 1 piece 1 ½ in. dia. x 6 in. long

  • Head- 1 piece 2 ½ in. dia. x 6 in. long

  • Legs- 4 pieces 1 1/8 in. dia. x 10 in. long

  • Tail- 1 piece chevron-shaped 3 in. long


  • Ears- 2 pieces chevron-shaped 2 in. long

(The previous tail and ears are made by sawing two long parallel diagonal cuts

through a 1 ½ in. branch to make an oval approximately 1 ½ in. x 4 in. One oval

will make the two ears when halved, a second oval will form the tail. Leather or

felt fabric can also be used for the ears and is much easier to fashion and attach

to the head.)

Measuring the parts

Eyes-I made two ¼ in. thick x 1 in. diameter flat disks to be glued on where the

eyes will be located to create eye bulges. The bark underneath these was shaved

down to make a smooth glue surface. Next disks cut from a smaller diameter

branch will make a darker pupil for the eye. A small acorn or nut can be sawed in

half and substituted as eyes. Another option would be to use black buttons or

google-eyes found in a craft store.

Antlers- 2 pieces ½ in. dia. X 8 in. long branched material.


Start with the body.

Sawing the reindeer body

Drill the four 1 in. leg holes in the underside of the body.

Drilling the body-two legs fitted for alignment purposes

Drill the holes in pairs, two near what will be the front, angled outwards

about 20-30 degrees from the centerline and another pair near the rear also

angled outwards an equal amount. When the legs are installed, they will angle

outward giving your trophy more stability, like chair legs. Next, roll the body

upright and drill a 1 in. neck hole directly over the holes you made for the front

legs. This neck-hole may be angled slightly rearward towards the tail. It must not

deviate from the centerline however, because if it does, your deer will topple

over from the weight of the head when added.

Reindeer body- fitting the legs

Next step is to make the neck from the 1 ½ in. x 6 in. long piece. You will need to

cut a shoulder around each end and whittle away the waste to create a tenon that

is 1 in. diameter and 3/4 in. long. (see photos). The shoulder can be cut carefully

with a handsaw or using a knife or chisel. Make a cut about 1/8 in. deep and ¾ in.

from the end completely around the neck. Do this on both ends. Next either

whittle or rasp away the waste to form a tenon. Test the fit into the 1 in. body

hole periodically.

Sawing a shoulder for the tenon

Paring the tenon to final dimension

Completed tenon

Reindeer with tail and neck

The head is from the 2 ½ in. dia. X 6 in. stock. Drill a single neck hole near one

end. Drill this hole perpendicular to the surface so the head will be square to the

neck. When the head and neck are assembled, the head will be tossed back

slightly by the body neck hole angle. Saw a small wedge out of the forward end

to make a mouth, if desired. Drill two ½ in. diameter holes about 1 in. apart and

angled outwards to receive the antlers. You might want to have a more

pronounced nose. A wedge of wood can be added, as in my model. If you’d like,

a nut can be glued on instead and left natural or painted red. The bark should be

carved away where the nose will be glued on, if you decide to do this step. Glue

on the eye pieces (whichever type you choose). Shape and fit the ears and glue

them on below the antler holes (this is where extra hands or hot glue is helpful

because the ears tend to fall off until the glue hardens). Leather or felt ears are

easier to secure.

Neck installed into head piece

The legs are next. Choose whatever legs you prefer. They might be of the same

wood or made from a contrasting wood. My personal favorite is tulip poplar since

the lower branches naturally fall off the trees, shed their bark, and bleach white.

They are light and strong. Choose the legs so the large end is slightly greater than

he body hole, then cut to final length. Using a knife or rasp taper the end to fit

snugly into the body. After the four legs are inserted, twist or trim the legs until

the reindeer will stand solidly on the floor. Glue the legs in this position

Reindeer body with tail and neck attached

Fit and glue the head and neck assembly onto the body. I turn the head slightly in

relationship to the body. This, plus the tossed back angle of the neck, gives your

deer a jaunty appearance. Be sure before doing the final gluing that the entire

deer is balanced and adjust and trim the legs as needed.

The final detail is to select and fit the antlers. Put them in last because they are

the most fragile part and are easily broken. The sky’s the limit as far as style and

size is concerned. Find much branched twigs that have the base slightly larger

than the antler holes you bored. If necessary, too small bases can be shimmed up

with paper. (On the prototype I made to photograph, I accidentally drilled the

antler holes too large. I used wood filler to set the antlers, and no one will know

but you). Just as with the legs, carefully taper the bases to fit the holes. Twist

and trim them until you are satisfied, then glue them in place.

Reindeer-minus finished eyes and ears
Reindeer and spare parts nearby

Reindeer back of ears and tail detail

Reindeer-ears, nose, and mouth detail

All that is left is to dress him up as you desire for the season. A ribbon scarf, a

bell, some holly or tinsel -it’s to your pleasure. Invite some friends over for cider

and cookies.

Happy Holidays!

Reindeer ready for work

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