Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary

So, my vision for this project was kind of a Martha Stewart, super-clean modern take on a porch luminary. It would have clean lines and would be reminiscent of mod 60s style, and everyone would ask me what etsy store I bought it from.

It, um, didn’t exactly work out that way.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary, based on The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylic Room Divider

It doesn’t entirely qualify as a Craft Fail, I suppose, but it’s definitely not a success.

This is perhaps an predictable and even an overall positive outcome for our very first project—that we might stumble out of the gate, but then with greater experience develop the skills and wisdom to avoid crafting pitfalls. However, I’d be more convinced that this is the first step on a journey of crafting enlightenment if my missteps hadn’t been quite so dumb and easily avoidable. Perhaps it’s time for me to come to grips with the fact that no matter how many years I spend crafting, a stupid mistake is always an option.

First, I don’t know why I used regular acrylic paint instead of spray paint. Huge mistake, because it’s impossible not to have it end up all streaky. I think I just really liked the colors of the metallic and glitter paint, but I definitely should have tried to find something similar in a spray paint.

Second, I originally had this idea that the twinkle lights were going to poke out through the holes in the acrylic, so the acrylic tree would have real lights hanging on it. I still think this is a good idea, but once I started drilling the holes, I discovered that it was basically impossible (at least with my drill) to make the holes big enough for the lights to fit through without the acrylic cracking. This was the point at which a smarter person would have just given up on the holes entirely. Instead, I decided to keep the holes and just make them smaller, I think on the theory that they would still look like kind of like twinkle lights. Spoiler: they did not.

That said, the acrylic wasn’t nearly as difficult to deal with as I’d imagined—so I’d love to try it again with more a more competent design at some point. Onward to the instructions!

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Materials

  • 3 acrylic sheets
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrush (or spray paint)
  • Clear plastic tape – I used Scotch Colored Plastic Tape in Clear, 3/4 inch width
  • X-Acto knife
  • Ruler
  • Sharpie

I picked up the acrylic for $1 per sheet—they’re the leftover bits from other cuts, and a great way to get acrylic on the cheap. As previously mentioned, the paintbrushes and paint were a big mistake. If you’re attempting an acrylic project, definitely go with spray paint.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I picked 3 sheets the same size for a triangular luminary. The acrylic comes covered with a plastic coating to protect it from scratches. This is also the perfect surface to sketch out whatever design you want. I traced a simple tree shape onto each of the sheets.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Next up, drilling the holes, which I would definitely skip if I did this project again. However, I was pretty pleased to learn the hole-drilling technique. Just place the acrylic onto a sheet of plywood and run the drill very slowly.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

After all the holes were drilled, I used an X-Acto to trim away the coating around the Christmas tree. Hold onto the plastic pieces you remove—they’ll be used as a tree stencil later.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Then paint the background color onto each sheet. I was really unhappy with the texture of my paint, but the edge looked great! So I think this technique of using the plastic coating as a stencil would really work great with spray paint.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I painted the tree interior by hand, which is the point at which I realized this was going to looks awful but it was too late to fix it. To do this with spray paint, I would use the peeled-off bits of the plastic coating as a stencil and spray the inside of the tree.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

After all the fails with the painting, the tape hinges worked great. Just line up the sheet so that the tape is the point that folds together, and very carefully lay down a strip of tape along the entire seam. Press to remove any bubbles.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I taped up two sides and left the third open so the lantern could store flat.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

To set it up, just fold the panels to make a triangle and drop in some lights.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

It’s not the worst Christmas decoration, right? Right?

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Ah well, at least there was eggnog involved. Merry Christmas!

Check out the vintage inspiration for this project here: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylic Room Divider (1974)