Christmas is over, the days are getting longer and it’s time to strip down the Christmas tree and put it on the side of the road for the collection service. In our village, the streets are now full of discarded Christmas trees that will soon be shredded. But did you know that you can make nice utensils from that old Christmas tree? And the great thing is that you already have the wood, or you can source it on the street now! You can make a very nice whisk from the top of the Christmas tree, as has been done for centuries. You will find a few examples in every open-air museum in Scandinavia. In this blog I explain how you can make such a whisk from a spruce top.
Whisk from a spruce top
What do you need
• A saw
• Sharp woodcarving knife such as the mora 120 or 106
• Optional: pruning shears
• A Christmas tree
• An old pan to cook the wood
• Optional: wicker or spruce root instead of twine.
Harvesting your material
We use the top of the spruce tree. Your whisk is already upside down in there. We use the part from the first ring of lateral branches below the peak to the second ring of lateral branches below it. Saw out the peak and leave a few centimeters from the peak above the first side branches.
There will be quite a bit of tension on the wood when we bend the branches later on. Round wood has a tendency to crack during drying. Leaving that extra wood in place prevents dry or tension cracks
Then saw off the trunk just above the second ring of side branches. If you do not immediately start working on your whisk, then carefully bend the side branches down along the trunk. Do this really carefully and don’t force them, otherwise the side branches will break. Place the side branches neatly along the trunk and tie them with a piece of the twine. This way the whisk will already take shape and it will be more compact if you want to store it or cook it in a pan.
Cleaning the wood
Peel the bark from the side branches and the trunk. Do this very carefully, because it is very easy to cut through the side branches. If you have a fresh Christmas tree, you can easily peel off the bark. Carefully, not too deeply, make a cut along the underside of the branches and along the trunk and peel off the bark. This is the safest option to remove the bark and needles. What you are doing now is most of the work of making the whisk. The resins in coniferous wood make it a sticky job. Make sure you do it in a place that can get dirty or that you can easily clean (resin dissolves well in alcohol or oil).
With an old dry top it can help to boil the wood before peeling off the bark. This makes the needles and bark come off more easily. Coniferous wood contains a lot of resin, which dissolves during cooking. It is therefore preferable to use an old pan, because the resin is difficult to wash off. When you have finished peeling, immediately clean your knife with warm water and dry it well. Treat your blade with a non-drying oil to dissolve the remaining resin and prevent rusting.
Pay attention to cleaning the wood and make sure that all bark and cambium, the soft layer under the bark, is gone. This is much more difficult later in the process and you can no longer reach it properly.
Shaping the whisk
Boil the ring of lateral branches for fifteen minutes in a pan with plenty of water. This makes the branches more flexible and dissolves the resins. Little by little, bend the branches to the desired shape. Then tie the branches tightly together and let it dry. The branches tend to slide loose again. That’s why I often let the whisk dry in a large mug, which keeps the branches nicely in place. That is a nice size for the whisk.
Let the whisk dry for a few days. Now tie the side branches tightly with twine and cut off the side branches slightly below the twine. Now saw off the remnants of the former peak and carve the stub into a small point. Your whisk can also turn well on it when mixing in a bowl. Also saw a piece of the end of the handle if there are drying cracks.
If you want a luxurious finish for your whisk, you can choose to replace the rope with spruce root or wicker after drying. You can also carve a decoration into your handle.
Now your Christmas tree has a second life and your whisk is ready to use!