Who doesn’t love a good, easy holiday decor DIY project?! As you guys know the holidays are my very favorite time of year to get down with a fun DIY that makes our house merry and bright and is also easier than easy to execute, which is exactly what we’re sharing in today’s post! Adorable, rustic, cozy DIY gilded wood ornaments that fall right in line with that Scandinavian-inspired, natural holiday decor vibe we love, but also have just the right amount of sparkle to give our tree that special holiday glow! This is another holiday decor DIY that I’ve had in my brain for the last couple of years, but with the holiday craziness just never found the time to execute. This year I decided to give it a whirl and test it out before sharing it at the Pinner’s Conference in November, so I’ve had a little bit of time to perfect the process before sharing the tutorial with you guys here!
I’ve always loved the look of wood ornaments on a Christmas tree and have collected so many fun ones over the years that I love and that now hang on our tree, which is always how these projects start. So many of the DIY decor projects that we share around here are inspired by something I saw or bought at a store, and thought could be easily re-created or customized at home… on a budget! At first I thought I’d paint these with white paint of some sort of do some sort of design with white paint to give them a really natural look, but even though I’m not a huge holiday sparkle and glitter person, I absolutely love the subtle, romantic look of gold leaf on wood and thought this would be the perfect opportunity try that look. Gilding the ornaments is also probably a little bit easier/more fool-proof than painting or drawing a design on them, so that’s another plus. And the gold leaf on these looks so perfectly worn to give it an aged, antique look that adds just the right amount of shine to a Christmas tree without the whole glitter mess. So gold leaf it would be, and I couldn’t love how these came to life more!
My first step was finding cheap unfinished ornaments or figurines to work with, and after hopping on Amazon I quickly found some fun unfinished wood winter figurines and unfinished wood balls that would be perfect for this project. How fun are those little wood trees?! For the wood balls I wanted to make sure they’d be big enough to stand out on a full-sized tree, so I went with 1 1/4” and 2” wood balls. After having wood ornaments I’ve realized that they can get pretty heavy if they’re too big, so any bigger than 2” might be really hard to hang on those branches. Anything smaller than 1 1/4” would probably be better for a miniature or tabletop tree of some sort. And all of the other supplies I’d need to make this happen I already had in my arsenal – gold leaf flakes, gilding adhesive, brushed, leather cording, etc. Score!
I could have used gold leaf sheets and simply dabbed my adhesive around the wood in the same haphazard way and they would be beautiful and made it really easy and probably a little bit more mess-free, but I already had a bag of gold leaf flakes and they were still super easy to work with and did the job beautifully. And another important note in addition to the steps you’ll see below – you can seal these after you gild them with a clear acrylic sealer to protect your gold leaf, but I’m going to be transparent and tell you that I tried three different kinds of clear sealers that I had hanging around and though they didn’t “yellow” as their labels promised, they all did darken my unfinished wood, which I wasn’t super pumped about. Topcoats or sealers can be tricky with unfinished wood, so if you want your wood to stay nice and light and bright, I’d recommend leaving them unsealed. They should hold up just fine, even when storing them after Christmas, and even if the gold leaf does wear ever-so-slightly over the years, it will all look really natural and beautiful! So that’s my two cents on sealing these, for what it’s worth.
DIY Gilded Wood Ornament Supplies
Gilding Brushes or Craft Brushes of Choice
Leather Cording of Choice
How to Make DIY Gilded Wood Ornaments
- Use a brad nail and a hammer to lightly tap a starter hole into the center of the top of your unfinished wood ornament. Making a tiny starter hole will make it so much easier to twist in your brass screw eyes. Once you have a small starter hole you can twist in your screw eye using your hands (I also used a towel to save my hand) until the eye meets the wood. I do this as my first step because it 1) saves me from man-handling my gilded ball at the end and messing with the gold leaf and b) the eyelet makes for a handy spot to hold your ornament as you gild!
- Using a brush of your choice (I used a small filbert brush) brush your gilding adhesive onto your unfinished wood ornaments wherever you’d like to place the gold leaf and have it show up in the end. This can be kind of haphazard because your gold leaf isn’t supposed to be perfect or cover the ball completely. I actually intentionally brushed the adhesive on imperfectly to give it a more antique look.
- Wait 30 seconds after brushing your adhesive on to give it a chance to dry ever-so-slightly and get a little bit tacky. The adhesive will probably go from slightly white/milky to clear. Once your adhesive is sticky (but not dry), you’re ready for your gold leaf!
- Some people use tweezers or another more delicate tool for gilding, but I simply used my hands here. I added my flakes to my ornaments wherever I added the adhesive using my fingers. I would simply add the flakes onto the adhesive and lightly pat it down with the tip of my finger to make sure it stuck. I did this over a paper bowl so it could catch any stray gold leaf and not make a mess.
- Once I covered all of my adhesive with gold leaf I used a dry craft brush to brush off all of the excess gold leaf. You can get pretty aggressive with the brushing depending on how much gold leaf you want to flake off. As I said I really wanted an imperfect, aged look so I went pretty hard with the brush. Again, I did this over a paper bowl so it could catch the falling gold leaf and save myself a big mess.
- Add your suede or leather cording to your ornament by pulling it through the eyelet and making sure your ends are even, then tying a knot with both ends right on top of the eyelet and then another knot using both ends a couple of inches away. Just make sure the loop it creates is big enough to slide over a pine tree branch!
*For my Christmas tree ornaments you’ll notice that I added a bead to the cording. To do that I first put my cording through the eyelet and made sure the ends of the cord were even, then put both ends through the bead’s hole and slid the bead down on top of the eyelet. After that I made one of my knots on top of the bead and then the other knot a couple of inches away from that.