Sunday, December 14, 2014

Plant Your Christmas Tree In a Potter-Inspired Tree Cauldron!

New Potter Tree Update!

It's about 95% done now - just a few more ornaments to make and add, if we have time!

John and I initially tossed around several tree skirt possibilities, until I got the idea of the tree sprouting magically out of a cauldron. In addition to just being super fun for a Harry Potter theme, the cauldron also let us raise our little tree up a good 6 inches, which keeps more of the bottom branches away from playful cats. It's also a much cleaner look than a tree skirt, which - again, thanks to cats - is always getting rumpled and dragged around. And best of all, it hides all the power cords!

You can use this tutorial to make a large rounded pot for all sorts of uses, from plant stands to Halloween decorations to a Christmas tree base, as I've done. It'll cost you less than $20 to make, and you can finish it to look like terra cotta, stone, hammered metal - you name it. So let's get started!

First, full credit goes to Halloween Forum user Old Man Bakke, who wrote up his own cauldron process over a 15 page thread. Mine is essentially the same, but I'll save you the trouble of clicking through 15 pages of user comments.

You Will Need:

- This $7 plastic bucket from Wal-Mart:


- 1 or 2 large moving boxes, also from Wal-Mart (I think they were $2 each)

- 2 rolls of duct tape

- Old newspaper & flour to make paper maché

First, make a paper template for the curve you want to add to your bucket:

When you're happy with the shape, trace as many as you can on the large moving boxes, and cut them out with a craft blade.

You'll need a bare minimum of 35 or so, but the more you use, the better your end product will look. (We ended up using over 50)

Now use your duct tape to start attaching these "ribs" to the bucket like so:

I found it easiest to attach the tape to the cardboard first, and then stick it to the bucket.

Work your way around, spacing the ribs about 2 inches apart:

John and I did this together, with him cutting the cardboard and me taping, so we were done in under an hour:

Next, start covering your spines with more duct tape, like so:

When you have a solid covering of duct tape all the way around, it's time to break out the paper maché:

Don't make your paper maché this wet; John got a little overzealous at first. ;)

You'll want 3 or 4 layers for a good strong cauldron - and make sure you let the paper maché dry completely between layers. (This was the hardest part: waiting.)

The paper peeled right off the lip of our bucket, since we didn't cover it in duct tape first. No problem, though; you don't need to paper maché the lip; just fill the holes where the rope handles used to be. To do that, stick a small piece of tape under the holes, and fill with spackle.

For the handles, John found some old rubber tubing in the garage, and plugged each end into a small cut section of PVC pipe:

You could also use towel rings, heavy rope, an old garden hose, or anything else you think you can make a big ring out of. This is purely decorative, so don't worry about it being strong.

Glue your rings to the side (those screws were just for show; they weren't long enough to reach the bucket inside), and prime the whole shebang.

After that I recommend hitting it with a coat of granite paint to add some gritty texture, which will help hide the lines from your cardboard ribs. (If you look closely at my next pic, you can just see the vertical lines on ours.)

 Once you have some good texture on there, paint the cauldron in the color of your choice. We used flat black to get that nice dusty iron look.

This bucket isn't quite large enough to fit a stand in, so John made a new one out of some scrap wood. It's essentially a skinny post with a hole in it, braced on a round base:

Making the switch was surprisingly easy, even with the tree already half decorated. John just lifted the tree straight up, I popped the old base off, and then he plunked it down into the new base. We added a power strip inside the cauldron, too, so there's only a single power cord coming out of the back.

And finally, to help hide all those cords in the cauldron, John cut a round piece of cardboard like this:

 ... and after spraying it with a little spray adhesive, I covered it with some sparkly fiber fill:

Here it is in place:

Depending on how the light catches it, it either looks like smoke or bubbles. Either way, me likey.

Hope you guys like our Christmas tree cauldron!  And I'd love to see this finished in different ways to suit different styles, so if you ever decide to make your own, please be sure to share pictures!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!


  1. It's been so fun to see all your great ideas! Can't wait to hear how the train works!

  2. I feel like I am always posting a comment to tell you how awesome you are, but the fact is that you are just simply awesome! Love this!

  3. You guys are SO GOOD at stuff like this. It looks amazing.

  4. Your crafts are awesome. That is all. :)

  5. ...or I could just reuse my huge (like HUGE) candy cauldron from Halloween.

    1. Agreed! You could still texture and paint the plastic cauldron to make it look more realistic. I'm all about doing the least amount of work possible. :P

    2. But what happened to all of the candy that FILLED that HUGE cauldron? ;-)

  6. That is so cool! You guys are just the cleverest crafters ever!

  7. I love this! I wish I had like an ounce of crafting capabilities; you guys make such great stuff. :)

  8. OooOOoo I love the look! Now put some lovely clear Christmas balls into the 'fluff' on the bottom and you have instant BUBBLES! Hurray for this tree!

    1. BUBBLES!!! What a great idea!

  9. If you wanted to use a live/cut tree you could maybe wedge it in with cement blocks and gravel or sand and then throw some water in. It would definitely keep it super stable.
    I can see all sort of interesting permutations, tree growing out of a large present or a small castle. It's really all a matter of what you can create that is stable enough to hold a tree... I'm wondering whether I have the skills and patience to make a big enough sleeping stag to house a stable enough bucket for a smallish tree.

  10. THIS IS SO AMAZING. I mean, I ain't got time for this, but I'm super amazed at how awesome it looks. :) I was wondering if you could just spray paint the duct tape portion, without the paper mache? Obviously it wouldn't look AS good, but would it work? Or would you see too many lines from the duct tape?

    Also super amazed you have a whole TRAIN on there. MAJOR PROPS!

    1. The paper mache really strengthens the sides, since the duct tape alone is pretty flexible & squishy. You'd probably have a hard time getting paint to stick to the tape, too, since it's has that shiny plastic quality to it. And then there's the overlapping lines, like you said. So... yeah, just do the paper mache. ;)

  11. This is the coolest Christmas tree I have ever seen!!!!!

  12. That is seriously amazing! I've been following your blog for preeeetty much as long as it's been a thing, and I am constantly amazed at the awesome things you guys come up with. <3

  13. Another way to make a base for your tree inside of whatever container you use: get an old plastic bucket, paint can, or flower pot, cut a length of pvc pipe the height of the pot, stand the pipe in the pot (keep it straight!) and fill 3/4s full with plaster of paris. Gives a nice weight to keep it stable and you can use it in anything: big garden pots, baskets, an old trunk...

    1. An old trunk? Genius. Now the crafty ideas are a-flowing.

    2. I did a steampunk inspired tree in our shop this year (wonder where I got THAT idea!) and used an old steamer trunk...looked really cool

  14. I think you should have a short cut to ALL of your ornament tutorials. and future ornament tutorials. and then come to my house and make them all for me. :)
    The ornaments on my tree are pretty bland because I can never find what I really want.. and if I actually do, it's like a $12 purchase. No thanks.
    --Piper P

  15. You two are so friggin brilliant! I am a crafty lady, but you guys come up with ideas I would never have even dreamed of! You should bulk up that etsy shop...I would love to buy so much of the stuff you create here!

  16. Awesome!! I love your tutorials! I'm super crafty and I get so inspired by your work!

  17. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me every time I visit.

  18. EPBOT on ICanHasCheezburger. Squee!!
    The Only Tree You'll Need for Yule Ball.

  19. oh my gosh, this is pure genius.

  20. Looks great. If someone wanted to replicate this buying one of those large plastic Halloween cauldrons could possibly work too. This probably is a bit more sturdy in its base and heavier though which is probably beneficial.


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