Stand out in a world of inflatables with these charming, rustic reindeer. They'll look at home paired with other seasonal front porch decor, and perfectly mischievous when positioned in garden beds, or peeking behind trees in your front yard. They’ll appeal to a multitude of home styles, and best of all, they're durable and can be used for many years. If you’re looking for a way to use some leftover logs, this easy project is the one for you.
It’s quite advantageous to befriend a lumberjack if you have the opportunity, or at the very least save a few logs when you have trees cut down on your property. For each reindeer you plan to build, source a large log that is roughly 10-12” diameter and 18”-24” in length for the deer torso. Select a smaller log (likely a hefty branch) that is 4-6” diameter for the deer heads, and use a chop saw to cut each head to 10” in length. The logs you pick should be heavy pieces, but not so heavy that they’re hard to work with. For antlers, you’ll use smaller branches. Select a variety of twigs that are 1/4”-1/2” thick so that you can pick and choose at a later time.
Choose a dark stain that coordinates with the color of your logs. Apply it evenly to each dowel. Cut the dowels into four 14” lengths and one 6” length. If you’re making one deer, you’ll need two dowels to accommodate these specs. If you’re making a duo, you’ll be able to get all of your cuts out of three dowels.
It may seem like a great idea to use natural branches as leg and neck components – I love the idea myself – but I’ll tell you why you might want to use dowels instead: Fallen branches are usually dead. Brittle or rotting branches may not support the weight of the logs. Even if you use green branches, they will eventually dry out and may no longer support the weight of the deer. Also, it’s hard to qualify branches for a project like this because the legs should appear uniform in size. Uneven branches may need to be whittled in order to fit predrilled holes. Fortunately, dowels are ever-consistent and can be matched with a drill bit of the exact same dimension. It was inarguably the best decision I made when it came to assembling these deer.
Use a cordless drill with a 1-1/4” bit to bore four holes in the “belly” of the log. This is where you will connect the four legs. As you’re drilling, be aware of the angle that the bit is cutting, and try to make the holes perpendicular to the ground or ever slightly so that the legs will flare out better for balance. After you cut all four leg holes, roll the torso log over and in one end, spaced evenly over the leg holes, cut one more hole in which the neck dowel will attach. Cut one last hole into the smaller log designated as the deer head.
Legs into the leg holes, neck into the neck hole. This deer will come alive very easily. When you use dowels that match the size of the drill bit you used, it’s not likely that you’ll need much wood glue (if any, because the connection may already feel snug) but it’s wise to use your finger or a paint brush to coat the inside of each drilled hole with wood glue to aid the connection.
Browse through your branches to select antlers that are the right scale for your deer. Using a smaller drill bit (3/16” or 5/8”) cut two holes atop each deer head. Add a dab of wood glue to the end of each branch antler, and attach it to the hole.
Be ready to explain to your neighbors how easy it was to make them yourself.