DIY Birch Logs

I love decorating for the holidays.  Ok that’s a lie.  I actually dread the act of decorating I just love the way it looks when it’s done.  Lugging all those boxes from the garage.  Unpacking all the décor.  Spending hours bending all the branches on my 9 foot fake Christmas tree, to make it look full.  Then another hour adding ornaments.  Every year I tell my husband, in our next house I want a Christmas tree closet.  I just want to be able to roll my decorated Christmas tree into the closet after Christmas.  Then next Christmas I just roll it back out and Ta-Da! Christmas tree is done.  You want one too, don’t you?

Earlier this year I renovated our fireplace.  New tile, mantel, shelf, etc.  It looks really nice and the new design now offers space to add holiday décor.  I really wanted some birch logs to place on either side of the fireplace, but have you see how much those things cost?  $10 a log!  I needed six and I was not about to spend $60 on a few tiny logs that were going to be on display for only a few weeks.  So I decided it was time for some DIY Birch Logs.

When I start a DIY project I have a general idea of how I want to do things.  But I almost always check Pinterest first to see if anyone else has done it before me, because why re-invent the wheel?  Let’s save those brain cells for another day.  I often find good ideas on Pinterest and then I improve upon them in a way that fits exactly what I want to do.  And exactly what I want to do is this:

  1. Spend less money than the person before me
  2. Not have to drive to the store for supplies

I could see how reason number two directly correlates to reason number one, but reason number two is actually not about saving money.  When I get the crafting bug, I just want to do the project NOW.  I don’t want to have to spend time driving to and from a store, much less looking around and waiting in line to buy something.

After searching for DIY Birch Logs, I found several people using pool noodles or pipe insulation as the structural component for their logs and then Kraft paper and tissue paper for the visual component.  Good idea?  Yes.  But I didn’t want to spend money on pool noodles nor did I want to drive to the store to get some.  So I put my thinking cap on (see, that’s why you have to save those brain cells for later).  That’s when I came up with the idea to use rolled up newspaper to create my logs.  It wasn’t going to cost me anything (because I save piles and piles of newspapers) and I didn’t have to drive to the store.  SCORE!  Brain = 1 Wallet = 0.  And the added bonus of using newspaper instead of pool noodles?  It made the logs heavy, like real logs would be.

Here are all the supplies you will need:

  1. Newspaper (about 10 days worth depending on how thick you want your logs)
  2. Brown Kraft paper or brown paper grocery bags
  3. News print paper or tissue paper
  4. White and Black paint
  5. Paint brush
  6. Tape or string
  7. Elmer’s glue

Open up the newspaper and lay out about 6-8 full sheets, then pile all the half sheets down on the lower end.  The half sheets tend to shift up as you roll the entire thing so it’s easier to have them on the lower half.  Roll up the newspaper into a log.  If you find your log is either too big or too small just unroll and remove or add newspaper, then re-roll.  Secure the log with tape or string.  I used string because I was running low on tape, and you know how I feel about driving to the store.

Next, you’ll need either brown Kraft paper or brown paper grocery bags.  Brown Kraft paper is often used as packing material for shipments.  It comes in handy for a lot of craft projects, so I often save it.  Since it’s Christmas time and I do most of my shopping online, I just happened to receive two big wads of it in one of my shipments.

Cut your brown Kraft paper so that it extends about 1 inch on either end of the newspaper roll and will overlap by about 4 inches after you roll it around the newspaper.  If you are using a paper bag, chances are a single piece will not be long enough to cover the roll from left to right.  No worries, just cut 2 pieces, one to cover the left side and one to cover the right side.  Don’t worry about the overlapping seam in the middle.  Wrinkles, seams and textures will all play a part in making it look like a real log.

Using a paint brush, spread Elmer’s glue all over the Kraft paper. I dilute the Elmer’s with water (about 80% Elmer’s and 20% water).  Not only does it save on glue, but it’s also easier to spread.

Place the newspaper roll onto the Kraft paper and roll it up.  Don’t worry about any wrinkles, wrinkles are ok.  Then, apply your glue to the inside and outside of the ends and then fold inward.  If it overlaps, that’s ok and if it doesn’t quite reach, that’s ok too because you’re going to cover the ends anyways.

Cut a circle out of Kraft paper for each end.  Don’t worry about making it a perfect circle.  You will want to cut it so the circle folds a bit over the roll. Adhere with glue, both under and over the paper.  In fact, I found out later it is best to coat the entire end in glue.  It creates a sealant which makes it easier to remove the paint you will accidentally end up getting on the ends during your log painting.

Next you will need your news print paper or tissue paper.  If you’re wondering what news print paper is, it’s that grey-ish/beige paper stores use to wrap your fragile items in, during check-out.  Like Kraft paper, it’s also used as a packing material.  I happened to get a bunch of news print paper in some shipments I received so I decided to use it instead of tissue paper.  I  had tissue paper which I could have used for the next step, but I felt the news print paper would be easier to use because it was a little thicker.  I thought the tissue paper might tear as it became wet from spreading the glue, making it a little more difficult to work with.  But that’s just a theory, I don’t know that for sure.

First, crumple up your news print or tissue paper.  Then tear the paper into ~4 inch wide strips.  Tearing gives the edges a more natural look, than a scissor cut.  Apply your diluted Elmer’s glue to a strip and then wrap it around your log.  At this point you actually want to create wrinkles in the paper as you apply it.  Apply the strips, overlapping each other until all of the Kraft paper is covered (except for the sides of the log).

Tear up thin strips of news print/tissue paper, wad them up and attach them to various spots on the log with your glue.  Apply glue over the top of the wads as well and mash down with your fingers.  Don’t mash them so that are totally flat, you still want them to be 3 dimensional.  In the second picture below, the wad on the left has been mashed and the one on the right has not been mashed yet.


Wait for the glue on the wads to dry, then paint your log with white paint.  I used a white chalk paint because it’s what I happened to have on hand.  Any white paint should do as long as it has a matte finish.  If it’s glossy, your log will look too shiny and fake.  Brush the paint on haphazardly, you don’t want it to look too perfect.  You also don’t want the whole thing covered in white paint, you’ll want some of the original grey news print paper to show through as well.  Click on the images, if you want to see the paint detail better.

While the white paint is still wet, pour some black paint (I used black acrylic paint) into a shallow container.  You wont need much.  Very lightly, dip your brush into the black paint (it’s ok to use the same brush you used for the white paint).  You only need a thin layer on the bristled ends covered in black paint.  Then, with your paint brush perpendicular to your log, apply the black paint to all the wads with a stabbing motion.  Do the same to other various places on the log.  As you stab, you will see the white and black paint mix to create grey spots.  But don’t stab too much, because you still want some black specs in there.

apply black paint

One of the things I like best about crafting nature pieces is, nature is not perfect, so your piece doesn’t have to be either.  And if you mess up with one of the painting steps, it’s very easy to paint over it with the original color and start again.  If you added to much black and now you have too much grey, just add some white paint to your brush and stab over the grey to start over.  Just keeping adding white and black paint to various areas until you get the look you want.

paint perpendicular lines

When your logs are all painted, using a thin paint brush, add some black lines perpendicular to the length of your log.  If you don’t like how certain lines look, or where they are placed, just paint over them with white paint and start over.  If you’re a messy painter like me, you will find that you got paint on the brown “cut” ends of the log.  To remove the paint, take a paper towel and moisten it with water and rub the paint off the brown Kraft paper ends.  If you coated your ends in glue, then it should allow the paint to come off relatively well.

When you’re all done you can place the logs in a basket with Christmas tree branches and pine cones, or simply stack your logs with some rope or ribbon tied around them.

faux birch logs

I’d love to see your final décor piece.  Please share them with me on Facebook or instagram @stencildiystudios.  Happy Holidays!