So you're on facebook and some friend posted a beautiful advent calendar, possibly complete with smiling children excited that mommy or daddy cared enough to do something special for them. Then you glance around your house. The pumpkin might still be on the porch from Halloween. The Thanksgiving leftovers aren't fit to eat anymore, but throwing them away is still a few days off. It's weeks before you'll put up the Christmas lights, even though that one neighbor already has a display that people drive from the next county to see. Man it would have been great to at least get an advent calendar. But it's too late. OR IS IT?
You can just buy one, if you can find one. But you're a DIY'er, right? Otherwise why are you on this site? This guide will walk you through the process. Cost me $3 US. Ok, plus like $50 worth of little treats for the kids. You can go cheaper on that part if you want. The whole thing is about the anticipation, as long as there's a piece of chocolate or some little toy the kids will love it.
Let's get started.
Step 1: Christmas Wrap
Ok, so the key element of the whole project is cardboard tubes. You can buy cardboard shipping tubes online... oh, wait, you can't because you waited until Nov 30th/Dec 1. At any rate they're too expensive. All you need is a dirt cheap cardboard tube. The cheapest I could find was Christmas wrap at the dollar store. $1 US bought me a nice 30" (76 cm) tube. Bonus, it's already decorated with Christmas scenes. I bought three of them. Make sure it's the kind of wrapping paper with an actual cardboard tube in the middle. A lot of them have just some paper. Those would lack structural integrity.I already had some clear plastic packing tape.
Step 2: Tape That Paper
Take your Christmas wrap out of the plastic wrap it's in and tape the loose end down to the rest of the roll. If you're super cheap, maybe take off a lot of the paper - you can use that later in the project. Also for wrapping presents. Although it may make your structure weaker, so I left all the paper on mine. Try to pull the paper as tight as possible before taping.
Step 3: Cut the Tube
Cut those tubes. What length? 3" (7.6 cm) seemed like a decent length, though you might get away with slightly smaller. Depends on what you're putting in there. I made a couple longer ones at the bottom. I had the notion that it would stand up on its own. It can, but it looks better lying down. And all the same sized tubes is easier.
But mcarlson9, you say, how do you cut them? I used a miter saw. A table saw would work well. Or a band saw. Worst case a box cutter. That will be significantly more effort. The miter saw chewed right through the roll. It did leave slightly frayed ends sometimes, but I pulled those off with little effort. Did you tape the rolls tightly before cutting? I bet it's not so great if you didn't.
Step 4: Like 5 Steps Jammed in Here That I Didn't Take Photos Of
Ok, lay out your tubes. You have 24 right? I don't know how many are in a traditional advent calendar, but I figure started Dec 1 and end Dec 24. Christmas has enough magic without a 25th little prize. I found that this layout is nice, it looks vaguely like a Christmas tree. If you have a better layout, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
Once you've arranged the tubes, use copious amounts of packing tape to tape them all together. Just around the outside, not over the tube holes. You don't want your little chocolate to get stuck to sticky tape if it covers the hole. Once you've taped up the perimeter of the shape, you may notice that the tubes in the center are not stuck in place. Don't worry. It'll all come together. Next place some wrapping paper over the open tube ends and tape it down. This will be the back of the tubes. Tape it down good. Lots of tape. Don't be stingy with the tape. Don't leave any openings (don't want stuff to fall out!) and make sure each tube hole is completely covered with wrapping paper (because otherwise peeking is a very real danger).
Is it all taped down? Add some more tape. Poke it. Does it seem wiggly? Add some more tape. Because next you flip it over and fill the tubes with stuff. If there's not enough tape it could be hard to flip over. Push the sides in slightly as you lift it to force the tubes together, so the middle ones don't fall out. Flip it gently but quickly. There, got it! Well done. Worst case you have to do a little rebuilding. But once done you're faced with 24 holes. Fill them up!
Some things to put in the holes:
- Little toys that you get from those dispensers by the door at the grocery store
- Stamps (if your kids collect stamps, otherwise this will be a rough day for them)
- Lego pieces/Minifigures
- Matchbox cars
- Hard candy
Things not to put in:
- Lunch meat
Done? Fun, right? Did you spend too much filling the tubes? Yeah, I did too. There's a great store near me that sells bulk candy and I went a little nuts. I also bought a couple things that didn't fit in the tubes. Doh! Eh, stocking stuffers. Anyway, time to wrap/tape it all up. WAIT! Take a picture first. An absolute must. If they get M&Ms two days in a row, you're the worst parent ever. Ok, now lay down some wrapping paper and tape it down. Do a good job, this is the front. A little more tape. Done? Cool. It should be structurally sound at this point. Does it wiggle too much? MORE TAPE!
Step 5: Done!
Ok, now you need to label it. I put the messiest potential item (candy covered sunflower seeds) behind door #1. Get it out of the way fast. Anyway, you can label with a sharpie or something if you're sick of working on this project already. I was still excited, so I used assorted color postit notes. At the top of the tree I put a star. You can put whatever you want. I kind of feel it should be special and distinct though. I labelled that tube 1. Some people might think it should be 24. Christmas Eve is already it's own kind of special, so I went with 1. I cut the other numbers to resemble little Christmas balls. You could do stars, but they're harder to cut than circles. Tape each one down as you do it. Try to spread out colors if you're using different colors. You can kind of feel the tubes beneath the wrapping, try to put the numbers dead center. There is no worse calamity than unintentionally opening two days at once. I mixed up the days, you can keep them in order top to bottom if you want. There. Done.
The only issue is that you used a lot of tape to keep this thing together, so it might be hard to penetrate. I don't have a good solution for this, but I think warning the maniac children not to manhandle it and supervising the breaching process would help prevent mishap. I will have the kids bust through with scissors.
Hope your family loves this project! Now go post it on facebook to prove your DIY cred.