How to make a rustic driftwood Mother’s Day gift

Published: May 8, 2019

driftwood-fish-DIY-project Photo by yul38885/Shutterstock

“It’s the thought that counts” is mom’s favourite saying, especially when it comes to Mother’s Day gifts. Cards and flowers are the norm, but there are some great ways to shake things up, put in a bit of effort, and show mom just how much she is loved.

The shoreline and woods around the cottage, especially in spring, is a treasure trove of driftwood and interesting looking branches that are perfect for craft projects. Here is how to clean and prep driftwood, along with a few crafting ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

Prepare the Wood

Any wood that is found in nature has been exposed to the elements for a long time and could also have critters residing inside. It is important to clean and sanitize the wood before use to ensure it is safe and to prevent it from getting stinky over time.

The best and easiest way to sanitize driftwood is to boil it. First, use a rag or cloth to remove any dirt and debris from the wood. Then, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop in the wood. For guaranteed results, the wood should be boiled for at least 2 hours to ensure any bacteria deeper in the wood is eliminated.

Sometimes boiling is impractical due to the size or quantity of wood. If this is the case, an alternative method is a diluted bleach soak. Use an old plastic tub or garbage can and fill with a bleach and water solution (follow the instructions on the bottle of bleach for the ratio). Throw in the driftwood and let is sit for a couple days. Then remove the wood and let it dry.

Once the driftwood has been sanitized, it can be used as-is, or, if planning on displaying it for a long time, it can be further protected with a coat or two of shellac.

Some driftwood is beautiful and interesting enough on its own that it can be displayed by itself as an art piece. Placed on a coffee table or hung on a wall, the different twists and turns of the grain can be quite captivating. But if mom requires a little more effort, there are some great ways to use driftwood to make more artful pieces.

Driftwood Candle Holder

Probably the easiest driftwood project is making a simple candle holder from a single piece of driftwood. The items needed for this project are a medium sized piece of driftwood, one that looks good and is stable when it is placed on its side, 3-5 candles, a drill and forstner bit the same diameter as the candles (standard tea lights will require a 1 ½” bit), clamps, some sandpaper and a pencil.

Start by laying the wood on its side, rotating it to find the most stable and visually appealing way to place it. Then, decide where in the wood the candles will go and mark those places with a pencil. Then, clamp the wood to a secure surface (like a work table) so that drilling can be done safely. If a drill press is available, that can be used to ensure perfect depth is cut each time, but a hand drill can also be used, just make sure not to drill down too deep. Once the holes are drilled, sand away any rough edges and drop in the candles. It’s now ready to give to mom.

Driftwood Votive

A driftwood votive is a great craft project and requires no power tools. It’s also a great choice when the driftwood available are smaller pieces. The items needed for this project are a glass votive with candle, hot glue gun and clear glue sticks, twine, several (about 20-25) pieces of driftwood 2”-3” tall, twine and any other decorations (sea glass, acorns, shells etc.).

To start, get the glue loaded into the glue gun and get it hot. Then apply some glue to the length of the backside of a piece of wood, place it vertically against the votive, pressing firmly for 8-10 seconds, until the glue cools. Repeat until the entire circumference of the votive is covered in vertically placed driftwood pieces. Don’t worry if the wood isn’t all the same length; it adds to the charm. To finish, take a length of twine and tie it around the votive securing it with a nice bow. For extra flair, glue any other decorations to the wood, press firm and let dry.

Driftwood Fish

This project is one of the most replicated ideas out there, and for good reason: it looks great and isn’t too difficult to make. The items needed for this project are lots of driftwood of various lengths, nails or screws and a hammer or a drill. Make sure the nails or screws are long enough to go through the driftwood to the “backbone” pieces of wood.

To start, lay out the driftwood on the floor and make them into the shape of a fish. Using pieces of wood of various sizes, the shape can be achieved by placing the wood pieces vertically beside each other. There are lots if images online to help visualize how to do it, but the essential shape is that of an oval with a triangle coming out the back as the tail.

Next, take 2 long pieces of wood to act as the backbone. These backbone pieces should be a little longer than the fish design. Then, nail (or drill) the pieces of wood to the backbones so they are securely attached. Once all the pieces are secure to the backbone, the fish is ready for hanging.

Other variations of this project include removing the two backbone pieces in favour of mounting the fish on a large rectangular piece of reclaimed wood or, using twine, to weave the pieces of wood together in an over-under stitch. These are both great alternatives, given the time and resources.

Finally, if there is a lack of time (or skill), a super-easy Mother’s day gift that can be made is a key rack. Simply take a piece of driftwood and partially hammer in some nails, or screw in 3-5 screw-hooks. Hang it beside the door to the cottage and enjoy it as a key rack or hang collectible spoons from it; as mom always says, “it’s the thought that counts”.

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