A Simple Wooden Advent Calendar, Redux

Last year's advent calendar was lovely, but it had a fatal flaw.  On Christmas Eve, with all the candles burning, it caught on fire!  Just a little singe, not enough to hurt anyone; but certainly enough char that it ended up in the wood pile.  For this year, a new design--one that Sweet Husband and I worked on together, even.  (We also tested it throughly for fire safety, never fear!)

Whatever holiday you may be counting down to, I hope this brings a bit of bright joy to your home this season.

Cooper parts

Supplies and Tools

  • One large stick or log
  • 3/4” x 1/2” copper reducing couplings
  • 3/4” copper caps  (The copper reducing couplings and caps are available in the plumbing section of most hardware stores. You'll need one of each for every candle you want to have on your calendar.)
  • Pocket knife
  • Drill with 11/16” drill bit
  • Rough sandpaper
  • Wood polish (optional)
  • Candles


1. First, find your stick. For our family, this was a bit of a quest, involving several early autumn walks in the woods. I'm glad we waited for the perfect one to come along though, and the search was half the fun!

The stick needs to be at least 1 inch wide and fairly freshly cut or fallen, so that it's not too dry to drill into. The length is up to you. Our stick is about 4 feet long, but we left about a foot at each end with no candles in it. Work with what you can find and what you have space to display.

2. Next, carefully using a pocket knife, remove the bark from your stick. The bark will eventually fall off anyway, so this step makes the calendar less messy. Also, at this stage we discovered that our stick had been nibbled on by bugs, which made beautiful patterns on the wood.

We were lucky to find a stick with “outrigger” branches to stabilize it, so we didn't need to make a flat bottom. If you have a stick that's more round, use your pocket knife to whittle a flat, stable bottom.

Once you've got your stick all neatened up, give it a quick rub with some rough sandpaper to make it nice and smooth.

3. Now it's time to decide how many days you want to count down. Our first calendar had 25 days, but that was a bit too much for our family. For this year's calendar we reduced the number to 12, so we measured and marked 12 holes, two inches apart from each other. Again, because no two sticks are alike, you may have to creatively improvise here.

Once your holes are marked—using one of the copper caps as a depth guide—drill down into the wood to almost the entire depth of the cap. Repeat this for each candle hole you want to eventually have.

4. At this point it will be very tempting to push those copper caps into the holes, but wait! While you could skip this step, those pretty insect patterns in our calendar really stood out beautifully with a coating of wood polish. (I use a mixture that is ¼ cup beeswax to one cup olive oil, with a few drops of lavender oil sprinkled in for scent.) Rub the polish into the stick, paying careful attention to the ends to get them nice and sealed.

Copper cap
5. Now you can push the copper caps into the holes. While they're not hard to push in, they should fit snuggly. Then put a copper reducer coupling in each cap, with the small end down. Although it may seem easier just to stick the candles directly into the wood, trust me, that's not a good idea.  (This is our new, super-improved, fire-safety step.  Without something to keep the candles from touching the wood, your calendar will catch on fire.)

6. When you're ready to begin your advent countdown, insert candles into the copper reducer couplings. We like to light one candle each night, and then light them all for Christmas Eve. As with any open flame, don't let it burn unattended or where small ones could harm themselves. Otherwise, enjoy the beautiful lights!