STARting off a New Year!

Happy New Year!

Ok, so these were actually for Christmas presents, but we’re in the new year now…and I love puns. It’s been a while since I have posted any real projects on the blog but I have been busy over the Christmas break. I’m planning some exciting builds for this upcoming year as well as some new posts like interviews with local woodworkers and product reviews, maybe even some videos! More details on all that in the coming months. For now, the star shaped candle holders.

The Build

I actually ended up making two of these stars and I made them two different ways. For this post I’ll focus on the much easier, probably more “correct” way to make it. I’ll still post pictures of each star to give you an idea of some differences. Also, I can’t take full credit for this idea. My wife found the idea for a star candle holder on Pinterest and I modified it to fit the plan in my head.

The first star I made was the 5 point star. This was for my wife’s grandmother who has 5 people in her immediate family. I designed the piece so that it could function all together as a 5-pointed Star with candles in each point, or she could remove the candles and place them out individually in different areas. The seven point star (one point for each member of MY grandmother’s family) is the same basic principal, although the math is a little different. I will use the seven point star for this post.

The first thing I needed to do was figure out the measurements for each star section. The point angles were easy enough to figure out, as I knew from high school algebra, (looks like I DID end up needing that stuff), that all of them needed to add up to 360 degrees. So I just divided 360 by 7 (or 5 for the five point star) to get the angles of the points. The same angle would be used for the inside point of each star section when it was put together. The harder part was figuring out the left and right angles of each star section. To find those, I used a protractor to draw the angle from the outside point on two pieces of paper. Then I put one piece of paper on top of the other facing opposite directions, making sure I could see through the top piece to the angle underneath. I used one of the candles I was going to put into the sections to make sure the piece would be wide enough and then measured the two side angles to make sure they were the same. I traced the final shape onto a piece of paper, and wrote in the angle measurements so I wouldn’t forget. They are all on the picture above. Lastly I cut out the shape carefully using an Exacto knife against a straight edge to get perfectly straight lines.

After cutting out the template, I measured how tall the piece was from one flat side to another and used the table saw to cut a board to that width. I brought my template back to that board and used it to trace the angled sides of each piece, leaving some space in between each one to account for the saw kerf (width of the cut from the saw blade itself). I set my miter saw to the correct angle and made all of the angled cuts the exact same. When they were all cut, all of the lengths and angles were exactly the same so the star fit together perfectly like the picture below. At this point I also measured how wide the star was and glued up a panel out of pallet wood that I would use as a base for the star pieces to all fit into. More on that later.

I will say that since this was the second star I made in as many weekends, I had a better idea of how to automate parts of the process, like with the miter saw and the template. The 5-pointed star used a little more trial and error (and sanding) but it still came out fine. This picture is the 5-point star at this point in the process:

I had cut this star out on the bandsaw, so it was not as clean of a joint in the center. Still, not bad for freehand bandsaw work.

Back to the 7 point star. After I put the pieces together I used some blue tape to hold them in that shape. I then took my star to the glued-up pallet wood boards and traced the shape of it in the center.

I then went back and used a piece of 1/2″ plywood to trace a border around the entire star shape. This would be a lip that would hold the star pieces together. It turned out that with this extra lip I had somehow miscalculated the width and was missing a point, but that was an easy fix in a later step. I cut the star shape out carefully on the band saw and filled in some gaps between the boards with wood putty.

Next I needed to cut out the pieces that would form the border around the star. There was more math involved, and once I figured out the angles I used the miter saw again to make them all as uniform as possible. Each small piece was cut on the band saw first to the correct width and then trimmed on the miter saw to the correct angle. Each piece also had two different angles to cut so I did all of one side before using the band saw to cut the second, sharper angle that the miter saw couldn’t do. This kept things as close as possible to the same. I used a belt sander mounted on a stand (click here to see that project) to knock off the burrs and keep the angles flat.

Next I carefully laid out and glued the pieces around the outside edge. Take your time doing this step. If you go too fast you could easily glue a piece upside down or in the wrong position or even just too far away from the edge, and the pieces of the star won’t fit. I put the pieces all together several times in the border during this process to make sure that it was lining up correctly. This part is tedious but it is essential to do correctly.

Check out the glue I use for all of my projects!

Once all of the border pieces were in place it was time to drill the holes for the candles. I recently bought a drill press, which is great for this kind of repeated drilling. I used a scrap piece of wood and a Forstner bit slightly bigger than the candles to find the right depth for drilling. Then I set the depth stop on the drill press to make exactly the same depth of hole each time.

I also created a small jig to help hold the star pieces in place. I traced one piece onto a block of wood and then drove in one small nail on each edge. The star pieces were too small and close to the large bit for me to hold comfortably and reliably by hand, so this jig was perfect. I used the paper template and a punch to find the exact centers of each piece, positioned my drill bit, and drilled all of the holes.

Now back to that missing star tip from earlier. If you look closely, you’ll see that once the border of the star was glued on you can’t tell a corner is missing. I used another piece of pallet wood the same thickness as the base, slid it into the gap of the missing point, and traced the triangle shape onto it. After cutting it out on the bandsaw I glued it in place under the border and it looked like it had always been there.

The last step was to stain all of the parts. I used a chestnut color stain from Minwax for all the wood. I was a little surprised that the seven point star came out with such a uniform color. I used two different woods, oak from the pallets and pine for the star pieces, and the five point star had a noticeable difference between the two woods. I have used this stain before with a pre-stain treatment and the color was much more uniform, but I didn’t use anything this time so the difference from star to star was a little surprising.

When all of the pieces had dried, I put them together, wrapped them, and gave them to our grandmothers. They loved the utility of having multiple candle holders that went together, but the fact that each point of the star represented someone in their family meant a lot to them as well. It seems that a lot of times the present itself isn’t as important as the thought and meaning behind it; especially when it is something handmade.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this project and maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own. If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment. As always, if you got value from this post, please consider subscribing and share it with your friends and neighbors. Thanks for reading!

-S.A.

Author: Sam Adams

I am a musician, educator, and composer based out of Kentucky. I also dabble in wood working.

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