How-to: Make a “paper tree” in five easy steps

This project was inspired by two things: 1.) A neat “printed paper pine” item from Anthropologie, and 2.) my discovery, in the attic of my parents’ house, of an assortment of vintage sheet music — mainly trumpet and saxophone parts from the 1950s-1970s (that hadn’t been touched since the 1970s) when my father played in a band. 

Materials needed:

  • One chopstick
  • Something into which the chopstick can be anchored, like a scrap piece of wood, so the stick stands vertically (I upcycled an old plastic reel-to-reel tape spool as a base)
  • Several pages of printed sheet music, pages from a discarded book (or book you’ll no longer read), old holiday cards, or pages from magazines or catalogs
  • A piece of cardboard, roughly 1.5’x2’ in size 


  • Pinking shears, or something else that provides a decorative edge
  • Scissors
  • An ice pick, or other hole-punching device
  • Optional: Glue, small nail, hammer

Estimated time for completion: 

  • A couple of hours, though you probably can multi-task (read blogs, like I did, or watch TV) while working. 


  1. Using pinking shears, or another cutting tool, cut the music (or other paper pieces) into squares. I cut my largest square approximately 5” x 5”, and smallest 1” x 1”. As I went along, I didn’t measure the pieces, but estimated the size based on that of the squares I’d just cut. For one tree, I used 40 paper squares. 
  2. Next, use scissors to cut the cardboard into small squares to add as spacers between the paper squares. The cardboard squares should be considerably smaller than the paper squares — that’ll help make the cardboard less visible. (I used a piece of recycled cardboard that held a case of cat food — it’s thinner and less rigid than some cardboard which made it easier to cut, I think.) Cut out the same number of cardboard squares as you have paper squares. 
  3. Poke holes in the center of the paper and cardboard squares. With an ice pick, I was able to punch holes through several squares at the same time. (Your mileage may vary.)
  4. Next, place your chopstick in whatever object you have handy to use as a base. You may want to nail or glue the chopstick into/onto your object. (I didn’t need to — my chopstick fits pretty snugly into my base.) 
  5. Now place the cardboard and paper squares onto the chopstick, pushing them down from the chopstick’s tapered end. Start with your largest square of cardboard, then add your largest piece of music on top of it. Continue stacking the cardboard and paper squares, keeping an eye on how your “tree” is shaping up. Hopefully, it’s a nice cone shape. 

As your layering of squares nears the top of the chopstick, stop at whatever point you want to. You could put a dot of glue on the topmost cardboard piece and paper square, to hold them in place. (I’d like to take the tree apart after the holidays — to store everything flat in a box — so I didn’t add glue.) Also, I left my chopstick top bare because I like the minimal look of it. You may want to “top” your tree with something.  

That’s it. Place your tree on a table, and enjoy!  

Note: This project carries a stamp of approval from Veto, my feline quality control officer.