We’re decorating our house for Christmas, putting up lights and trimming our tree. We also recently got three cats who love to swat at our Christmas tree and climb inside it. So, this year, we’re going to make a Christmas tree specifically for our cats.

  1. Make a Tree Template
  2. Laminate Cardboard Sheets
  3. Cut Out the Pieces
  4. Assemble With Hot Glue

1. Make a Tree Template

This project is heavily rooted in digital fabrication, but it doesn’t have to be. I began this Cat Christmas Tree with a model in Fusion 360. I picked a height of 36 inches and a platform size that I thought a cat would fit on. Then I began the process of adding the tree curvature shapes to the outsides. After hollowing out the inside of that shape, I extruded it to the thickness of 6 sheets of cardboard, about .71 inches.

I made some simple semi-circular platforms that got progressively smaller as they went up. To connect the vertical tree supports to the platforms, I cut in little dados into the half circles. I then exported these shapes as .svg files and loaded them into the CNC software. (You could print out these templates and cut them with a jigsaw, it’s way faster!)

2. Laminate Cardboard Sheets

In our first attempt at this project, Josh sliced his original Christmas Tree model so that we could stack a bunch of cardboard sheets together like a giant cake. Cutting all 200 pieces would have taken forever so we changed directions. We swapped materials for 3/4″ insulation foam, which took less time to cut and assemble, but we had reservations about the cats eating the foam. So on idea number three, Josh switched designs to allow for more vertical elements and laminated 6 sheets of cardboard together.

By making thicker stock, the pieces could be cut together instead of many different cut paths. In total, we used 6 24″x18″ boxes from Lowe’s in 2 separate tool paths on the CNC.

3. Cut Out the Pieces

As I mentioned earlier, you do not need a CNC to make this project. Actually, you can see the laminations in the cardboard a lot better by using a simple jigsaw. The CNC allowed for a theoretical level of accuracy that can easily be replicated with simpler tools. In order to use the CNC, I imported the model’s faces into Aspire, our CAD/CAM software and assigned my tool paths.

Once all of the pieces were cut and lightly sanded to get rid of some tear-out, it was time to assemble. One note, about the tear-out, We were using an up-cut bit and cutting pretty fast. Both of these choices lead to the tear-out, which could have been mitigated by using a down-cut bit and taking a few more shallow passes.

4. Assemble With Hot Glue

To assemble the pieces together, I decided to use hot glue. I began by laying the two side tree pieces on a table and placed the lowest platform between them. Using a speed square, I made sure the platform was level and glued the three pieces together. I did the same thing for the rest of the smaller platforms, spacing them evenly up the tree. Next, I glued in the front tree pieces followed by the two middle pieces until each piece was nice and secure.

To add a little flare, I glue on a Christmas star to the top and added a bunch of cat-friendly toys and ribbons for the to play with. I placed the tree in the front room, far away from our actual Christmas tree to help divert their attention away from it. So far, it is totally working! They are playing, climbing, and scratching the cardboard tree and leaving the real one alone.

Happy Holidays from ILTMS!

We all hope you liked this shirt and silly project. Thanks to Josh for taking on a lot of the work on this one, and thank you to our other employee and editor, Forby. We really love making content for you and we all hope that your holiday season is awesome and full of happy moments.