Simple Woodworking Projects for Christmas Presents

DIY Woodworking Gifts you can Build in a Day

By Mark J. Donovan

My son and I visited my father’s woodworking shop this past weekend to build a couple of simple woodworking projects for Christmas presents.

Every year the extended family gets together to exchange Christmas gifts via a Yankee Swap. A few years back the family decided that presents should all be hand made by the giver, versus store bought items. Consequently my son and I make our annual pilgrimage to my father’s woodworking shop around this time of year to build simple woodworking projects.

Typically we select projects that can be built and stained/painted in the same day (albeit a long day). In the past we have built Tie and Belt Racks, Birdhouses, and Newspaper and Magazine baskets.

Normally we both build the same thing to expedite the process and to better share in the building process (on the fly acquired knowledge, tool jig settings, etc.)

Building a towel rack Building a stool


This year, my son and I decided to build different woodworking projects. My son built a simple paper towel rack and I built a small step stool.

The paper towel rack consisted of two sideboards with rounded front edges and 1” holes through their centers. The two sideboards were attached via a backboard that spaced the sideboards for the standard width of a paper towel roll. A 7/8th inch dowel, that extended beyond the ends of the sideboards by two inches, and that was slightly milled out in the sections that lined up with the two sideboard holes, completed the project. The sideboards and backboard were constructed using Maple.

My small step stool, consisted of a top board that was 12” x 10”. Actually the top board was initially constructed of two sections of 5.5” x 0.75” Maple boards that were glued together, planed, sanded, and then routed along the top edge.

The top board then rested on two legs, again made out of Maple, that were 8” in length and 5.5” tall. Using a coffee can lid I traced out curves on the underside of each leg, as well as on the ends of them, to jazz up their appearance.

The legs were then sanded and attached to the top board via 1.25” screws that were countersunk into the top board.

Sanding towel rack sides. Sanded stool legs.


I then added a 1.0” x 0.75” x 9.5” brace board that sat between the two legs and flush up against the underside of the top board. This added some extra rigidity to the stool. Again, I counter sunk a single 1.25” screw into each leg to secure the brace between the legs. Note: I also used woodworking glue on all pieces for added strength.

I then plugged all the holes with some glue and pre-fab’d wood plugs, let them dry for an hour, and then sanded them flush.

Finally, we both added a coat of Walnut stain and some wax to our projects and we ready for this year’s Yankee Swap.

Finished paper towel rack Finished step stool.


So if you too are looking for some simple woodworking projects to do for this Christmas, consider the projects outlined above. Within 6-8 hours you too can have some fairly nice looking presents to handout to the family.

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