4 last-minute DIY presents

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 18, 2015

DIY giftsHey, we get it. The holidays sometimes sneak up on you, and one day you wake up and realize that it's too late to finish that shopping that you have been meaning to do for weeks. Now you're stuck with nothing to put under the tree for that special someone, and you're ready to hit the panic button and spend outrageous amounts on overnight shipping for something…well, not all that special.

Thank goodness for DIY gifts!

Back away from that online store and head to your local big-box hardware store instead, the one that has a little bit of everything. Holiday gift salvation resides within those aisles.

Picture frames with heart

Forget those mass-produced frames in the pretty packaging; a frame should be as unique as the person featured inside it. Head to the store with the intention of finding the best materials to create the perfect frame: A few strips of sturdy wood, a thinner piece of wood for backing, a few tiny flat hinges and little accents. Those accents could be anything from paints to beads to colorful bits of wood to…well, the options are endless!

Grab some heavy-duty wood glue and get started. Put together a frame that is simple, yet highly personalized, one that makes it clear the recipient is someone special. The time you pour into it is a beautiful gift in and of itself.

An etched cutting board

A cutting board made of local wood is certainly a nice gift, especially if a bottle of good mineral oil is tucked into the package to help keep the board looking perfect for years. But why not go a bit further? An etched cutting board is a much more personal gift, and it doesn't take much time at all.

You will need a cutting board of appropriate size (think larger!) and a wood-etching kit. Buy several pieces of cheap wood for practice before you start on the real thing. Get very comfortable with the wood burning or etching, and then choose something that represents your gift recipient. Initials or last names are popular, but you can make it even more personal by etching a family recipe.

A handy chalkboard

This works for almost anyone in the household. For adults, writing down the grocery list was never so much fun. For kids, it's a great prompt to play "school" and get creative. Best of all, it's quite easy for you to make. It just takes some time, so if you want to use this as a last-minute present, start right now!

You're going to need the wood to make a backing and frame (just like the picture frame mentioned earlier), as well as a small container of chalkboard paint, a paintbrush, and the other little supplies to put it all together. You will paint the backing board with at least two or three coats, which is why you need some time to pull this off; those coats need ample time to dry. Once they have, create the frame and there you have it!

Don't forget to wrap up some colored chalk and a nice eraser to go with it.

Block signs

You've seen the big signs made of wood that are painted with interesting sayings and life lessons. Rather than spend a great deal of money for one of those signs that isn't quite personal enough, make your own and give a last-minute present they will cherish forever.

You will need a wooden box; if you can't find one already made, purchase the strips of wood and small nails you will need to put the box together. You will also need two paints: One for the base color and one for the lettering. You might also need letter stencils of appropriate sizes if you aren't all that steady with a paintbrush (hey, most people aren't!).

Paint the box with the base coat. If you want it to look old-fashioned, use sanding paper to rough up the paint when it's dry, especially around the corners. Carefully draw out the words with a pencil, then paint them with the color chosen for lettering. Let it dry, and then add a thin layer of sealant if you want it to really last.

Presenting your DIY gifts

You went to all the work of creating those DIY gifts, so don't ruin the fun by using mass-produced paper to wrap them! Instead, use butcher paper, or even cut-up paper bags. You can draw designs on the paper, use fun stamps and ink, or leave it looking plain and elegant. Wrap up your present and create a simple bow of twine. A hand-lettered tag completes the look for your perfect last-minute present.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.