Watch a Master Woodworker Make a Christmas Ornament

The video is a little work of art.
The Ornament and The Tree
The Ornament and The Tree / frank howarth

Woodworker Frank Howarth makes Christmas ornaments each year, and he shows the process of crafting the seasonal trinkets in his videos. The videos aren’t simple how-to presentations, though; they’re little works of art, featuring timelapse, minimal language, and even stop-motion photography.

In this 11-minute video, Howarth makes what he calls an “inside-out Christmas ornament,” complete with a mini-Christmas tree inside. It’s fascinating to watch a master at work, especially when he gets into wood turning on a lathe. He also intercuts the process of selecting and cutting down his family’s Christmas tree at a tree farm. Tune in, relax, and enjoy the above video.

A Brief History of Christmas Ornaments

Many Christmas trees today feature a mix of glass and plastic ornaments. A handmade wooden one like the one Howarth created would stand out today—and it also would have been a bit unusual hundreds of years ago.

In the 16th century, people decorated their trees with apples. They used other edible items they had on hand, too, such as different types of fruit, nuts, and candy canes.

Early non-edible ornaments were typically made of glass. As an alternative to apples, an 18th-century German glassblower named Hans Greiner began creating red spheres called baubles to trim the trees. His creations grew increasingly popular, and other artisans started creating their own glass ornaments as well. By the end of the 18th century, the baubles had spread through Europe and into the United States—F.W. Woolworth made more than $25 million selling the ornaments each year.

As technology improved, the formerly handmade ornaments became mass produced, and decorations made from materials like plastic and silver entered the holiday scene in the 20th century.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.