Friday, November 5, 2010

Redux: Gilded Walnut Garland

[Editor's note: This post first appeared at A Catskill Christmas in November 2007 and is repeated here for the 2010 Christmas season]

This is the first item I began to make for A Catskill Christmas and is one of the most time intensive. Basically the garland is 20 feet long, involves drilling holes in walnuts, painting them with 24kt gold spray paint, then stringing them on 24 gauge florist wire.

In the past, I've made smaller garlands of about 6 to 9 feet and with objects such as dried rose heads, lemon leaves, orange slices even dried chili peppers. But I found that those garlands had storage issues - many leaves and pods broke open and were difficult to replace. And there is nothing more fun than having your pets find chili pepper seeds under the Christmas tree!

With the gilded walnut garland, the paint helps to seal the walnuts and if one breaks, it would be fairly easy to take two walnut halves, place them around the wire and glue together.


Large phone book
Drill with 7/64 or smaller drill bit
Walnuts, whole and unshelled
24kt gold spray paint
Drop cloth or large box
24 gauge florist (paddle) wire
Wire cutters or scissors


1. Sort through the walnuts and look for any with cracks or other damage. Use these for baking, eating, or toss out for the squirrels.

2. Make sure your drill is ready, the bit is tightly secured, and if cordless, that it is fully charged. Always wear safety glass when working with power tools.

3. Use the phone book as a surface for drilling: place a walnut on the open book with a large number of pages underneat. Position drill bit in the middle of the walnut - find a location where there is no slippage. Hold the walnut with your other hand on each end. Drill with light pressure until the bit goes through the front and back ends of the walnut. This will take some practice: if you press too hard the walnut may crack. Discard any walnut that are cracked.

4. Once all the walnuts are drilled, place on a large drop cloth or in a large box. Spray surface with gold paint. Wait 5 - 10 minutes to dry. Rearrange nuts to show unpainted surface or shake box to randomly arrange walnuts. Repeat painting and drying until entire surface is gilded.

5. Cut a 21 foot length of florist wire for a 20 foot garland. The rule of thumb is to add an extra foot to whatever length garland you want. You will need extra wire to make hanging loops at each end.

6. Create a 1" loop at one end of the wire and wrap the remaining wire around the main wire.

7. Begin stringing walnuts - this is a good project to do while watching television. Place a drop cloth or old sheet under you since there will be small walnut particles all over as the wire goes through the walnut. If the wire will not go through a walnut - place aside and try later. I have never had a walnut, if drilled properly, not work for stringing.

8. As you string, push walnuts down to the end of the wire and make sure there are no spaces but still let walnuts move around.

9. When you have reached the desired length, create another loop at the other end with the wire.


Realize that there are holes in the walnuts and insects may want to feast on them in the summer. I usually place tissue paper and some moth balls or cedar chips in the box with the garlands - don't over do it, but enough to keep the bugs out.

Notes and suggestions:

- I've chosen to paint the walnuts after drilling and before stringing. This way if a walnut cracks during drilling, I haven't wasted paint. And painting the garland after stringing would not allow the walnuts to move around.

- You could also try copper or silver paint as well as glitter paint. Even try using red and gold paint and alternate the colors on the garland.

- Walnuts work best but I've also used hazelnuts (filberts). However they are expensive and much smaller thus difficult to drill without losing a finger.

- Put wire ribbon bows at each end of the garland if you are using it to decorate a doorway or window draperies.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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