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In my household we have several large boxes of doo-dads and gimcracks that are held for possible display on each season's tree. Their "tree-worthiness" is the stuff of history, sociology and family politics.

This adornment of the Christmas tree is a seasonal rite exposing our pack-rat nature. It is a time to bring out beautiful heirlooms and crudely constructed pieces that bring on a flood of memories and melancholy.

This tree decoration stuff is actually a pretty high falutin' enterprise. We are de facto curators, assembling a wonderful exhibit of tidbits from our past. I don't know many folks who actually go out and buy lots of tree decorations. At my house they have just mysteriously accumulated in boxes over our lifetime. When our kids were younger, they brought home hand-cut paper snowflakes, painted plaster snowmen and indiscernible things constructed of popsicle sticks and white glue. Much of this remains "boxworthy" — that is, saved, but not up to snuff for the tree. As we decorate our trees each year, we participate in a collective curatorial process that has all the pitfalls of exclusivity. What passes muster one year, might be forever tissue-wrapped and relegated to the netherworld of the "ornament box" the next, never to hang among the splendour of shiny baubles, branches and lights. My future generations will shrug and toss most of this stuff into the trash but, for whatever reason, what's in the box is never thrown out by us.

I want you to add to your load of ornaments, by constructing yet another thing to grace the branches of Yuletide. I have a load of broken hockey sticks around my home-because I make things from them. I love the laminations, the contours and the residue that adds a patina to a well-used stick. When collectors go out and buy tribal masks, they usually ask if the mask was "danced." If it was used in a ritual or ceremony then it is more valuable. Any self-respecting merchant in cultural artifacts would immediately say, "Of course, it was danced by a chief!"

I believe that all broken hockey sticks have been "danced." They are casualties of the ordeal of ice and steel, and now await transformation into something cute — a hockey stick bird for example.

Yes, from a broken hockey stick, you can make an ornament that could be forever in the family collection. It will add resonance if you use a stick used by a family member, the younger the better. I have found that the sticks used by the younger set, that is the Mites, Novice and Atom leagues tend to be all wood, without graphite or fibreglass. I especially like the Sher-Wood sticks, the shafts of which are not tarted up with colours and graphics. They're also Canadian made. A stick with laminations of fibreglass is hard on saw blades. I can attest that cutting a single stick of composite layers will permanently dull a scroll-saw blade. So go find a nice all-wood hockey stick. A stick will usually have information on it somewhere telling of its construction. A band saw, scroll saw or hand saw will work best. You will only need about 30 cm (12") of unbroken shaft per bird.

This creature has a little more heft than a blown glass bulb, but it will never break. It will instead become the responsibility of ornament-keepers for generations to come.


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START OFF  by cutting a clean edge to the stick at 90 degrees, so that none of the trauma of fracture is visible. Mark down the stick 1 cm (1/2") and make 30-degree cut along the wider edge. This will give you a piece about 8 cm (3") long.

CUT A 90 degree piece off the identical length of the first piece. This will give you the hopefully symmetrical wings. Now cut another piece, again at 30 degrees 1.75 cm (5/8") up from the edge, or the same width as the narrow edge of the stick. This will be the body.

THE HEAD is made with a 45-degree cut, 0.5 cm (1/4") from the end of the stick, and the lower beak is a tough little one to do. Cut about 1.5 cm (5/8") off the remaining angle on the stick and shape to your satisfaction.

CLEAN UP all the edges, but not too much. Remember that cuteness lies in the pitiable. I have been using a five minute epoxy for putting together these beasts. Wood glue would work, but I have found that really good results with wood glue require solid clamping after the pieces are assembled. The shapes of these pieces require a well-equipped shop (or someone more clever than me) to use wood glue and "c" clamps on slippery triangles.

ON A FLAT clean surface, put down a piece of wax paper so the epoxy stays off the table top. Mix up a small amount of epoxy, about the size of a nickel, and apply to the flat ends of the wings. I use an old plastic lid to mix epoxy. (Epoxy is an eye and skin irritant, so care is warranted. Kids and curing epoxy especially don't mix.)

SET UP the bird on its back, pushing the wings in to the front part of the body. I have found that if you just push the pieces together snugly and let them be, a good bond is achieved. Once the epoxy is set up, prop the bird up on its tail with a clothes pin and attach the head as shown, so that it sticks above the back. This will require an even smaller amount of epoxy.

ONCE THIS is set up, the lower beak can be applied with the bird reclining on its back so that the adhering surface is horizontal, with even less epoxy. You will have to mix these three batches of epoxy separately, as needed. If you want to take this to the next level, sand underneath the body at the union of the wings to round it out a bit. While you are at it, sand off any rough cuts and burrs, but don't sand off the graphics. Finish off with a fine grit sandpaper, like a 180 grit. Paint eyes on the head with some acrylic paint.

TO MAKE this a hanging ornament, an eyehook needs to be inserted at the balancing point on the back, which is usually between the wings, at the centre of the stick. If you now varnish the bird, the wood laminates and colours will stand out.

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