How to Make a Twig Chandelier
I Love Twig Chandeliers!
I love twig chandeliers! The first time I saw one was a year or so ago, when a friend pointed one out to me online. Oh, I was impressed, and I thought the lighting fixture made from natural materials would be a wonderful addition to my seashore-themed dining room.
Then, however, my eyes wandered over to the right, and I saw the price tag of my coveted item. It was $1,200! OK, I really did love the chandelier, but there’s no way I could afford to plop down that much cash for a rustic lighting fixture. Even so, I couldn’t get the handmade twig chandelier out of my head. It kept nagging me, telling me I just had to have one.
Part of the problem was, however, that the expensive chandeliers I saw online are extremely labor intensive. Still, I began to wonder . . . could I figure out how to make a twig chandelier on my own? I’m pretty crafty, and I just happened to have a chandelier that I thought would be perfect for the project I had in mind. So I gave it a try.
I had keep in mind though, that making one is also frustrating, tedious, and intricate. It’s not like you can follow a blueprint or a real plan. Working with natural materials is not an exact science. Twigs and limbs are crooked, twisted, and imperfect. Of course, it’s those same imperfections that make the rustic chandeliers so charming, in my opinion.
If you still want to know how to make a twig chandelier, you might like these tips from someone who’s been through the ordeal.
Branchelier or Twig Chandelier?
Some people use the terms “branchelier” (or branchalier) and “twig chandelier” interchangeably. But in my mind, they’re two different critters, so to speak. A branchelier is made of larger branches, while a twig chandelier is made of . . . well, smaller twigs.
Also, brancheliers are usually created without an existing lighting fixture—they become the fixture. To make brancheliers, one or more branches are often just wrapped with string lights and suspended from the ceiling. As you might already know, a twig chandelier uses a traditional chandelier for its base and source of light, and twigs and vines are used to cover the light fixture. To see how a fairly simple branchelier is made, watch the video below.
Types of Twig Chandeliers
Basically, there are two types of twig chandeliers—ones made with metal twigs or branches and ones made with real twigs or branches. To be honest, I’ve seen some very pretty metal versions, where the faux twigs were crafted from metal. Even so, I prefer the ones that use natural vines and twigs. I like stuff that’s original and handmade. No two handmade twig chandeliers are exactly alike, while the metal versions are often mass produced.
When it comes to natural twig chandeliers, there are several types of those. I use my own terminology to differentiate among the different types, depending on how the twigs are attached to the base and the lighting fixture itself. With some, the branches sweep down, while with others, the twigs might sweep up or out. Some might incorporate all three twig directions.
There’s another type where the twigs, branches, and vines follow a circular motion around the base. I don’t much care for this type, so I haven’t tried to make one. I prefer seeing the flowing sweep of the twig tips, and with a round form, you don’t see that. To me, the round type looks sort of like the maker placed a big grapevine wreath on a chandelier—but that’s just my personal opinion, of course.
The Type of Chandelier You’ll Need
I suppose you could use practically any type of suspended lighting fixture to make a twig chandelier, but some definitely work better than others.
For example, you might not want to tackle one that has the round ball on the bottom. I’ve found that the easiest type of fixture to work with is one with a tall, narrow center, with arms that reach out from the base. The number of arms you choose is up to you, but you might want to start with a chandelier that has no more than five or six arms. The arms should be fairly long and slender, too. They’re going to largely determine the final shape of your project.
You might also want a chandelier that has "candle lights." Such lights will rise above all the twigs and vines you've used, and they help create a very visually appealing finished project.
Choose Your Fixture Carefully
The type of chandelier you use as your base will greatly affect how your twig chandelier turns out. Though you are welcome to use any kind of style you want, I’ve found that the easiest type of fixture to work with is one with a tall, narrow center, with arms that reach out from the base.
Best Twigs for Making a Chandelier
I’ve experimented with several different types of twigs and vines for my chandelier projects. Some didn’t work at all, some worked OK, and some were great. I’ve also found that for the look I wanted, I had to use more than one species.
For example, to cover the base of the light, I used straight twigs of uniform thickness, and just about any type of wood could work well here. I’ll provide some more information below:
- Crepe Myrtle: I haven't tried this, but some crafters/artists think it provides the best twigs for chandeliers.
- Grapevine: Great for weaving around layers on the base and for securing added twigs.
- Holly: Works well for long, simple sweeps.
- Ligustrum: Usually branched at the end, so it’s great for adding fullness.
- Oak: Very young oak branches are often divided with several tips at the ends, so they can be used to add fullness and interest.
- Small Grapevine Wreaths: Cut a wreath in half and use the curved vines to cover the arms of the chandelier.
- Wisteria: Often curved, so it’s good for adding upsweeps.
Whatever type of twigs and/or vines you choose, make sure they’re pliable. Other than the twigs you use around the base of the light fixture, you'll probably want to be able to bend most of the twigs you use. If they’re not pliable enough, soak them in water overnight before you attempt to use them with your lighting project.
Materials You’ll Need
To make a twig chandelier, you’ll need the following:
- chandelier (bulbs removed)
- pruning shears
- twigs (lots of them, with leaves removed)
- vines (have different thicknesses)
- fine wire
- wire cutters
- hot glue
- spray paint (optional)
- mask (to protect yourself from paint fumes)
- paper towels and/or duct tape
- decorative bulbs
How to Start Making Your Twig Chandelier
The first thing you’ll need to do is to position your light fixture so that you can work on it. I usually start by placing my chandelier upside-down on a table. It just so happens that the hubby has a work table with a split down the center, so it’s perfect for placing an upside-down light fixture that has any type of protrusion at the top—which is now the bottom, of course. In this position, I can place the base twigs, upswept twigs, and out-swept twigs.
You’ll need to cover the base with twigs that are roughly the same length and the same thickness. Secure each twig with hot glue. Once you have the base covered, secure the twigs in place by wrapping them with wire. Wrap the wire around the twigs several times. It should be snug, but don’t make it too tight. You’ll need room for adding more twigs by pushing them under the wires. After you’ve used the wire, you can wrap the wire with grapevine to camouflage it. Of course, if you’re painting your chandelier once it’s finished, the wire won’t be seen. But adding some vine strands will also give you more options for sticking in the ends of additional twigs you’ll be using.
Next, I like to cover the arms of the chandelier. The easiest, quickest way to do this is to use a small grapevine wreath that has been sawn in half. Separate the wreath into individual vines. Push one end of the vine under the wire and force the vine to follow the shape of the arm. If you need to secure the other end of the vine, use wire or a thin grapevine.
Once I have the base and arms covered, I have to change the fixture’s position to rightside-up. The best way to do this is to hang the chandelier. Luckily, my work area is our carport, and we already had two sturdy hooks where a baby swing once was. So I hung the chandelier from one of the overhead hooks. In a pinch, you can hang your light from the center of an open ladder.
The next step I take is adding fullness to my twig chandelier. This is largely a trial-and-error process, so it’s hard for me to tell you exactly how to do it.
I can tell you though, that from this point on, I no longer need to use any hot glue. I simply push the ends of any added pieces under the wire or grapevine that I used around the top part of the base. You’ll probably want to use different lengths of twigs, and I like to use some with branched ends and some straight pieces. To force the twigs into the positions you want, use the wire to secure them to parts of the light fixture. Always work from the center of the fixture. In other words, secure the far end of the twigs first, and then guide them to where you want them to go.
As you work, step back and view your creation from time to time to make sure you’re not missing any areas. You’ll also want to view the twig chandelier from the bottom, since folks will be seeing it that way once it’s hung from the ceiling. Also, you might need to do some trimming here and there. Just be sure to view the project from every angle before you decide it’s finished. Also, you might need to rearrange some twigs. Make sure none of the twigs or vines will be in direct contact with the light bulbs. You certainly don’t want to start a fire!
Cover the Light Sockets Before Painting
Before you paint your chandelier, cover the light sockets. You don’t want to get paint in them. I use a small wad of paper towels or a short section of duct tape for this purpose.
Painting Your Twig Chandelier
You don’t have to paint your chandelier, but doing so will mask the wires and any globs of glue that might otherwise be visible. I like to paint mine while they’re suspended from overhead, so I can be sure to get underneath. I chose to paint the chandeliers I’ve made with white gloss paint, because the glossy finish really catches and reflects the light. I like to use Valspar Premium gloss white paint, but I’m sure any good-quality paint would work just as well.
Before using the spray paint, cover the light sockets. You don’t want to get paint in them. I use a small wad of paper towels or a short section of duct tape for this purpose.
Be Thorough and Work From All Angles When Painting
A typical twig chandelier takes a lot of paint! There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of tips, nooks, and crannies, and you’ll want to be sure everything has a good coat of paint. From my experience, you’ll need around six cans of spray paint.
When painting a twig chandelier, I work from all angles and with different types of strokes. I paint close up, from a short distance, and from farther away. I include direct streams, up-and-down streams, and side-to-side sweeps with the spray cans. Be sure to seal all the tips with paint.
Once you’re done painting, step back once more and look at the overall effect. You’ll be surprised at how different the chandelier looks once it’s been painted, so you might need to do a little more shaping and trimming. If that’s the case, be sure to paint the new tip ends you’ve created with your scissors.
Once the paint is completely dry, you can place the bulbs in their sockets. I like to use the “teardrop” or “flame” bulbs, but you might choose differently. Again, make sure none of the natural materials are touching the light bulbs!
Yes, You Can Make a Twig Chandelier!
I can tell you honestly that when you’re attempting to make your first twig chandelier, there will be times when you want to toss the whole thing in the trash. At least, that’s how it was for me. With my first attempt, I got started OK, but then I came to a seemingly impossible hurdle, and I gave up for a while. The poor unfinished chandelier hung sadly in the carport for months.
Then one morning, I woke up and decided I was going to finish that sucker, come hell or high water—and I did. The second one I made was a heck of a lot easier, because I’d learned so much from making the first one.
If you don’t even want to try making a twig chandelier but really want one, the big one I made in the above photo is for sale for $250. Of course, you’ll have to come to Georgia to pick it up. If, however, you have any creativity at all and a lot of patience, you can make your own twig chandelier.
What do you think about twig chandeliers?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.