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Easy Christmas Decor Project: Decoupage Transforms Vintage Sap Bucket

From junk to “just gorgeous” Christmas decor using a vintage Vermont sap bucket, some very Christmasy red chalk paint, and a little decoupage. It’s an easy Christmas craft project to add to your own decorations – or gift! 

When they’re finished, the decoupaged sap buckets are great for holding kindling in Vermont winters. But they also look beautiful filled with birch branches and other holiday florals and greenery.

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Decoupage Vintage Bucket for DIY Christmas Decor

Where I live in Vermont, it’s not hard to find sap buckets – but also not as easy as it used to be around here. The old sap buckets have dings and dents – perfectly, organically Vintage. And sap buckets are actually galvanized buckets. 

I’ve edited down a live Facebook demonstration of this quick and easy Christmas craft so you can take a quick watch. Then jump in and try it yourself! If you like to read through instructions, scroll down to the step-by-step directions and links to all the products I used.


Wise Owl Primer

Wise Owl Paint Varnish

Wise Owl Paint One Hour Enamel in Veronica Vaughn

Monahan Paper “Joyeux Noel Saint Nick paper”

Small Paint Brush (for outlining images with water)

Sap Bucket (or galvanized bucket)

2” Paintbrush (use for paint and primer)

1 ½” Paintbrush (for varnish as decoupage medium)


No matter what type of bucket you use, start by cleaning it really well. When you’re painting on metal – a good, thorough cleaning is a critical first step. 

Cover it with a coat or two of the Wise Owl Primer. Set it aside to dry thoroughly for a few hours before taking the next step. When you’re certain it’s dried completely – grab the red paint!

I covered the bucket with  Wise Owl Paint One Hour Enamel in Veronica Vaughn. What a great red color – perfectly Christmasy! I applied two coats, but three coats would give the red such a wonderful tone. Since I created this project on a Facebook live – I stopped at two coats.

Bucket painted with two coats of Wise Owl Paint One Hour Enamel in Veronica Vaughn red.

Pro Tips: Make sure you give each coat time to dry and allow an overnight dry time after your final coat. And this is a big tip – the red paint is highly pigmented and that makes it difficult to wash out of your brush. A best practice is to wash them right away!


I’m using the Monahan Paper “Joyeux Noel Saint Nick paper”  on the bucket as my decoupage paper. And my decoupage medium is Wise Owl Paint Varnish. The Monahan Paper is actually a placemat, but it works great as decoupage paper.

Monahan Papers "Joyeux Noel St. Nick"

What I didn’t do is apply the full placemat onto the bucket. Instead, I chose to add the individual images, even overlapping them to create a Christmas montage. Let me teach you how to remove each image the way I did – with the water method.

Use a container of water and a smaller paintbrush. A watercolor brush works well so you can get around the twists and bends of the images. Now dip your brush into the water and trace around one of the images on the placemat. I started with St. Nick because I want to build my design around his image.

Tear out decoupage images after outlining them with water on a paintbrush

Let the water saturate into the paper, which may take multiple applications of water on the paintbrush. Once you have ample water on there, you can try to tear around the image at the waterline. It should tear fairly easily but if you feel resistance, stop and paint on more water.

Tearing the images gives a softer edge to the decoupaged image. 


Once you have all the images torn out of the placemat, it’s time to decoupage. Locate the front of the bucket. If you’re using a sap bucket, the front is opposite the side with the hole at the top. These holes are used to hang the buckets to catch the sap.

Between the two seams of the bucket, on the opposite side of the bucket hole, start to layout your design. Once I have a basic idea, it’s time to add St. Nick. I brush the Wise Owl Paint Varnish onto the back of the image and onto the bucket surface where I’ll place him. 

Lay down the image and smooth it into place with your fingertips, working from the center to the edges of the image. This helps remove any wrinkles in the paper and pushes out extra decoupage medium. sure to pay extra attention to the edges, adding extra varnish to make sure they are secured.

Decoupage Monahan paper onto bucket surface

Continue adding the paper images in the design layout you desire. I did some overlapping of smaller pieces because I like the montage look. Once you’re happy with your composition – you’re actually just about done.


After adding all the paper images I wanted to my project, I set it aside to dry completely. Then I applied a thin layer of the Wise Owl Varnish as the topcoat. You might see the paper ripple a bit as you apply it. Don’t worry – it will go down when it dries.

Apply a thin coat of Wise Owl Varnish as a topcoat

Once it dries – you’re all done! You can see this really is an easy project and pretty fast. The only thing that takes time is allowing each layer to dry completely. I think you can get a few buckets done as one project. 

I hope you try this and add a gorgeous bucket to your Christmas decorations. If you use a non-Christmas paper to decoupage on the bucket – it’s a perfect year-round gift for that hard-to-please person on your Christmas list!

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