Valentine’s Day Gift Idea: Rustic DIY Photo Holder



Boxes of chocolate, stuffed animals, heart-shaped candies … pssh.

There’s nothing wrong with these gifts for Valentine’s Day, but if you want something different — something your sweetie can actually cherish for years to come — try this homemade project on for size!

With a few tools and a piece of wood, you can create a meaningful, rustic and ridiculously-adorable DIY photo holder for that special day. 



Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Hand saw and/or circular saw
  • Wood-burning tool
  • Pencil
  • Log (4-5″)
  • A favorite photo of you two


Let’s get started! 


1. I’m all about recycling; I love to use my existing resources if I can! Instead of using a wood log, which works perfectly fine, I decided to cut up our old Christmas tree!

Tip: the bottom trunk of the tree works great for this project. Be sure to take cut off the bottom part first where the tree has died and hardened over — that doesn’t make for a very pretty picture holder! 


photo mark

2. Next, you’ll want to make a notch where your photo is going to go. We used a circular saw for this cut, which creates a little thicker of a cut than a hand saw. We cut about halfway through (around 1/4 inch deep.)


photo mark2

… like so! If you’re using a log, determine which side is the most flat — you’ll want that to be the bottom of your photo holder to keep the whole thing steady. Make your cut opposite of the flat side!



3. After you have your notch made, you’ll want to make your final cut. The hand saw seemed to make a straighter cut than the circular saw for the edges of the photo holder.


wimpy photo

4. Once you have all your cuts made, insert your photo into the holder to make sure it stands up straight. If it’s floppy like the above above, cut your photo slot a tad bit deeper!



5. Now for the fun stuff! Trace out your design with a pencil. Since this one is for Valentine’s Day, we decided on the classic engraved heart and initials. Be sure to trace over it a few times since those markings can look faint on wood.


cutting start

6. This part can be a bit tricky! First, you’ll want to make a thin trace of your pencil markings. These wood burning tools get very, very hot, which means you need to be very, very careful! Your tool will make a mark wherever it touches, so work slowly and steadily.



7. Once you’ve finished your first layer, you can go back around and burn your marking deeper and wider. I tilted the tool back and forth to give it some dimension and used the point to go around the corners. But remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!



8.  When you’re happy with the final engraving, don’t forget to erase all the extra pencil marks!



Voila! Your sweetie (beau, inamorata, jelly bean) is guaranteed to adore this present, one literally handcrafted with love.

And remember, you can also make this present for any special couple in your life on Valentine’s Day: parents, friends, relatives!

Got any DIY gifts up your sleeve for this heart-filled occasion? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hello! I'm Natalie Rhea, a professional photographer/videographer based out of Austin, TX. I make a living telling other people's stories! Follow my work at as I tell you stories about the world I see.


  • Reply February 11, 2014

    Cathy Lyons

    Love your blog!!! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful ideas.

  • Reply February 12, 2014

    Inspire Me Heather

    Aw, that is just too sweet! I really liked your log photo holder and gave it a little shout out on my blog today, thanks for sharing!!

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