Friday, November 29, 2013

Our Handmade Copper Tree

The final product, in all its gleaming upcycled glory:

copper christmas tree

There were a couple of years that we went completely treeless at Christmas, when my kids were quite young and wouldn't miss it. But I do like having a big tree to decorate, with beautiful presents piled underneath.


fabric wrapped christmas presents

For a few years we would go out of town in early December and cut a tree from a little tree farm, and then one year we discovered buying the ones already trucked into town and sold in lots was way cheaper. Still, cutting or buying a new tree each year never sat well with me. It just seems like such a waste, in more ways than one. It's part of the uber-consumption of the holiday season that we generally do well to avoid.


We considered buying a fake tree, and talked to a lot of friends who are very happy with theirs. I liked the idea of having one tree to use every December forever, without creating more waste each year. I was not happy with the off-gassing factor of artificial trees though. Also, many fake trees are pre-lit, and the biggest problem with that appears to be that the light strands will die in big sections, as light strands do, and then you end up with a half-lit tree, and ultimately a bunch more trash in the landfill.


metal christmas tree

We borrowed a white metal yard tree from a friend one year, and used that in our living room. I kind of liked the stark simplicity of the metal, but with half the lights out it was rather haphazard looking. One day, after gazing for a moment at our semi-ugly borrowed metal tree, Nik declared that he could make a better one.



copper christmas tree
Creating the branching effect
He got to work right away. The only thing he needed to buy for it was a copper lightning rod, to use as the tree trunk. The rest of the copper came from stripped electrical wires, leftover from the rolls of wiring he had for a house project. 

copper christmas tree
You can see in the picture how he wound a thick layer of extra rubber tubing around the base of the tree so it would work in a conventional tree stand.
Stripping the wiring of its protective coating was not an easy task, but once he had that done, building the tree was fun and easy. To continue with the upcycling trend, he used strips of old bicycle tubing to lash the branches to the trunk. Then he unwound the wires to make them branch in natural patterns... And then we had our tree! Simple, mostly free materials, and what's more beautiful than gleaming copper?

copper christmas tree
The wire is plenty strong for all our ornaments. You can see in this photo how we simply wind the light strand around the trunk of the tree rather than around the perimeter as you might for a pine tree.

copper christmas tree
I think the gold tree star topper looks fabulous on the copper tree.
This will be our third year using it, and it's still as beautiful as ever!

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9 comments

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December 3, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Your tree is stunning. In the past we have planted our trees out in the woods and I go out and chat to them sometimes, there are about 5 or 6 of them and they are special to me because they were part of our Christmases. More recently it has become hard to buy rooted trees but we chop them up and use them for firewood so I don't fee quite so bad. But if I could have a tree like yours I might just be persuaded to give up the pine....

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December 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Wow, that made a beautiful tree. Nik did a wonderful job of putting it together. I bet it is beautiful all decorated, but just as pretty without ornaments.
Merry Christmas,
Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures

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December 9, 2013 at 4:13 PM

What an absolutely gorgeous tree! So unique and yet so thoughtful. My Daddy was great at making things out of what others would ordinarily throw out ~ it's such a wonderful talent and you and your family certainly have that. Thanks for sharing at last week's Project Inspire{d}. Pinning :)

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December 18, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Gorgeous! I bet you could make these and sell them on Etsy if you wanted to! Thanks for sharing this with us at the HomeAcre Hop. We'd love to have you back again tomorrow.

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January 5, 2014 at 8:37 PM

Love it! I cried (no joke) when we yard wasted our tree this year. How sad to sacrifice something so beautiful! We tried the fake tree route, but I had to re-light it each year, and after a few hours with my hands and face among the chemical-laden foliage, I invariably had a throbbing migraine. So we switched back to real, but I'm determined to do something different next year! I don't think we're handy enough to make this beauty. Did you protect it against oxidation at all?

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January 9, 2014 at 7:21 AM

We haven't done anything to protect it. After one year in storage, it still looked the same as the day it was made, but I'm sure over time it will green. I do prefer it to stay shiny copper, but I'm not sure how we'd protect it.

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January 30, 2014 at 9:50 AM

That is a very, very cool tree.

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