Real fir, fake tinsel? Weekend Life's Justin Newcombe takes the Christmas tree problem by the horns and comes up with his own unique solution.
When I grew up it was important to have a real Christmas tree, no matter what. Failure to provide the correct gift depository might have resulted in a Christmas day present disaster, i.e. sensible wooden toys - aghhhhh - instead of the plastic Steve Austin action figure I had spent all year whining for. The tree provides ceremony and creates a sense of occasion. I knew I was in for a good two weeks of tantric Christmas torment when mum unfolded the little metal stand, pushed in the wooden post and jammed the tinsel and wire branches into holes that were slightly too big.
As a result the somewhat dusty, aforementioned branches drooped a tad. Ornamentation consisted of wrapping two bits of tinsel ribbon around the tinsel branches with the addition of five shiny orbs strategically placed to make it look like six.
I'm still a big fan of keeping it real so I've decided to make my own Christmas tree. In the spirit of Christmas and because I can cut out any shape I want, I've opted to make reindeer antler styled branches. This wasn't my first choice though; my first choice was moose antlers.
Although the mighty moose is a majestic mountain and snow-oriented beast prime for Christmas exploitation, it's the size of a horse. Not a small North Shore Pony Club type horse, but a big mean, man-eating, fire-breathing, beer-swilling, macho stallion-type horse. Any attempt to make a Christmas tree out of plywood moose antlers would result in a structure big enough to park a car under, which is fine if you're planning to have Christmas in the garage. Mine's in the lounge, so reindeer antlers it is.
Take one sheet of ply wood and draw a line dividing it in half length ways into two to get two 1200 x 1200 shapes. I used a chalk line for this - do not cut.
Mark out the width of each branch then cut the ply wood into planks. Mine are 300mm wide x 1200 mm long. Using the line drawn in step one as a guide cut each plank in half to a size of 300 x 600mm.
At one end of each plank mark a strip approximately 75 mm wide. Cut a 12mm wide slot (12mm is the thickness of the ply) down the centre on each edge of these marked strips.
This will form the stem or trunk of the tree. The slots each measure 25 per cent of the total depth of the plank meaning all the branches will butt together. Once you start slotting the pieces together you'll see what I mean.
I used a router to cut the slot and finished it with a square file (a saw will do). The shorter the trunk, the closer together the branches will be.
My trunk pieces ended up being 75mm wide, 200mm long with 50mm slots at each end.
Make a template of your preferred shape. (I've done antlers but you can theme it any way you want.)
Place your shape on your plank as far as you can away from the stem end then trace it on to the plank. Draw a branch approximately 50mm wide so it joins the stem and the template shape, then cut out with a jig saw. Repeat for each branch but shorten the gap between the trunk and the template shape so the branches get progressively shorter.
Paint each panel individually.
Assemble the tree as you produce the branches. Once the branches are assembled, screw a thin strip of ply wood running from the top to the bottom of the stem.