Help me build a christmas tree
December 16, 2006 3:50 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to make my own cheapass christmas tree.

I'm having a couple friends visit for two days at christmas, then we're all going on holiday. I'd rather not spend the money on a tree (fake or not), but I would like to make an effort at decorating for them. I do happen to have a stack of old newspaper. What's the best approximation of a tree I can build? I'm open to suggestions of other cheap material, but I'm not planning on spending more than a couple of dollars (ie; green garbage bags to get the colour effect). I'm looking for something less hardcore than this but better than this. Finally, I don't have much space - I can probably manage something 2 foot across at the widest point.
posted by jacalata to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get some free extra Christmas tree branches from a tree seller - they often remove branches from the bottom of trees, but sometimes they insist on keeping them for making wreaths, so ask around -- and hang them on nails in the wall in the shape of a tree.

Do it pretty close to Christmas, as the branches will have no water supply. It will smell fabulous, could look pretty good, can be decorated, and is recycling.

If you can't get free/extra branches, you can probably do a decent job with judicious (small, careful) cuttings from evergreen shrubbery or local trees. If you cut a large branch, though, you might want to read about how to seal the wound on the tree. Also check for bugs and/or soak the branches in a bathtub to be safe.
posted by amtho at 4:45 AM on December 16, 2006

And watch out for sap - you could get some sticky sap on your wall, in your car (line with newspapers), on your clothes. But it will be worth it.
posted by amtho at 4:45 AM on December 16, 2006

Use a string of Christmas lights to form the shape of a tree.

A simple upright pole type stand, maybe some wire to help form the outline.

A recent Mythbusters suggests you needn't worry too much about this causing a fire, as long as the lights aren't melting the insulation of the electric wires.
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:04 AM on December 16, 2006

We use a tomato trellis - a tall, narrow, cone made of metal rods that you put over your tomato plants for them to grow on. We wound lights around it some years ago and every year we just get it out of the attic, plug it in, and load it up with ornaments. It's more than a couple dollars, but probably not by much. And it (arguably) looks good.

Here's a photo.
posted by booth at 5:17 AM on December 16, 2006

please don't damage local trees
posted by matteo at 5:21 AM on December 16, 2006

Best answer: Lay three sheets of newspaper so that they progressively overlap, the long way, about half way up the sheet (like they were a stack that got pushed to one side). Roll them up so that you have a short tube with about an inch or so of space inside. Make four cuts to one end of the tube straight down, perpendicular to the opening, to about a third of the way down the tube. Grab an innermost strip of paper and, holding the other end firmly in your hand, pull out and twist. Tape the un-cut end.

What you end up with is rough sort of approximation of an X-mas tree branch. Make a bunch of these branches and then tie, tape or wire them to a central post or broomstick in a tree-like fashion and I bet you could make a serviceable and sweet, if temporary and self conscious, newspaper tree.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:59 AM on December 16, 2006

Go to your local fabric store, pick up some green felt (maybe 3 feet by 5 feet), cut it in a tree shape with branches, affix it to your wall, stuff it with newspaper to make it puff out a bit, then you can hang bulbs and ornaments on it with regular ornament hooks. My grandmother did this for her sister when she was put into a home for medical reasons and they wouldn't allow a tree in the room (she put it on cardboard so she could move it around).
posted by blackkar at 6:20 AM on December 16, 2006

Yes, Matteo's right. I wasn't thinking. We just have these juniper shrubs that seem to need pruning around now...
posted by amtho at 7:08 AM on December 16, 2006

slackers' tree: tape a bunch of tinsel garland to the wall in the shape of a tree. 5 minutes, max.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2006

This thread might be of interest, or perhaps this one.
posted by orange swan at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2006

Check out this tree, posted last year in Metachat, and now made famous on Apartment Therapy.

I love the tomato cage tree, booth. But my tomato cages are too rusty. May next year.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 AM on December 16, 2006

I collect old photos of Christmas trees, and I found this handmade paper tree from a snowball dance in the 50s totally charming. Maybe you could do something like that by cutting the newspaper into the appropriate shapes and then stiffening it with paper mache or glue.
posted by iconomy at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I'm going to try dirtdirt's tree, and if it works he'll get the best answer :)

The 'elephant in the room' constraint I didn't think about mentioning is that I'm living in a foreign country just for a couple of months, so I don't have any christmas lights or decorations of my own on hand and I don't want to accumulate 'stuff'. (sorry, silly of me) However, I think that for next year the tomato trellis looks like a winner!
posted by jacalata at 9:15 AM on December 16, 2006

Response by poster: For posterity, here are a couple photos of the tree I built with dirtdirt's method. I built each branch in a few minutes, and sticky taped it all together. It was 'temporary and self conscious', but pretty easy and overall perfect.

As a bonus, I saw this while away, and am so using it for my tree next year. I'm sorry tomato trellis, maybe when I have a garden.
posted by jacalata at 6:35 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by dirtdirt at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2007

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