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In this tutorial we'll make a giant lit Christmas tree ornament to hang from an outdoor tree. I made it from scrap steel rods welded together into a ball-shaped frame, which I then powdercoated to protect against the rain. I wrapped the frame with Christmas tree lights to make the whole ornament glow at night. Finally I topped the ornament with a giant ribbon bow so it looks great during the day as well. It's amazing how the Christmas lights and ribbon trick the eye into thinking the ornament is a solid object, even though it's mostly empty air.  (Sorry I couldn't get any night photos to look any better than shots of UFOs, but trust me it looks great at night)  What I would do differently next year is add a wire frame for the bow, as you can see in the photos, it looks a little soggy and limp after getting knocked around by the wind and rain.

I made it in TechShop. You just need to take the MTL103: Basic Metal Shop SBU and WLD102: MIG Welding SBU to be able to make the frame ribs and weld them together as I did in this tutorial and the FAB106: Sandblasting and Powder Coating SBU class to be able to powdercoat the finished frame. However, you could tie the ribs together with wire or duct tape if you don't have access to a welder, and you could spray paint the frame if you don't have access to powdercoating equipment.

Tools I used:

  • Slip roller to bend the rods into half circles
  • MIG welder to weld the half circles into full circles and circles together into a frame
  • Powder coating gun and LARGE oven

Materials I used:

  • (8) 3' long steel rods (about 1/8" in diameter)
  • Steel welding wire
  • 33' long string of Christmas lights, any color (I used LED), I used white wire so it matches the white painted frame.
  • 6' long x 6" wide ribbon to tie into a bow
  • White powder coat (or spray paint)
  • Alcohol to clean the frame before powder coating or spray painting

Step 1: Bend the Steel Rods Into Half Circles

In order to make the ornament as big as possible, I bent the 3' steel rods into half circles. If you wanted to save time, you could bend them into full circles and you'd have an ornament half the size.

I used the slip roller to get perfectly smooth half circles. Use the groove on the end to keep the rod in place. Start with a shallow bend and gradually increase the depth and make several passes until you get a half circle. It took me on average 3 or passes.

Step 2: Weld the Frame

Using the MIG welder and steel wire, weld 2 half circles into a full circle by laying them flat on the welding bench and welding the tips of the half circles together. Then weld another half circle perpendicular to the circle on the bench. Weld another half circle on the opposite side of that and now you have two full circles welded together. I then welded the last two half circles around the equator of the two full circles to increase the strength of the frame and complete the globe shape.

Step 3: Powder Coat or Paint the Frame

I powder coated the frame so it protected the frame from rust while sitting out in the rain and sitting up in the attic the rest of the year. The powder coating is great because it's strong and flexible enough to survive the rough trip into the attic, even when I had to kind of bend it a little to make it fit through the narrow trapdoor.

Be sure to prep the frame by cleaning it with alcohol so the powder coat or paint adheres thoroughly to the frame.

I used white so it blends with the white wires of the Christmas lights.

Step 4: Wrap the Frame With Lights and Tie a Bow

I was able to wind the Christmas lights around every rib on the frame and still have some left over to double back. I didn't need additional wires or tape to fasten it as winding the lights around the frame held it in place.

Wrap a large 12" wide ribbon about 6' long into a giant bow and tie it to the top of the ornament.

Now run an outdoor extension cord up the tree trunk and hang your giant Christmas tree ornament from a branch so everyone can see it!

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