Introduction: How to Make a Mini Portal Christmas Tree Gift
This is how to make a light-up novelty gift based on the game Portal. You can do this craft for any holiday--an Easter egg, a firework, a pumpkin.. but it was Christmas time when I made it, so I used a Christmas tree. It is battery operated and you can put either box anywhere you want, so that it will look like it is going through the blue portal and out the orange portal. This was my first and only attempt on it, but I will make notes in ()'s of things I would have changed or done differently.
(Just a note, for a website whose entire purpose is to tell you how to make things, I could find nothing on how to get the 'Steps' and pictures to line up in the editor. So, you get all the pictures in a blob at the top and all the steps in the same section here.)
What you'll need:
- A Christmas village Christmas tree with a wire center
- 2 sets of small battery-operated mini-lights for decorating the tree
- Wire cutters
- Two strong cardboard boxes that will fit both battery packs (I bought too small of boxes the first time, better to err on the larger side if undecided or unsure.)
- 2 sets of battery operated regular-sized lights (If you can find orange and blue, great. I couldn't. I would recommend after trial and error plain white lights.)
- Batteries for the 4 light sets
- Ingredients to change the light colors. (I changed the regular lights to LEDs, but as I'll explain later, switched to painting them, so I would recommend painting them since that is quicker and easier I just used plain acrylic paint and made thin coats. The LEDs definitely look better, but I had a hard time making them work. More on that to come.)
- Some glue
- 2 twisty ties (or anything like them)
- A pair of scissors
Step 1. Cut the Christmas Tree in half.
You want to make it look like it is going through a portal between one box and the other, so whatever is going 'through' the portal needs to be cut in two. Wire cutters accomplish this easily enough. I also trimmed off some of the excess 'limbs' from the wire center for easier insertion.
Step 2. Remove the light bulbs from the full-sized light strands.
This will make them easier to work with when poking them through the lid of the box.
Step 3. Start making holes in the box lids.
The boxes are going to hold the lights upright as well as the Christmas tree in this case, so the cardboard must be sturdy. (I sort of winged the holes for the lights, but in retrospect I should have measured them out.) Put one blade of a pair of slim scissors and start 'drilling' holes into them until they are primed just slightly smaller than the christmas light you are going to stick through it. Make sure your lights are not too close to the edges as you want the lid to stay strong. Do this in a circle all the way around, and then prime a small hole in the middle for the mini-lights and tree. (Completely optional but something I did: Since I had paints anyways, I painted a 'portal' on the box lid as well along the route of the holes just to fill in the holes between the lights. You can't really see it either way.)
Step 4. Start lacing the regular sized lights through the holes.
You want the part that holds the light bulb sticking out of the top of the lid, and all of the wires hidden below it. The cardboard boxes I used had a lot of 'extra' cardboard that wasn't finished or decorated in the middle that sprung up, but when I shoved the light back down I shoved all the little extra stuff in with it and it looked fine. Once you have them all strung through they should make a circle around the middle hole you made.
Step 5. String the mini lights through.
The small hole in the middle should just barely fit the mini lights. String them through so that the battery pack is on the bottom side of the lid and the lights are all sticking out of the top. Now would be a good time to insert batteries into the four battery packs.
Step 6. Secure the lights in place.
The mini lights will be fine on their own, but the regular sized lights need some help. A few dabs of clear glue around the areas where the cardboard and lights touch on the bottom of the lid will be enough. I also used twisty ties to secure all the excess wire into the center so that the lid was easier to take on and off without having to stuff wires back in from the edges.
Step 7. Replace the light bulbs.
If you're painting them to get the colors you want, you'll want to go ahead and re-install the light bulbs now.
(If you were replacing the light bulbs for LEDs or other colored lights, you'll want to go ahead and do that between steps 6 and 7. I took a picture to show what I did, I also trimmed the wires on the LEDs slightly to make the contact better. It worked like a charm for the blue ones, but I could not get the orange ones to work for the life of me no matter what I did. I think the battery pack itself was to blame in the end. I ended up giving up and painting them, and it wasn't nearly as long or taxing to do so, which is why I say I recommend painting clear lights instead of trying to replace bulbs.)
Step 8. Paint the bulbs.
Take regular acrylic paints and put a thin layer on the clear bulbs. You can keep the lights lit up during this step so you can see how bright the light is vs the color and keep adjusting until each bulb is glowing orange or blue. I recommend picking shades that are notorious for being 'see through' when painting on canvas vs opaque. If you're not sure, opaque will still work fine just continue to paint thin layers. Let the paint dry.
Step 9. Stick the Christmas tree through the middle hole.
You'll want to shove it down on there enough so that it will hold up, and this is also why we kept the middle hole as small as possible while still fitting the mini lights through. You want the rest of the Christmas tree to be sticking out from the top of the box lid, and the wire through the middle. (I found the wire sufficient to keep the tree standing up straight and secured, but if you wanted to make this last a lot longer you could unravel some of the wiring and bend it to be parallel with the box lid to keep it secured on there better.)
Step 10. Decorate the mini tree.
Using the mini-lights sticking out, wrap the Christmas tree halves with it so that it is decorated. (Optional decorations I thought of after the fact: you can put a star on the top of the Christmas tree, put some mini ornaments hanging upside down and 'fallen' along the box lid of the base half, and hanging up-right on the top half. A mini portal gun, a companion cube, or a turret clinging to the tree if you could find it would be really awesome. I just stuck to what was cheap.)
Step 11. Put the batter packs in the bases of the box.
This will give the lid support and structure as well as weight, and hide the battery packs to the lights as well while keeping the switches easy to access and operate.
Step 12. Turn everything on.