Introduction: Steel Rod/Wire Jewelry Tree
This is both a functional and beautiful home decor project that gives you a challenge in welding and metalworking. This tree has some forging and welding aspects but can be made as simply as twisting small gauge together to create the same object. No two trees will be alike as the creativity of the craftsman will come out in the final work. Size, number of branches and mounting can all be changed to suit your desire.
Be sure you have some knowledge, skill or lots of bravery and safety gear for this metalworking project because it is too easy to get hurt bending and handling hot metal.
Step 1: Materials
This tree is constructed of 1/4" and 3/16" steel rod that can be purchased at any home improvement store or steel supply. An optional stamped dragonfly or maybe stamped maple leaves can be bought at the steel supply warehouse. The welding wire is ER70S6 and rattle-can polyacrylic is used to protect the steel. Wall anchors and screws were used to mount this tree but maybe you will want to make yours free standing.
Step 2: Tools
4" grinder for cutting/grinding
Small tubing or bar bender
Vise (I mounted mine on my pickup truck trailer hitch using square tubing since I don't have a workbench.)
C-clamps and pipe clamps
Hammer and Anvil (or anything to beat on, I used a 6" piece of 1/2" wall pipe)
Propane or MAPP torch
Twisting jig (Google it!)
Step 3: Trunk
Since this tree was to mount on the wall I decided to make it appear to be growing out of the wall. I wanted a live look so I found a twisting jig design online and made that first. This jig may or may not be difficult for some but I won't go into the details here.
I used my pipe/vise to hammer what looks like bark into the bars but it ended up being a very subtle detail.
I mounted five 1/4" rods into the jig and used the gas torch to heat the rods to blue and straw colored before twisting them. Immediately after twisting I MIG welded them together and made the bend. It is helpful to do all of these steps while the rods are hot. Don't forget your safety gear!
Step 4: Branches
Using the tubing bender and cut pieces of both 1/4" and 3/16" rod, I slowly formed what looked like a tree in winter. The is part is a mix of art and metalworking and has so many possibilities. The process was this: bend a main branch a few different ways, cut a secondary branch, maybe bend it first and weld it somewhere, and repeat until it's the shape you want. Using a couple different magnetic welding tabs and angles I was able to place a branch and tack it in place. I would break a tack here or there and grind it off to change things as I went along. Save the full welds for last.
Step 5: Base
I bent the base to make a modified Cypress-tree-in-the-swamp base that made the tree look like it was growing out of the wall. First bending the rods out into a star-ish pattern and then flattening out the tips. This time I got the steel cherry red using the torch then hammered it to about 1/8" thick and a rectangular shape so I could drill holes.
Step 6: Finish
I did some grinding on the welds to make them look more natural and sanded the entire tree with a flapper wheel sanding disk on the grinder. I then buffed out the scratches using compound and a buffing wheel, leaving some of the dark compound as a patina. Polyacrylic was sprayed on using three or four coats to seal the entire tree.
Use your imagination and find tree features you want to incorporate in your design. Have fun and be safe!