An artist friend wrote to me and said, “I saw a video on lighted Christmas balls made out of chicken wire, and thought these would look cool in your trees for winter…maybe next year..?
My first thought was, "why not this year!" So, I decided to try something different, more on the order of a Tiffany-style light shade that could be used to decorate a person's yard or business.
The fixtures were designed as displays to be bolted onto the pin posts found at the ends of all Living Tree Art tree branches. However, The use of Tiffany-style light fixtures is not limited to trees by any means. They can be bolted onto or suspended by anything that creates the desired look.
I'm hoping that others realize more applications by combining aspects of techniques used for lighted Christmas balls and what is applied here, and especially that you are willling to share those ideas in the comments section at the end.
This instructable is in two parts.
- How to make a Tiffany-style light shade mounting fixture (requires metal rod bending and basic welding skills).
- How to attach the lights. (Average skill level).
I call my courses on how to make realistic looking trees out of steel and concrete, "Living Tree Art" because I started out using living plants to make up the foliage of the tree. Through experimentation over time, I learned how to create different style fixtures that offer up a whole range of display variations. Tiffany-style light shades are just one of many possibilities to create and decorate one's own tree or yard.
Step 1: Supplies for the Welded Part
4-1/2" hand held grinder
1/16" cutoff wheel and grinder wheel
Materials: Commonly found in local hardware stores.
1/2" black pipe
1/4" hot rolled steel rod
1/4" steel nuts
1/4" x 1" steel bolts
Before the idea for Tiffany-style light fixtures came up, Halloween needed a display. Serendipity provided that the fixture designed to hold pumpkins on the ends of the branches also served well in the making of the Tiffany-style light shades simply by flipping them over. It's what you could call, a two-fer. However, I learned later that eight pointed star fixtures work best for both pumpkins and Tiffany-style light fixtures.
When I laid out all of the fixtures for a last count after primer coating, they reminded me of an army of attacking spiders. Sounds like another fun project for Halloween, giant, lighted, pumpkin bodied, attacking spiders..
Step 2: Weld the Tiffany-style Light Fixture
You can also suspend your Tiffany-style light shade from above by a wire or rod.
For attachment to a pin post:
Cut the lengths of the 1/4" rods according to the size of the application. Alternate the 8 pointed star pattern with half lengths. I suggest 10" and 5" to start.
A 1/4" x 1" bolt into a 1/4" nut welded to the side of the pre-drilled pipe proved to work as both a set screw and slop limiter.
Trees don't have to be realistic looking and expensive to do the trick for night time displays. Properly done, it's mostly about the lights and little about the tree. Interesting and beautiful trees can be made simply by welding rebar together. Furthermore, a rebar tree can be made to hold all of the Living Tree Art fixtures.
Step 3: The Chicken Wire Part
Here is a list of what you will need:
Wire cutters or snips
4″ Cable (zip) ties
Christmas tree lights
Chicken wire (a.k.a. poultry netting)
Step 4: Snip, Fold, and Zip Tie
Start by cutting the 24" wide chicken wire down the center of a row of openings to a length of about 30". Bend the little wire extensions to the side so they can't hurt you. Easier to do this with gloves. This will allow you to continue to work without getting scratched by the sharp edges of the freshly cut wire (see photo). Fold the wire over on both ends equally twice. This adds stiffness.
Lay two of these lengths on top of each other so that you create an eight pointed star with all points extending out equally. This is the reason why you cut the lengths to end up not more than 25 inches in length.
Next, connect the two layers together using the 4 inch cable ties (zip ties) in the locations as shown in the photo to follow.
Lay out the chicken wire squares to create an eight pointed star with the welded fixture in the middle. Secure with wire ties at all the intersecting points. Line up the tines of the welded fixture to the intersection points of the star and secure in position with wire ties. Use an eight pointed star fixture as shown in the last step, not the six pointed star shown here.
Flip the wire assembly over to the other side. With your fingers, crease the wire at the locations about halfway up to the center starting at the points where you secured the wire ties so as to create a flower shape.
Next comes the lights. Here is what I used.
Step 6: The Lights
With a zip tie, secure the start of the lights in the location as shown in the photo above.
Following the lines created by the wire, stretch the wire over the humps and connect at the shallow insets of the flower.
Continue like this, connecting the wire bundle at the same inset locations. In the first revolution, you will have used up one third of your lights. When you get back to the start, secure the wraps of lights to maintain a 2-1/2" space as you connect the spiral upward. Here’s a link to a YouTube video that demonstrates what’s going on in this step.
The Tiffany-style lightshades can be suspended upside down as well for a different lighting effect. They make for spectacular displays when attached to tree shapes.
Use what you've learned here coupled to the lighted Christmas balls concept and see what you can produce.