Introduction: Welded Nail Christmas Tree Ornament

This ornament is a creche' I saw on eBay.  Antique square cut nails (2nd photo in this step) lend themselves to artwork of all kinds.  See also my Instructable on making a Jerusalem cross for hanging on the wall

Square cut concrete nails are now available in the USA as a standard item at Lowe's and Home Depot stores.  These nails are heavy enough to weld without burning them away.  I have made this ornament using 1/16" #6013 rod on a 220 volt stick welder and also at a setting for 1/8" stock on a flux core wire feed welder.



Step 1: Begin With the Shed Roof

I weld small parts on a piece of aluminum angle clamped in a vise.  The aluminum allows me to weld small parts and takes away excess heat that would cause the part to melt and blow away.  Place two nails tip to tip at an angle associated with a shed roof.  Weld them together lightly.  You do not need a lot of strength.  At the same time, knock the slag away before disturbing the setup to make certain there is fusion between the two pieces. 

Step 2: Weld the Floor of the Shed

Place two more nails tip to tip and weld.

Step 3: Weld Two Nails for the Shed Walls

Position the roof section so you can weld the nails for the walls over the aluminum angle.  Clamp the pieces to the aluminum so the assembly remains as flat as possible and does not twist.

Step 4: Weld the Floor to the Walls

Eventually you will need to decide if the side with the welds is the good side, or if you want the other side to be the good side.

Step 5: Bend Two Nails for Mary and Joseph

Concrete nails are very hard until softened with heat.  Place three nails on a brick.  Heat two of them just beyond halfway a bit closer to the pointed end until a dull red.  Heat a third nail the same way  about 3/4 inch down from the head.  The third nail will be the manger.  It needs to be softened so you can cut it with a hacksaw.  I used a MAPP gas torch to heat the nails.  Allow them to cool so you do not burn your fingers.

(I apologize for the blurry photo, but the orange and black switch on my bandsaw is sharp.)

Step 6: Weld the Figures in Place

Plan the positioning of the two nails representing the figures so the heads are not touching when in place.  I probably should have bent the nails a little less.

Step 7: Saw the Nail for the Manger

Once the nail has been heated it can be sawn quite easily with a hacksaw. 

Step 8: Weld the Manger and a Halo in Place

The cut piece of nail is the manger.  A flat washer makes a halo to show the presence of the Christ child.

Step 9: Add Braze for Color on the Halo

I used a MAPP gas torch to heat the washer and braze it.  The braze adds some golden color that makes a nice halo when it is cleaned up.  Sometimes I have applied too much heat when brazing and the final color resembles wrinkled copper more than smooth brass.

Step 10: Clean Up the Ornament

Chip away at the welds with a welder's hammer to remove any remaining slag.  Go over the ornament with a wire brush wheel.  Try to remove any white powdery deposits from the brazing rod flux.  You may spray both sides of the ornament with a clear shellac to protect against rust.

Step 11: Hang It on Your Tree

Wrap some wire around the weld for the roof pieces.  Cut it and add a hook.  Hang it on your tree, or give it as a gift.  These are fun as a welding project, although I like the Jerusalem cross that I linked in the Introduction better.  But, women seem to like these creche's very, very much.  They also like the Jerusalem crosses, but they especially like these. 

Comments

author
poofrabbit (author)2012-11-12

I really like this a lot, I enjoy the symbolism with the nails...lovely.

author
Phil B (author)poofrabbit2012-11-12

Thank you. As I mentioned, the design is not original with me. It is great that these square cut nails have become widely available through home improvement stores. Generally the nails are 2 1/2 inches long, but I recently saw a couple of other sizes at Home Depot. Did you see the welded Jerusalem Cross I made with these nails? (Click on the hot link in the previous sentence.) My daughter is an art teacher in a Tennessee high school. She was also a contestant on TLC's "Craft Wars." Her episode was broadcast June 26, and she won.

author
poofrabbit (author)Phil B2012-11-12

That is really awesome about your daughter! I will check out the Jerusalem cross, I'm sure I will be just as impressed. :)

author
AngryRedhead (author)2009-12-19
Very cool and appropriately symbolic.
 
author
Phil B (author)AngryRedhead2009-12-19

Thank you and a Merry Christmas to you.

author
mikeasaurus (author)2009-12-16

I think the last picture would make a better intro picture, gives people an idea of what you've made.

Got any other welds using these antique nails that aren't religious?

author
Phil B (author)mikeasaurus2009-12-17

I had an idea.  The "beefy" nature of the nail heads made me think these nails could be used for legs and feet in sculptures of animals, like a Clydesdale horse.  I am not sure what you would do for the body, perhaps something with metal tubes.

author
mikeasaurus (author)Phil B2009-12-17

was thinking something more like this:


author
Phil B (author)mikeasaurus2009-12-17

That is good.  Did you do it?

author
mikeasaurus (author)Phil B2009-12-17

no, I found it somewhere on the internet.
Though a good sculpture it's not my taste, though this one is (and it looks like it uses similar nails as the ones you have!):


author
Phil B (author)mikeasaurus2009-12-17

The nails do appear to be very similar.  I see brazing, but do not know if the nails were tack welded and then covered with brazing, or if the nails were held in a fixture and brazed in place.  Thanks for sharing this.

author
mikeasaurus (author)Phil B2009-12-17

Either way, judging from the work posted in your instructable I'd say your qualified to try something like this.

Experiment and post the results!


author
Phil B (author)mikeasaurus2009-12-17

Thank you for your vote of confidence. 

author
Phil B (author)mikeasaurus2009-12-16

I gave serious thought to using the last picture in the Introduction, and argued pro's and con's with myself before settling on referring people to the last step in the Introduction for a picture of the finished project.  Once I did an Instructable on making a carbon arc torch for a 230 volt stick welder and had the same dilemma with it, too.  I resolved it the same way.  You could be right, though. 

So far I have not had an idea for a non-religious object using this type of nail.  These nails lend themselves so well to religious themes hinting at the Crucifixion.  It might be possible to utilize nails in a Western cowboy theme, but those would likely be horseshoe nails.  Again, this ornament is a copy of an ornament I saw on eBay.  It is not original with me.

Thank you for your comment.

author
lemonie (author)2009-12-17

That wasn't what I was thinking of, but by leaving the finished product until last we see it coming together in stages. I think you'd probably be best with the on tree.jpg as image #1, for the thumbnail view at least, it's nice.

L

author
prestux (author)2009-12-17

Well done!
Very inspirational.

author
Phil B (author)prestux2009-12-17

Thank you.  I showed this Instructable to a woman I know.  Now she wants one of these.  Her friend saw it, too, and she also wants one.  I had already planned to make a couple as Christmas gifts.  Be forewarned!

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