Introduction: Cardboard Christmas Tree

If you prefer that your holiday fire hazards be man-made and smell slightly of burnt paper, look no further. I present to you the laser-cut Christmas tree.

This project was my first crack at using 123D Make to create something. Despite being a complete 3D noob, this came out looking pretty fantastic. The full-on release should be awesome. (I did cheat a little by stealing PenfoldPlant's 3D model to slice into bits, but y'all can scrounge up your own models when the time comes.)

The tree stands about five feet tall, and has a six foot circumference. It would make a terrible supermodel, but it looks rather nice as a tree. I made this for my girlfriend's cousin and her family, so I needed it to work or risk being "that weird guy who makes ugly Christmas trees." I think I succeeded in being "that weird guy who makes rather nice Christmas trees." I left them to decorate it, and I trust that it will come out looking nice. They have impeccable taste.

Feel free to download the .eps files and go nuts with your own tree. Resize to your heart's content.

Step 1: Print Files/cut Stuff Out

As this project is more about the product than the process, we'll skip the design portion and get right into the printing.

I used a laser cutter because I have access to one. If I had to, I could have easily used a good razor and a lot of patience to cut the images out of cardboard using paper templates.

If you'll be cutting out by hand, maybe make a trip to the rasterbator to change the sizes, ensure that your tree is bigger than A4, and generally make your templates easier to manipulate. I didn't do any of those things - laser cutter, remember? - but you might want to try it if you're having trouble getting from the file to a template you want.

Step 2: Layout

Lay out your pieces in advance so you have easy visual access to everything.

I started by assembling each vertical piece of the tree, the bits that look like branches + the base.

Then I taped the horizontal supports (the Z pieces) together as necessary. The bottom two horizontal supports each needed to be assembled, as they were larger than the laser cutter's bed. Some duct tape turned them into more or less fully intact supports.

Assemble this in your mind a few times before trying it out for real. Seriously. The base gave me a bit of trouble as I decided to ignore it until the end. After a few rounds of dis- and re-assembly, I figured it out. Better to visualize it than spend the frustrating time putting it together and tearing it apart repeatedly.

Step 3: Assemble

Start with a single vertical piece. Attach each Z horizontal support starting from the top, then work the circular base pieces in. Once you've gotten those pieces attached, try a second vertical piece, then a third, and so on.

This isn't terribly difficult to figure out, but it has the potential to be frustrating. Particularly with the five foot version I made. Floppy cardboard makes everything more difficult. Have no fear, though, because the more fully the tree is assembled, the sturdier it becomes.

You may want two people for this. One to hold, another to assemble.

Step 4: Decorate

Once you're done assembling the tree, you should probably decorate it. Naked cardboard is great and all, but it can be a little off-putting if your audience is hoping for a solid replacement for the traditional fir.

I recommend silver, green, and red decorations. The gold looks a little too much like cardboard. Also, from that second image, it would certainly appear that less is more. :-D

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