Introduction: Faux Copper Christmas Tree Topper

About: Architect, Urban Designer, all-round tinkerer of odds and ends. Small solutions for big city living. Dreaming of lands faraway where garages are big enough to build a workshop in, or lakes are there for taking…

So the turkey leftovers are still in the fridge, snow is starting to fall, and it's time to trek out to the forest to fell yourself a beautiful conifer to take pride of place in your living room for Christmas!

Or... here in the tropics... we actually get live trees shipped in by the container-ful at IKEA. No joke. All the way from Sweden. Yeah, so much for eco-friendliness, etc etc, I know, I know. But nothing says Christmas like the fresh smell of pine in the morning. Anyway that's another conversation for another time. [*If you really must know, they do have a commitment to only supply sustainably farmed trees, and these trees will be composted after the holidays.]

Okay. We've got a beautiful real tree, surely no kitschy made-in-China mylar plastic tree-topper will do? No way! Off to the drawing board for a real whopper of a star. Also, this tree is huge... almost touching the ceiling, with a bare straight single stem on top almost 60cm (2ft) long begging for a humongous star top top it off.

Step 1: Don't Worry, It's NOT 3D Printed

I modelled this as a cross-shaped star as a symbol of Christ (it is Christmas, after all), but with 4 sided rotational symmetry. That makes it a regular stellated hexahedron. Or in simpler terms... It's just a cube with a pyramidal spike on each of the 6 sides, for Chrissakes!

Take a look at the sketchup diagrams for more clarity. There's a small cube in the centre, which is its own unit. Surrounding it are 12 elongated 'folded diamond' shapes (shaded white for clarity in some diagrams) which are each their own unit. This will be clear in the following steps.

Step 2: Materials: Drinking Straws!

I hope I kept you in suspense until now... at least a little bit? Yup this star is made out of nothing but straws and hot glue. I know copper-tube polyhedra are super trendy nowadays, as lampshades and potted plant surrounds or whatever, but copper tubes are expensive, and I also happen to have hundreds of straws leftover from building this: so materials were essentially free.

Also the tree is so tall that no one is gonna look at the star at eye-level.

You're gonna need bendy straws for the corner joints, and straight straws for the straight sides. I had straight straws that were slightly thicker and wider than the bendy straws, which helped. I originally wanted to use my 3D printer to custom print all the corner joints so that I could do 3-way corners with perfectly smooth connections, and make a slick minimalist star... but no time for that right now! Maybe next year.

Step 3: Inner Cube

Start by making an inner cube roughly 10cm (4 in) per side. This was all made with the narrower diameter straw so that the main arms of the star would read more obvious than the inner structure. Everything is just hot-glued together.

Step 4: 12 Diamonds

Next I made 12 large diamonds, each using 4 larger straws (blue) and 4 corner joints (white bendy straws cut down to size). The blue straws are about 20cm (8in) each. These diamonds form the long faces of the spikes. (Sketchup diagram included for reference)

Step 5: Assemble!

Ok put it all together! This part is a bit hard to describe. Put 4 diamonds together to form the top spike, and join it to the top face of the cube. Continue adding diamonds and joining the bendy corners to the inner cube according to the original geometry. Just refer to the diagrams and photos.

Good luck! Use lots of hot glue... and patience.

Step 6: Spray Paint Et Voila!

I gave the whole thing a base coat of flat grey spray paint to even out the different colours of plastic straws, and to give the gold spray paint something to attach to.

Then several coats of gold lacquer spray paint, which turned out more copper than gold.

I left one 'flap' of the bottom spike unglued, so it sort of flaps outwards for easy installation on the tree. The whole thing just pops right onto the top branch of the tree.

I love how it turned out, although using bendy straws rather than precise 3D printed connectors gave it a more rustic hand-made look rather than a minimalist aesthetic. More manger than modern, I guess.

Blessed Christmas everyone!

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