Introduction: Flag Pole Mega Tree
Ever been at a store, saw a ton of light strands on sale and thought, hmmm.. I wonder if I could turn this into a mega tree. My yard needs one. Well that's what happened. LED mini lights on sale so I bought 40 strands, or 4000 lights and said lets make a tree.
The tree was built around my flag pole which is 20 feet tall. Here is the process of how to take a flag pole and turn it into a mega tree, and making your yard as bright at 12am as it is mid day.
40 light strands - LEDs for lower energy costs
Two 5 gallon bucket lids
Bolts, nuts, eye bolt
One existing flag pole
Some scrap iron
reused L brackets
zip tie holders
3/4" electrical PVC - 7 ten foot sections
2 foot rebar sections
small fixed castor wheels
One old door hinge
Step 1: Making Something to Ascend the Flag Pole.
Since I can't climb up to the top of my flag pole ( I mean come on even Steve Rogers and all his army pals couldn't climb a flag pole in training) I had to make the mounting base to go around the pole but be stable.
I used 2 five gallon bucket lids and a piece of plywood between them. I put the 3 together and drilled a hole through the center to fit around the pole. The plywood is not flexible so it was cut completely in half and put back together with a hinge. I thought, fold it up, put it around the pole at an angle and flatten it back out. Nope, won't fit. So I just took the hinge off one side when putting it around the pole. Next I cut the bucket lids just half way. They flex so I could put them around the pole without issue.
I offset the cuts to different sides so they wouldn't overlap and drilled holes through all 3 and installed bolts. These have to come out later to mount it but I wanted it all built before I took it apart to install. 5 of the bolts were just bolts, one was an eye bolt to attach the flag pole rope to. Another hole had to be drilled through the bucket lids for the flag pole rope.
On the top bucket lid, I installed 20 zip tie mounts around the outer edge so I could attach two strands per tab.
Step 2: How to Make Stabilize the Platform
I wanted to keep the platform the lights were mounted to nice and even. I thought, lets just add some brackets with wheels. So I took some old L brackets and mounted them on the bottom. Then I found some scrap steel I have keep from old roller wheel assemblies and used it to make some castor wheel holders.
I bent the brackets and scrap steel to line up with the center of where the pole would be and figured lets give it a go without the lights and see if it will ride up to the top and back down.
Step 3: How to Fail Then Fix the Stabilization
So, the whole thing gets disassembled and then reassembled on the flag pole. I attached the rope and started to pull it up. The wheels slipped off the pole and then jammed when it was 10 foot off the ground. Ladder out to pull it back down.
So I added springs to the bottom. They pulled against each other holding the wheels with tension and then it spring loaded pulled off the pole and jammed worse at 6 feet. fail again
So more plywood and I added a stabilizer ring near the bottom to keep it centered but still allow the wheels to roll up the pole. It worked. The rig made it all 20 feet up and then back down.
Step 4: Creating a Base Ring
I attached one strand of lights to the rig and raised it up to see how far out the lights should go. 11 feet was the answer. 11 feet from the pole to the edge of the ring. That meant i needed the circumference of a circle. You know that old equation π r² . That gave me 380 feet. That's not right Pies aren't square anyway. Well thats for the area of course which I don't need at all. I need the circumference so Diameter x π making it close to 70 feet.
I got 7 ten foot sections of gray pvc electrical conduit, the 3/4 inch stuff. I laid out a 22 foot diameter circle with rebar and pounded them into the ground leaving about 10 inches sticking up. Then I connected the PVC. The electrical pvc is not only more flexible but it also has one end as a coupling. They just push together with friction. They held really well, too well actually but we will come back to that. Each rebar was then lashed to the PVC with electrical tape. Tada... a 22 wide foot circle.
Step 5: Attaching the Lights.
Two strands of lights were attached to each of the zip tie mounts with you guessed it, a small zip tie. The lights were put together in two 20 strand series as with the bulbs being LEDs they can support up to 22 strands end to end (at least according to the box).
The lights were marked evenly on the ring (i measured and marked with a sharpie) and laid across them. Success, they all lit up and looked like a giant octopus with you know, 40 legs.
Step 6: Adding a Star and Slowly Raising the Tree.
I had an old lighted star that no longer worked. I repurposed and removed the old mini lights and put on color changing LEDs. I then used some more of the scrap steel tubing to create a mount for the base of the star. Zip ties, and a bolt and I had a makeshift bracket. This was then screwed onto the top of the light rig already on the pole. I now had a star plus 40 strands attached to the rig.
Once the star was on, the tree had to be raised. It was heavy, 40 strands of lights adds a lot of weight to a rope when you pull it. I had to get gloves and put most of my weight into it to raise it up. What I didn't do is secure the bottoms of the lights to the ring. They were just laid over top of the ring, so when half way up, all the lights swung center due to the increased height and position of the strands. Now I have 40 strands of tangled mess.
I stopped raising it, loosely bungeed the lights onto the ring after untangling each strand and set out to raise it the rest of the way. Once the light rig made it to the top, I tied if off and then adjusted each strand to the mark I made on the ring. Each strand was secured using a bungee ball.
Step 7: Final Thoughts
The mega tree was a success but it was a trial run this year. Next year I plan to cut out some cellular PVC instead of the plywood, as it warped a bit with the weather and did not want to come all the way down the pole easy at the end of the light season. I can also drill the holes a bit more accurately as I know exactly where they should go now.
I also think I would break up the light series to 13 or 14 each instead of 20 just to take the amp load down a bit even thought it could handle it.
Overall I was rather pleased with the results. It came out great, and was a lot of fun to put up. Not so much fun was taking back apart the PVC pipe. It held so strong with the friction. I struggled for quite a while to loosen it. I will come up with a spreader tool next year to get it apart for sure.
Now to find a place to store all the lights, pvc, and pieces.
Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest