My wife for our first Christmas together wanted me to make a Christmas tree topper. The idea of using one solid block of wood for a star and wrapping it with a metal flat bar and lights sandwiched in the middle immediately came to mind. As I went through a few designs I finally settled on using two different colored wood to give it a nice look. This also allowed me to have straight grain up through each point of the star.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed
As far as materials needed it is up to you want you want to use. I will list what I used for this instructable.
- Two(2) different types of wood with contrasting colors.
- 3/4" steel flat bar long enough to wrap around the wooden star.
- 3/16" steel round bar, around 3-4 feet.
- Old bed spring
- masking/painters tape
- Cooper paint.
- Matte Polyurethane/lacquer
- LED string lights
- Wood Glue
- Two part epoxy
- Table/Chop saw
- Straight edge
- Tape Measure
- Hack Saw
- Drill and drill bits
Step 2: Making the Wooden Stars
There will be two stars for the front and back of the tree topper. For this project I needed a total of 10 pieces of one type of wood and 10 of the other. I used dry redwood and poplar. Both are very common wood found at most home improvement store.
I was not too concerned about the overall size of the finished star as long as it wasn't too small. The only dimensions that I needed were the angles of each individual piece. As you can see in the second picture the two acute angles needed to be 18 and 36 degrees. The 36 degree angle with ten pieces will give a total of five points to the star and the 18 degree angle will give the five pairs of parallel lines of a traditional five point star. With the setup I used cutting the pieces out, the long edge ended up being 4.25 inches long.
When you go to cut the pieces make sure the long edge goes with the grain to give each piece greater strength.
After you have all the pieces cut get your wood glue and tape ready to glue everything up. I would suggest only gluing up only two pieces at first and then two glued pieces after that and then finally gluing the full star together. I found using masking or painters tape to be the best way to clamp everything together while it dried.
I don't have the pictures for it but to finish the stars off I took some 120 grit sandpaper and cleaned up the stars getting off all the burn marks from the table saw blade. It left it with a ruff sand but I found that it look good for what I wanted. Lastly I put two coats of matte polyurethane to pop the natural color of the wood.
Step 3: Making the Metal Star and Support for the Wood Stars
I made a template to follow to bend the metal by tracing the wood star onto cardboard then using a ruler to draw a second star 1/4" offset from the first. Using the template, a vise and hammer I began to bend the form of the star making sure I made a mark for each bend. To close is off I welded the ends together.
To make the supports for the wood I cut ten 1" lengths from the 3/16" round bar. Using two 1" lengths I then welded them into a "T". I then welded the bottom of the "T" onto the inside of the inner bends of the star. I found out that it has been to long since I've welded and I need some more practice. To finish off the welding I took the remaining 3/16" round bar, about two feet, and bent 3/4" of one end 90 degrees. I then welded the short side onto the seam where the two ends of the flat bar were welded. This is used to go down the middle of the tree and secured to the trunk.
To give it a nice look i hit it with a couple coats of cooper paint.
Step 4: Final Asseblmy
To finish complete the project I centered the back wood star in the middle of the metal star. To transfer the positions of the supports I lightly hammer them to make a small mark in the wood. I did this for the front star as well. Using the small marks I drilled a 3/16" hole half way through the wood.
I glued the back star on first mixing up some epoxy and dabbing a little in each of the holes. Make sure the wood star is nice and even with the metal star and then let it cure. After the back star is cured it is time to place the LED Lights. I used a cool white 15 LED light strand that is battery powered. I struggled on how I would place them and decided to bundle them with a rubber band and loosely place them in the middle and sandwich them with the front star gluing it the same way as the back star.
To add an ascetic appeal I cut an old bed spring in half and using some epoxy glued it onto the bottom of the star with the 3/16" round bar running down the middle of the spring. I tried welding the spring on but could not get the voltage right and kept burning right through the spring.
Step 5: Final Product and After Thoughts
This was a fun project to complete and my wife and I have a cool new tree topper for many Christmas' to come.
There are a few things I would do different if I were to make another tree topper. First, I would take more time and care with the metal star and the supports or totally rethink a new design for the supports. Second, I not too happy with the lights. The rest of the trees lights drowned out the lights from the star and even with the trees lights off its not that bright. I would also use some kind of LED light strip tape and wire it so I could plug it into the trees lights.
I guess there is always something that you want to change any time one finishes a project. Even that in mind I like this tree topper and will look forward to putting it on the top each and every Christmas.