Flat-Pack Christmas Tree Ornaments

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About: I'm an engineer, designer, and maker studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Intro: Flat-Pack Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love making Christmas presents. LOVE IT.

I love making Christmas presents so much that I often make a list of recipients so large that it is not humanly possible for me to lovingly handcraft and design presents for everyone. When it comes down to it, I want people to know that I'm thinking about them, rather than just eliminating them from my list, so I have to create a clever way to optimize the "mass production" of ornaments.

This year, I had an abundance of sheet metal to accompany my abundance of intended recipients. I created these spiral Christmas Tree Ornaments, which take advantage of the properties of sheet metal to create a 3d figure. They are relatively simple to make (provided you have a waterjet or plasma cutter) and can be mass produced in case you back yourself into a handmade gift corner.

(They also mail incredibly well. 1 card, 1 envelope, and 1 ornament are 0.85 oz, so they only use a single stamp!)

Step 1: BOM

This one's really simple, but it does require that you have a waterjet or plasma cutter!

Materials:

  • 1/32" sheet aluminum
  • ribbon
  • sandpaper/scotchbrite
  • alcohol dye
  • napkins
  • Greeting Cards (w/envelopes)

Tools:

  • waterjet
  • scissors

Programs:

  • Adobe Illustrator

Step 2: Paper Prototype.

Sheet metal acts a lot like paper, so when you're prototyping designs in sheet metal, paper is an inexpensive, low-time-investment way to test out ideas.

Step 3: Draw File.

I had to test a few of the versions of the the file before I found something that was reasonable to cut. Part of drawing the file included defining a path for the waterjet. I'm attaching a file for the ornament, if you happen to have access to a waterjet.

ornaments-tree-largerstar_importedsmaller.dxf

Step 4: Cut Ornaments.

Luckily, I still had a LOT of scrap available from my Secret Santa gift!

I was able to cut out 16 of these ornaments in a 1'x1' area of 1/32" aluminum.

Step 5: Deburr.

Because it comes out of the waterjet with burrs which can (and will) cut the people who touch it, you need to take a minute to sand those burrs down. Just hit it with some sandpaper or some scotchbrite.

Step 6: Dye.

Alcohol dye is the best, but it's really, really messy. Put down something to protect the table that you're working on, and wipe some alcohol dye all over both sides of the ornament.

Step 7: Tie Ribbons.

Cut sections of ribbon, and loop them through the hole at the top of the star. Then, tie a square knot, leaving some room in the loop for a hook or a Christmas tree branch.

Step 8: Shape the Ornament.

To "open" the ornament, pull the star and inner ring of the ornament up while holding the outside of the spiral down. Then, bend the star so that it is standing up straight.

Step 9: Ship and Enjoy!

Mail it out with a greeting card to your friends and family. Make sure you include some sort of instructions so that they can shape the ornament after it arrives! Like I said in the intro, each ornament/card set I sent out weighed 0.85 ounces, which is under the 1 ounce limit for a postage stamp.

Happy making, and happy holidays!

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