Intro: Oak Chrysalis Ornaments
A new medium, a by-product of the plant kingdom, and the Animal. A 'chrysalis' of super-light wood, perfect for ornaments.
Step 1: What the Heck? (a Brief Explanation of the Unknown)
Galls, never heard of it? That's most likely because it's just not in any category of nature we accustom ourselves to, and therefor, interests me greatly. How can I use a chrysalis made of super light oak wood? The possibilities are quite endless really...
This is probably one of the most unusual materials to work with that I’ve come across. I’ll give a brief explanation of what they are, and how to find them. You can research for more information in nature guid books, or the web, they're quite interesting.
Gall are tumors (although I prefer chrysalis). Tumors with very interesting life cycles. Two creatures are needed for it’s creation; A. plant (in this case Oak trees), and B. a wasp. Certain species of wasp lay their eggs upon various plants, for this project, and many others, I have found Oak Galls to be preferable, that is, ones that specifically grow on oaks, as you can see in the picture. The egg casing is coated in stimulants that effect the trees growth, altering it. The tree becomes irritated, and grows a tumor around the egg, to seal it off from the rest of the tree. This is just what the wasp wants, the egg is now protected by a small fleshy fruit, which will keep it safe until it is ready to hatch. When fall comes, the galls have dried out, becoming perfect ornaments; Usually hollow, immensely light, spheres of wood. The wasp has left, eating its way out, leaving a small hole, or two.
You can find these both on the tree, and underneath, in most of the later months of the year. Make sure that they are not moldy, and that the insect has vacated. You can leave them outdoors for a few days to dry and allow the wasps to leave if needed. Not all oaks have galls, but the majority of live oaks in California do. I cannot vouch for other states. Though it s reasonable to assume they are quite common, as they are sometimes used to supplement cattle feed.
Step 2: What Is Needed
This is a very simple project, barring the collection of the galls themselves, which depends on your region.
- A drill, and bit (varies in size depending on the size of the gall).
- Wire nipper
- Markers, pencils, any sort of decoration that can be glued on it.
- And of course, as many galls as you wish.
Or, instead of wire nipper and wire, Ornament hooks.
Step 3: Decorate First
Before you drill, decorate. I like to use permanent markers, although color pencils and paint work beautifully. The texture of the skin is different on each, but generally they lend themselves for ink, minimizing spreading ink.
If you've got an exceptionally large specimen (they can reach nearly half a foot in diameter on rare occasions) Then you might think of cutting out a side and making it a display case of sorts, or perhaps fill it with LEDs, and pin-pricks to let out the light. Sequins also work well. Let your imagination fly.
Step 4: Drill
Once decorated, Drill into the gall. It should brake through easily, if not, you may have drilled into the core, which housed the egg at one time, not to worry, it won’t cause a problem.
With drilling, the general features should be recognized, each gall is unique and it’s shape can be exploited. You will want to drill through the hardened section of the gall that was attached to the tree, it is the strongest.
Step 5: Attachment (Wire/hook)
Insert the ornament hook, or bend on out of a short length of wire (or perhaps knot some ribbon/yarn). You may need to adjust the wire to make it fit, these are natural, no man made, and they are all different in their internal shape.
You’re ready to hang it on the tree!
Step 6: Sending It Off
Remember, they are fragile, so package with lots of stuffing to avoid damage if you're giving them to friends or family.