Introduction: Tree Charms

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Using e-waste or any other crafting material and bendable wire you can make your own talisman-esque creation used to mark a place, event or time; colloquially known as tree charms.

I had this idea in my senior year of high school, while most of my friends were spray painting rude slogans all over the building I quietly hung a few reminders in the trees around the building, marking my graduation in my own way. This project is a reinterpretation of that concept.

Maybe your tree charm will signify where your lost pet is buried, that spot on the hill where you used to play as a kid or, like me, your tree charm can signify where you buried your time capsule. This project can be made with just about any type of craft or building material and uses pliable, thin floral ties to hold it all together and can take any shape you desire. Though, I find the best designs are ones you can recognize.

Enough talk, let's charm some trees!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

The materials used for this project was old e-waste from past projects, I have bins of this kind of stuff just waiting to be used for something.

E-waste is a good choice as the pieces are small, have loads of depth and texture, and have sharp edges and openings making the wire able to better grip the individual parts.
I used stiff floral wire found at my local Dollar Store, each wire was about 30cm (12") long.

  • wire cutters
  • needle-nose pliers
  • hobby knife
  • drill with small bit

Step 2: Plan, Then Build

Take stock of what pieces you have to work with before you start anything. Hold different elements together and start forming the rough shape of your tree charm. There are no rules with what your creation can look like, but something recognizable (like a person or an animal usually works best).

With the large elements chosen, start binding the pieces together with stiff wire. Using pliers, bend wire around a solid attachment point on one element then feed the wire through to the next element. Continue lacing together the pieces until you run out of wire, then repeat the anchor>feed process with a new wire until all the pieces are attached.
I found it's helpful to use one large main piece as the focus for attaching all the other elements.

Step 3: Finished Charms

Each of the charms shown here took about 30 minutes to make, here's a rouch breakdown of what's in each.

  • Electromagnet rotors
  • Computer keyboard innards
  • PCB's
  • IR sensors
  • sprinkler valve
  • .22 shell casings
  • fan shied
truncated robot:
  • VCR display
  • PCB's
  • small fan
  • lens
  • flashlight reflector
  • ribbon cable
  • assorted gears and miscellany

Step 4: Messages

So, what separates a tree charm from just garbage in a tree? A message, of course!
Your message could reflect what you're tree charm is signifying (like Grad'98, or Here lies Fido, my best friend), it's up to you. A fun and easy way to make a message for your tree charm is to use shrinky-dinks, plastic covered with a message or image then shrunk with heat in the oven.

Shirnky-dinks use #6 recycled plastic containers. Write your message in indelible marker, then place in a 300° oven for under a minute. The plastic will curl and shrink, miniaturizing your message or picture.

To illustrate I made a few different types of messages:
  • rectangular message placards
  • robot-shaped massage - "I ♥ robots"
  • Heart-shaped message (my initials and my significant other, BBQ)
After shrinky dinks are out of the oven let cool, then drill a small opening in the plastic and affix it to your tree charm.

Step 5: How to Install

When you're ready to install your tree charm take along some extra stiff wire, these will form the hook or wrap required to make sure your creation stays in place once installed. There are two methods to installing tree charms:

Add a few stiff wires to an anchor point on your tree charm, then bend the loose ends into hooks. These hooks will act like barbs and will catch a branch of the tree when thrown into the foliage. This method may not be suitable for all trees, and you risk loosing your tree charm on any given gusty day. This may be part of your aim, if you want your tree charms as a temporary display only.

If your tree allows, you can climb the tree and find a branch that suits your needs (and comfort with heights), and simply wrap a length of stiff wire from your tree charm to the branch. Securing it against possibly windy days and keeping your tree charm in place for the long haul.

Step 6: Where to Install

Tree charms are whimsical, folk-art reminders of milestones in your life. As an artistic piece they can viewed, interpreted and remixed in any way. Maybe you've come up with your variation?

Have you made your own tree charms? Post a picture in the comments below.

Have fun!