Mega Tree Construction, Part 1

Discussion in 'Pixel Nights or Christmas Lights' started by AA7BQ, Mar 25, 2021.

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  1. AA7BQ

    AA7BQ QRZ Founder Administrator QRZ Page

    This was a two-month project, interrupted many times by shipping delays, weather, and family life. Well, the family life wasn't an interruption per se but the project did take, as usual, longer than I anticipated. Still, however, I'm pleased with how it turned out and hope to share it with you here.

    Last Christmas I found some addressable Christmas lights on Amazon called Twinkly. What I liked about them was that they were designed to be hung on a tree or other prop and then mapped into existence using a cell phone camera. It was a really neat trick. Once mapped, they had a great selection of canned effects that were very WOW.

    Please excuse the fuzzy photo...
    Tree.jpg

    I made that tree out of six sticks of 3/4" conduit. I made the base out of angle aluminum and some other leg parts and connectors from aluminum. I liked this tree a lot and it was very impressive, except for one little detail: it wasn't programmable. I could create a few settings on my cell phone and save them, but this was to be my training wheels for the big league and as such, it performed wonderfully.

    download.png
    Once I had that tree built, I started on smaller props like the star on the left side of the photo. It was made from (yes) the leftover pieces of 3/4" conduit. Let nothing go to waste, I say... Anyway, for that prop I used LED strips, the kind that comes on a reel, which are full color and addressable. The LED type was WS2813, which is a number that you'll become familiar with, along with the ubiquitous WS2811 and several others.

    Needing a controller for the Star, I got my hands on a little Metro Mini microcomputer. I loaded it was some software called FastLED (GitHub) and I was done. I chose the 'Demo' that was built into FastLED.

    adafruit_products_2590-04.jpg

    Christmas came and went but my interest in lights did not. I got hooked on some YouTube videos by a fellow named Tom Betgeorge who has decorated several homes with LEDs including his own. I wanted one of those big trees which I could program myself and so I started gathering parts.

    The term 'gathering' is something of a misnomer because I was really gathering raw materials. Below are the 2.5 inch tubes that I purchased for the mast, and the aluminum parts I made in my shop. The tree topper is the most interesting piece and

    IMG_8657.jpeg

    This next photo shows the shabbiness of the construction. As you can see, my welding is, um workable, and I occasionally drill a hole in the wrong place. In the end, however, I ended up with a very functional tower topper with 4 guy attachments and an embedded ball bearing cable pully.

    The round plate is what I call the elevator plate because it is what gets hoisted up by the cable and pully.

    IMG_8658.jpeg

    I should mention that I do all my metal shopping in a reclamation scrap yard and all of these pieces started out life as something else. I cut them down, mill them, turn them, whatever I need to get the shape that is necessary.

    We'll start putting these pieces together in the next part of the series.

    -fred
     
    AA5BK and K9ASE like this.

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