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...

    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.

    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.


    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


    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.


    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.

    AA5BK and K9ASE like this.

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