Sunday, 16 December 2012

Cardboard christmas tree: a tutorial

A few weeks ago our hot water system sprung a leak and had to be replaced. After three days without any hot water, you can imagine how thrilled I was when the plumber arrived with - drumroll - an enormous cardboard box! I was planning to make it into a gingerbread house (albeit one of strangely tower-like proportions) but my husband came up with a better idea: a cardboard christmas tree.

This idea appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, I love making things out of cardboard...

...and secondly, although I like the look and scent of fresh christmas trees I have never felt great about knowing that a whole tree has been chopped down just so we can put it in our loungeroom for two weeks (culminating in the depressing ritual of trussing up the dead tree and putting it out on the naturestrip for collection).

Naturally the first thing I did was google 'cardboard christmas tree'. Surprisingly, I didn't find any how-tos that matched the idea I had in mind. So I'm making one myself, and hoping it might one day be useful to someone out there - someone with a giant cardboard box (grumpy child optional), a stanley knife and a hot glue gun. If you don't have any of those, never fear! Your local Bunnings (or  hardware store) can probably supply all three, if you ask nicely.

STEP 1: Cutting out. Cut your box in half lengthwise - down two opposite corners - so that you end up with two tall pieces of box, each folded in half (as pictured above). Unless your box is square, one length will be wider than the other. This is OK. Lay one 'half' box out with the narrower section on top, and rule a line diagonally from the fold at the top down to the opposite corner at the bottom.

STEP 2: The branches. Using your ruled line as a guide, draw a series of zig-zaggy shapes (to give the look of christmas tree branches) as evenly as you can, down to about 20cm from the bottom of the box. You can use this last 20cm to cut out a trunk shape - mine was about 18cm wide. When you are happy with the drawing part it's time to start cutting. I found it easiest to cut all the downward lines first, then go back and do the curved undersides of the 'branches'. Don't worry about cutting through the piece underneath - you are going to cut the identical shape out of it anyway!

When you've finished it will look something like this:

Use the cut side as a template to draw the branch shapes onto the piece behind. Then cut that piece out and you will have half a christmas tree!

Repeat the drawing and cutting process with your other piece of card. This part is easier because you can use the first cut-out tree as a template to draw the shape onto your second half of the box. At the end of this process you will have two sections of tree:

Wow! That certainly looks christmassy. But don't celebrate just yet - there's more work to do.

STEP 3: The braces. Cut 6 small sections of cardboard, about 12cm x 8cm (or smaller, depending on the size of your tree). These will be used to brace and hold the two sections of tree together. Score each piece of card along the middle on one side, making sure you score along the 'grain' of the cardboard - the way the corrugations of the card run. If none of this makes sense to you, the amazingly talented LiEr from ikat bag has a fantastic tutorial on working with cardboard that might help.

STEP 4: Gluing the two sections together. Get your glue gun. Plug it in. While it's heating up, lay your two pieces of tree out on the floor with each piece folded down its middle fold, and the spines of the two pieces - ie the two straight edges - touching. You are going to join the two sections together. 

Generously apply glue to one half of the scored side of the cardboard rectangles and stick it onto the tree - you are going to put three of them on each side, so space them out however you think best (I did the middle one first, then one near the top and, later on, added one down the bottom of the trunk).

Once it's adhered to the tree, hold the other section of tree at a right angle to the first piece and glue the rectangle on so that it joins the two pieces at a right angle. This is kind of hard to do alone, so you may want to get a helper to hold up the cardboard while you glue. Repeat to glue on the other two rectangles.

Turn the whole thing over and repeat the rectangle-gluing process on the other side. Almost done!

STEP 5: Cutting the base. Your tree can stand up as is (hopefully) but a base will make it much more stable. Measure the width of your trunk and cut a circle of cardboard with a slightly larger radius - eg. my tree's trunk was 36cm wide, so I cut a circle that measured 38cm across the middle (and I still managed to stuff up the measurements so it was slightly too small!).

Before you proceed to the next step, it's a good idea to check that the bottoms of the two sections of tree match up. If not, you may need to do a bit of trimming.

STEP 6: Gluing the base. This next bit must be done quickly, so once again, a helper would be good: make a hot glue cross on the circle of cardboard, gluing from edge to edge so that when you place the tree on it, all four bits of the trunk base will stick. Then put the tree on its base and (quick smart, because hot glue dries so fast) make sure the sections are evenly spaced. Don't worry, Mum, I didn't do the gluing on the beautiful carpet you gave me - just the photographing!

You're done! Add some lights...

...and sit back and enjoy the show (if you are 4 years old and watching a christmas tree is your idea of fun. Otherwise you can just watch the cricket).

Happy (recycled) christmas!

1 comment:

  1. Its great! My parents need a new freezer - hope it comes in a big box!