While I had no intention of getting into any kind of “Mega-Tree” this year, I had some pixel strips and pixels left over, so I came up with this.
I planned to make it out of nothing but spare parts. The only things I actually had to buy were the chrome cleanout plug cover I bought to use as the topper, and a PVC cap to mount it to. The rest is “scrap” plumbing parts and extra pixels and strips. Some of the pixel strands are actually made up of several small 3-5 count ones soldered together.
The whole thing is primarily 3/4″ PVC, with the bottom hoop made out of 3/4″ PEX I had left over from a plumbing job. It just uses PVC Ts to join up the pieces to make the frame.
I started by building the bottom cross-piece out of 3/4″ PVC and PVC Ts. These are glued using PVC cement as I don’t plan to disassemble the base. The center pole is just press-fit into the center T, so it can be removed for storage. The 3/4″ pex is a bit smaller than PVC- so it just goes straight through the PVC Ts on the ends.
The PVC makes a nice natural arc. I don’t remember the exact length I used at the time, I believe it was about 8.5′ long. This whole thing can probably be scaled up and down pretty easily too. Where the ends joined- I first used a big piece of shrink tubing to hold it together. Once I was happy with the dimensions- I used self-tapping sheet-metal screws to hold the PEX in-place. There is just one where it goes thru, and two at the junction to keep it secure.
For the topper- I used a large chrome “Drain Clean Out Cover” I bought at a hardware store. You see these mostly in commercial restrooms covering up a clean-out hole in the wall. I bolted it to a 3/4″ PVC cap, and I used self-tapping screws to screw Boscoyo “Original” pixel strip pieces into it as starters.
My original plan was to use 16 strips. I’m using a ~200-degree configuration (slightly more than 180) for the tree. No reason to light up the back of it, facing the house. I figured out the length would be 30 pixels at 2″ spacing, which would make it about 5′ tall overall.
Like the bottom of the pole- the top is just press-fit so it can be disassembled for storage.
In the end- I ran out of strip and had to settle for 11 strands instead of 16. Fortunately, with creative zip-tying, I was able to mount the strips to the original topper starter pieces. In the future, I may add more strips to it, although it is pretty dense at the top already.
Because I was using leftovers, I had a mix of black and white strip, thus the striped look. The last strip is actually 3 scraps I zip-tied together.
In this picture I have a scrap piece of wood helping to hold the PEX hoop down. Under tension- it bends up. Ultimately to hold the whole base securely- I mounted it to a simple 2×4 cross, like they used in Xmas tree lots. You can see it in the final pic below. I used nylon strapping to connect the pipe to the 2x4s, just out of convenience since I had it already.
Because the pixel strips don’t go all the way around, there are a couple of pieces of paracord tied between the topper and the base in the back. This offsets the tension of the pixel strips.
The final dimensions (including the wooden base) are approx. 66″ tall x 34″ wide. It is 330 pixels run off 1 NodeMCU controller (little black box inside the left side). I have a small Boscoyo star ordered for the top, which will complete it. Not sure how I will actually mount that yet, but I’ll figure out something.
It should stand up by itself in the front yard with the fairly-heavy base, but I will probably add a couple of guy lines since we get a LOT of wind where I live.
“If I do it again…” notes:
3/4″ PVC is actually pretty flimsy for construction like this. I would probably go with 1″ PVC or switch to rigid metal electrical conduit to scale this up. Ditto for the base hoop- PEX isn’t rigid at all and was a bad choice, but it’s something I had in-stock so that’s what I used.
I originally planned to “stake it down” to help overcome the tension. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work. I need to plan on a more solid base from the beginning next time.
Make sure you have enough strip/pixels BEFORE you start building the tree!
Wiring these things is a b*tch! While more expensive and ultimately leading to more points of failure- consider building the strips with connection pigtails and power injection ahead of time. This will also prevent you from accidentally mounting strips upside-down. (!)
My topper doesn’t have anything to accommodate a star, although my current plan is to just bolt another PVC cap on top of the existing one, and mount the stare to another short stick of PVC.
My wife is interested in some smaller “mini-trees”. I can make these in a similar fashion. I’ll post that build if I do it.