If you are looking for the ultimate centerpiece for your Christmas display, look no further than the ‘mega tree’.
Since you design and build them yourself, mega trees can fit into any sized yard. If you have a computerized display mega trees can be animated with literally hundreds of different patterns, fills, and spins. Even if your display isn’t computer controlled, a mega tree is still a stand-out feature.
Building a mega tree is easy and inexpensive. All the hardware that you need can be found at your local hardware store. I think that My T Brite Lights is the best place to buy your lights. I would use either the M5 mini lights or the 5mm Super Bright lights.
There are many ways to build a mega tree but there are really only two basic types of mega-trees. One that goes all the way to the ground and the other is a tree with a trunk. They seem to be as small as 2M and as large 20M tall. The type of tree described here is a simple ‘to the ground’ tree – basically a large cone made out of lights. The lights are attached to a base hoop on the ground with tent stakes or cable ties, run to the top of the center pole, and then back down again to be secured by another stake. Most of the strength comes from the actual lights or guy wires/ropes.
Getting Started To get started you need to know how high you want to build it. Once you know how high you can easily figure out the diameter of the bottom. Diameter is figured by dividing the height by two. So for this instruction sheet we will be talking about a 4M tree. If you follow these guidelines you can apply it to almost any size tree. For a 4M tree we will need a 2M base.
The Base Hoop There are two ways to build a tree, one is having the lights go all the way to the ground and attached to a ring or build a base that will give your tree the shape with a trunk and/or a hoop. If you would like for your lights to go all the way to the ground, this is the simplest way. The easiest way I have found to make the hoop is out of electrical PVC conduit, 25mm diameter is the minimum you should use.
Now you need to do the math. If you are not good at math open the Xmas Lights Mega Tree Calculator.
Here you will learn how to figure the amount of PVC pipe you will need to get a 2M diameter. The area around the circle is called the circumference. To find the circumference, enter your diameter (2M) and then multiply it by Pi (3.1416). You should get the figure 6.28. This number represents the number of metres in PVC pipe that you will need. PVC pipe comes in 4M lengths so you will need 2 lengths of PVC conduit.
When you get your electrical PVC conduit you will notice that it is really flexible and has a built in coupling. Now connect the PVC end to end and you will have a nice complete circle with a diameter to match the height of the tree.
To hold this down on the ground you can make some U shaped anchors or tent pegs work great to drive in the ground. This is important otherwise the wind will blow your strings and possibly get them tangled. Once the ring is secure, you can run your strings from the top of your tree to the bottom, space them out accordingly and tie them down using a zip tie.
Centre Support Pole
What you will use depends on your budget. Some people used wood, galvanized pipe, PVC pipe or a flagpole. Whatever you use, if your mega tree is tall you will need to set the base in concrete.
If it is only up to 3 metres in height you can simply use a length of PVC pipe slipped over a star picket driven into the ground.
The support pole has to be strong because there will a lot of weight pulling down trying to pull it over. The most important thing is to guy wire the centre pole. Some have used three guy wires and others have used four, I say the more the better. They may just be strings of lights but they will act like a sail in strong winds. If that support pole fails you will end up with the whole tree on the ground in a tangled mess. One thing to remember when putting up this pole that it is kept away from overhead power lines.
I personally use four guy wires/ropes. Even more important than guy wires are the stakes that hold them into the ground. The stakes need to at least be 600mm long or longer if you can get them into the ground. Just be aware of underground services such as Water, Power and Phone.
The Tree Topper There are various ways to hold the lights at the top; the best I have found is a ring with a series of hooks coming off it. Trying to pass strings of lights through a ring takes too long and can damage the string. I have found that if you can just hang your lights off a hook this is the best.
A wooden ‘bund foot’ that you can buy at Bunnings studded with cup hooks with a piece of snug fitting dowel that will slide down into the pole has worked well for me.
If the mega tree is not taller than 3 metres, you don’t really need to attach the light strings to support wires. Any taller and you should ensure that the light strings are supported on a plastic coated wire like clothes line.
You will be surprised just how heavy the lights will be.
How Many Lights The amount of lights comes down to preference, power and/or budget. I prefer to have as many lights as possible. You can never have too many, but as a general rule I like my lights to be spaced 75mm to 100mm apart. To figure how many lights you want on the tree, use the Angel Xmas Lights calculator again to work out your results.
If you plan to animate your mega tree with a controller a few things you will have to consider. How many sections or slices of the tree you want to control? How many colours you will use?
How many ‘slices’ is your tree going to be? Remember that most music has a beat that is easily divisible by 4. You will have a much easier time sequencing your show if your tree has a number of slices that is a multiple of 4. If you have the channels to spare, don’t be afraid to GO BIG!
How many colors is your tree going to be? Remember, each colour you add is going to require as many channels as you have slices. I have an 8 slice tree that is 4 colours – that means I need 32 channels to run my tree.
8 slice 360 degree tree layout If I were to put up a tree with limited channels, you would first sacrifice number of colours before the number of slices or going with a 180 degree tree.
For instance if you only had 16 channels, you would probably go with an 8 slice 360 degree 2 color tree, instead of an8 slice 4 color mirrored 360 tree, or a 4 slice 4 color 180 tree.
There are many possibilities when it comes to channel configurations.
My T Brite Lights has a series of demo sequences that you can copy and paste into your own sequences to make programming easy. Here is the link.
Attaching the Lights Start with one of your chosen colours and attach the lights to the bottom hoop with a cable tie. Extend it up to the hook on the tree topper and then back down to the hoop. Depending upon how many channels of computer control your are using, you will attach additional strings of the same colour to this string and continue at equal spacing around the hoop. You do the same with the next colour that you are using and so on until the tree is full of lights.