Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Birch Trees vs. Birch "Trees"

Here's a picture of our 6-8 foot Paper Birch Trees, both opened in the foreground, and closed in the background (closed is how they appear straight out of the bundle).

The Paper Birch trees open up (even when they are crispy-dry as this one was) into a nice, airy tree that makes a dramatic accent if you have the space. The drawbacks are that the diameter of the trunks are about 1" at the base, and the branches are where they are for better or worse.

If you are looking for a tree with a relatively substantial diameter, and want to dictate where the branches are, you should consider making a "tree." Here's a picture of one that we put together with a Paper Birch Pole, 2 bundles of Himalayan Birch Brush (~30 branches), and some ribbon to add a colorful accent:

We knew that we wanted to put this tree into a corner, so rather than adding branches all around the trunk, we only did about 1/3 (so for a full tree, you'll probably want 90 birch branches or so - 6 bundles of the Himalayan Birch Brush.

Below is a picture of the tools and supplies we used, and the secret weapon I discovered on a long journey through the aisles of one of those big-box hardware stores - the lowly 10" by 12" wall bracket from the "Home Organization" section (I searched fruitlessly in the plumbing, lumber and hardware sections). These were $1.09 a piece, so you are looking at about $5 per pole to get them to stand upright.

Here's what you'll need to create this tree:

Electric Screwdriver;
Four 10" by 12" Shelf Brackets;
1.25" Coarse Thread Drywall Screws;
Drillbit (1/4" worked well for the Himalayan Birch Brush);
Phillips head attachment for your drill;
Your trusty jackknife.

And here's how to do it:

1. Attach the brackets. Stand the pole up straight, and start attaching the shelf brackets with the drywall screws. You'll want to attach the short end of the bracket to the pole, and have the long end on the floor for stability. Attach them at the top first. Once you have all four brackets attached at the top, secure the bottom. This process should take you 5-10 minutes.

Now that you have your pole standing straight and sturdy, it is time to start attaching the branches. Here's the plan of attack - you'll want to start at the bottom, and work your way up to the top. To mimic the way branches grow naturally, you'll want to start by angling the branches out a little less than 45 degrees at the bottom, and move the branches towards the vertical as you make your way up the pole.

2. Drill a hole. As mentioned above, you'll need to drill down at an angle. To avoid marring the bark too much (like I initially did) start by drilling straight in a little bit, and then angle the drill downward.

3. Grab a branch. Open the branch, then whittle the base of it to fit in the hole. (Careful with the whittling - I have two nice scars on my left hand due to childhood whittling mishaps.) On most of the branches, you'll see there is a slight curve - you'll want that curve facing upwards.

4. Repeat. Over-and-over-and-over again, although remember to tighten the angle of the branches as you move up the pole. Constructing a tree from start to finish will probably take an hour or two, but is a heck of a lot of fun.

While we used Himalayan Birch Brush in this example, you can use any other style of birch brush, including the Goldleaf Birch Branches and the White Sparkle Birch Branches.

Questions? Ask away!

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