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How to Build Your Own Portal Christmas Tree

This was inspired by Ryan Kelly’s amazing Portal Christmas Tree, which I read about last year on io9.com and agreed that it was, indeed, absolutely genius. So when my roommate told me she was going to toss out her old fake Christmas tree, I convinced her to let me create a Portal Tree of my own. However, she gave me only five days to do it before she tossed the tree off the balcony. As a result, the photos were kind of rushed, but I just HAD to make an instructable for it!

Fake Christmas Tree
Two colors of rope lights
Extension cords (ideally the colour of your wall)
Hooks for rope lights
Stronger hook for tree
Zip ties or scotch tape
Fishing line
Green electrical tape
VERY LIGHT Tree decorations

Step 1: Choose Your Location
What’s great about this tree is that the top and bottom parts don’t have to be over top of each other. In fact, they can be a little offset so you can still decorate the top part without the bottom being in the way. We also toyed with the idea of putting the top part of the tree in a different room, and even considered making it having the top coming out of the wall horizontally. But in the end, I kind of liked having them almost over top of each other, but you can get pretty creative with positioning the two portals.

One thing to consider, however, is that you still need plug in the lights on the ceiling, so I would suggest placing it near a wall or in such a way that you can easily hide the cord. If you can get your hands on some lights that are battery-powered, that would solve a lot of problems too. The bottom has a little more freedom, but keep it near enough to a wall that you can use fishing line to secure it upright.

Step 2: Tie The Branches
This was probably the most difficult part, and it was certainly the most time-consuming. Many Christmas trees have branches that fold upwards (like a reverse umbrella) for easy storage. If your tree does this, your branches will collapse when you turn the tree upside down. Use the fishing line to tie secure the branches outward by tying each branch to a point further down the trunk (when it’s standing upright). Tie them as tight as possible to prevent the branches from sagging when the tree is turned over.

We also had problems with some branches sliding out of their slots when the tree was inverted. Some green electrical tape helped keep them in place.

Step 3: Measure Portals
The portals should be just a LITTLE wider than the diameter of their respective end of the tree, but not so wide that you can clearly see the backing, so we made the top portal just slightly smaller than the bottom. The rope lights were bound tightly with zip ties, with the excess tie snipped off, but you could also use scotch tape. Use at least 5, spaced evenly, to keep the ring nice and tight.

Although Ryan Kelly mentioned that he used black poster board for the backing of his portals, my project partner Oksana suggested using tinfoil instead. When lit up, the tinfoil helps reflect the coloured light of the portal, as well as the green of the tree, which helps it look more like an open, glowing portal.

The middle of the foil for the bottom part of the tree can be removed to help prevent the tree from sliding on the floor.

Step 4: Install Hooks and Ceiling Portal
Install the hooks in the ceiling, measuring their position relative to the circumference of the portal. You can use the suction cup hooks to hold the portal, but if you have a stucco ceiling or if you’re willing to make a few extra holes in your ceiling in exchange for stability, use ones that screw in (use plastic anchors for extra strength). You’ll need a minimum of 5 hooks to prevent parts of the portal from sagging due to gravity. Believe me, you do not want a saggy portal on Christmas. Rope lights are thick, so if your hooks aren’t large enough to fit, hook them onto the zip ties instead. Be sure to keep the power cord at the back, so that it will be hidden by the tree top. Use hooks to secure the power cord and extension cord to the ceiling and wall. Try to hide the cord as best you can by fastening it against the side of a window or door frame, hiding it behind a bookshelf, etc, etc.

The tinfoil can be placed such that it is sitting on top of the rope lights, and then secured in place by installing the hook for the tree in the centre of the portal. This should be a stronger hook (ideally one with a clasp) or ring, as it must be capable of supporting the entire top of the tree plus decorations. Use a plastic anchor for extra strength here as well if you can’t find a stud.

Step 5: Attach Tree Top and Garland
Loop the wire around the bottom of the top part of the tree several times, and then tie it to the hook/ring in the ceiling. Use fake garland that matches the colour of your tree to hide the stem/wire/hook as it meets the ceiling. This will also help the illusion that the tree is solid and continuous as it goes down through the floor and out through the ceiling. You may have to play with it a bit if it doesn’t hang straight, but I personally liked it having a bit of a tilt.

Step 6: Stand The Bottom Part
Turn the bottom of the tree over and position it in the centre of the bottom portal. Use fishing line and more hooks to secure it to the wall. We found it remarkably hard to find just a stand for a fake tree that didn’t also include the rest of the tree, so we didn’t use any kind of stand. I’m sure someone out there can come up with a clever idea for a stand, but I just didn’t have the time. Comments and suggestions on this are welcome for next year’s tree! Even without a proper stand with the hole in the tinfoil prevented the tree from sliding around on the floor, and the fishing line kept the tree quite secure. Also, if the top of your tree is a little slanted, try to slant the bottom as well so their angles match.

Step 7: Decorate!
Carefully decorate your assembled tree. You can either take down the tree top and add the decorations, or you can add them while it is hanging. If you’re worried about your tree top looking straight, it will be better to add your decorations while it is hanging so that you can ensure it is balanced correctly. Use wire to attach the star/angel/whatever to the top of your tree. Also, be sure to use the LIGHTEST decorations you can find on the tree top. More weight means more danger of the tree top coming down.

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