I finally got my aluminum Christmas trees up, well two of them at least. The two four-footers are up. One is next to the bay window of my bedroom up at the mountain house the other is here in our city house. The six foot aluminum tree will have to wait until someone volunteers to drill more holes in the wooden broomstick handle that now serves as the center pole. Unfortunately it was missing this part when I bought it on Ebay. Maybe if I’m lucky, I can get someone to do it for me before Christmas, if not, then that one will just have to be a Valentine’s day aluminum tree *snif*. Aluminum trees were introduced to the general public in the 1950’s and remained highly popular until about 1970 or so. When green artificial trees came out, people lost interest in the aluminum tree and production of them eventually stopped. Today they are highly collectible.
Vintage aluminum Christmas trees are rarely in perfect condition and the ones that are, often sell for hundreds of dollars. The little silver needles (which are nothing more than strips of aluminum fringe wrapped in spiral fashion around a thin metal rod) are usually crushed and bent out of shape due to improper storage and mistreatment.
They can be tricky to straighten out again and if you’re not careful the needles will just snap right off because the aluminum tends to be dry and very brittle with age. The best way to restore one of these trees is to hold each branch by the base where there are no needles and begin smoothing them out from the top down. Straighten out and flatten each needle with your fingertips. Don’t pull on the needle or yank it outwards because this will likely cause it to snap off. If the needle has kinks or creases in it, just “iron” them out gently with your fingertips by applying pressure on the crease or bending it slightly in the opposite direction. If the needle is twisted around at any point, untwist it slowly and gently. If you do lose some of the needles don’t despair, you can hot glue them back on individually wherever you see an empty spot. Sometimes the entire aluminum strip will have come loose from the metal rod and needs to be wound tightly around it once more. This is not difficult if you are careful not to crush the needles while doing so. Also, some of the branches have old and yellowing scotch tape holding the aluminum strip on at the bottom. I replaced all the old yellowing tape with new tape.
This is all slow and painstaking work and it’s best to begin a couple of months before Christmas especially if the branches are very tangled. I once heard of a man who patiently unwrapped each strip of aluminum from the metal rods and ironed them back into shape with a regular clothes iron and then re-wrapped them. I tried to do this with one of the branches but I quickly discarded that idea because I found that it was completely un-wrappable and stiff and it began to break into little pieces. Once I got the hang of how to handle the aluminum needles I actually had very few of them break off and I was able to straighten them out so that the trees looked nice once more. Not perfect though. These trees will never again look like they did when they came out of the box brand spanking new, but then, they aren’t supposed to. They’re vintage.
The most important thing you have to remember after Christmas is to store the branches properly. These branches originally came in thin paper sleeves or tubes that protected them from getting crushed and twisted. It’s very important to put them in the sleeves from the bottom downwards, not from top upwards. In other words stick the base of each branch into the paper tube first and then slide the rest of it down until it’s completely inserted in the sleeve. When you remove the branch from the sleeve, you just take it by the bottom end of the metal rod and pull it out slowly. Never do it backwards because that’s what caused the damage in the first place. Also, its important to remember that aluminum trees must NEVER have electric lights strung on them because they are metal and there is a danger of short circuits or electrical shocks. Aluminum trees go hand in hand with color wheels (widely available on Ebay) that are placed next to the tree which reflects the light and constantly changes colors. They’re show stoppers and in my opinion, no other artificial tree can outshine these.
And just so you don’t think that I have given up on green trees entirely…..here is our 9 ft. monster tree. It’s still our main tree in the living room.
Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home
Feathered Nest Friday at The French Country Cottage