It seemed like a good idea | How About Orange

December 17, 2008

It seemed like a good idea

We have an aluminum tree this year, but weren't sure how to light it. Idea one: use a string of Christmas lights like normal people do on Christmas trees. The problem: the cords only come in dark green or white, and both stick out like a sore thumb on this tree. Idea two: get one of those color wheel things that people used decades ago. The problem: It doesn't light up your tree whatsoever, and the gizmo is, to quote my husband, "a piece of crap."

So we went with idea three: silver metallic spray paint. (We taped the bulbs so they wouldn't be painted.) The result is awesome. Just one small problem: it's been 3 days and the paint is still sticky. Hmmm. It's perfectly dry on the plug and lightbulb sockets. But the cord is still tacky to the touch. Why??? Maybe by mid-January it will be dry enough to pack up and store for next year, if it hasn't glued itself to the tree permanently by then. But hey, the lights look great and you can't see the cord at all!

Here's a bad photo for you. The tree is about six feet tall and rather skinny. It's like me in high school. I had silver metal braces, too.

Update: The paint was still tacky when we packed up the lights for storage in January. When we took them out again in December one year later, the paint was finally dry. Also, thanks for considering my safety, friends. I'm pleased to report that after using the lights on the tree for three years, we have not been electrocuted.

71 comments:

kjansma said...

Maybe the special Krylon plastic paint would have worked better? I know it's too late for suggestions, but I thought maybe for next year, if this stuff never dries...

Jess said...

Yeah, I probably should have done that. Home Depot didn't have any and I didn't have time to go to the other store. Let that be a lesson to me!

ariandar said...

This is such a fantastic idea! I use xmas lights in my windows all year round, but always disliked how the cord didn't match the window trim. Thanks for this!

Grandma G said...

ALEX said THAT?!!! *gasp* ;-)

Strange problem. The plug and sockets are obviously made of different material than the cord. But you would think it would still dry, even if it maybe didn't stick very well in the long run. Maybe a chemical thing goin' on there.

I'm glad it looks nice, anyway!

Rita said...

Yikes! Watch your tree! The reason why they made those dorky color wheels was because regular lights could spark on the metal tree and cause a fire. But, that was the lights back in the 50's/60's when these trees were first popular. The new lights could be different. You might want to do a little research about that. But I love those aluminum trees.

Janne said...

Interesting. I've encountered a similar challenge myself, as I recently purchased a white tree, but can't find white or clear corded lights... The only one I could find with a clear cord had glass balls outside every light.. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I got them. Have no idea how it will look yet, but fingers crossed.

PS. Someone actually suggested I do what you tried. Glad I didn't, now! Thanks for sharing.

HomeSpun Threads said...

PRETTY! I love it! just think if they do stick to your tree, it'll be forever "pre-lit".

Homegrown {& the Bug} said...

Ack! You're the only person I've ever "met" that actually has an old silver tree just like we do! I absolutely love mine and though my son is getting older and I kind of feel like he deserves a big real tree, I'm refusing to let our lovely silver guy go.
This is a great idea too. Last year we put the tree in the window and then put our lights around the window so I could leave them on 24/7 and it actually reflected pretty well...but it just wasn't the same. We've got strands of white lights on the tree this year and I've been brave enough to leave them on while out the house for a bit but not overnight. I'd always heard it wasn't safe but you rarely ever hear of light strand accidents anymore I'm tempted to leave them on day in and day out...

Anonymous said...

Awesome but... more pictures!

dana said...

sorry for your wet-paint mess.
your tree sounds awesome though. great idea with the silver and aluminum.

Kelly said...

wow - that had to be a time consuming process, but the outcome is awesome!

xo
Kelly

wendy said...

That color-wheel thing is hilarious! I kinda want to see your whole tree. It sounds really cool! Will you post a pict the whole thing? Pretty pleeez, with tinsel on top?

flanthrower said...

So you did end up going with the idea to spray-paint. The post that I'd originally read on the subject never mentioned anything about the paint not drying. At least the lights look great! The winter air here is pretty dry so who knows...in a few more days it might be perfectly dry?

Jennifer said...

i actually have some lights from ikea that have a clear cord. i think those would work with a silver tree.

Jess said...

A clear cord! Never seen such a thing. Cool. I'll post a picture of the whole thing in a bit. Stay tuned.

Jessie said...

I spray painted lights years ago and had the same problem- they never really stopped being weirdly sticky. I have no idea why.

Chelsey said...

It's such a cute tree! Good thinking with the spray paint!

Grandma G said...

I never thought you looked like a Christmas tree in high school. But now that you mention it....

froghair said...

It sure looks GREAT, but like Rita said, the holiday safety folks (nfpa.org) say stuff like "never use electric lights on metal trees" etc. Do be careful!

Jess said...

Will do. I'll watch it like a hawk. At least until I fall asleep on the sofa. Really, thanks for the warning, though. I never thought about that before.

Alfred T. Mahan said...

If Alex doesn't watch his language, the Navy's going to take his ex-sailor card away. The Master Chiefs are going to be sorely disappointed in him... :]

Jess said...

I know, what a potty mouth he has.

kerrie said...

The tree looks awesome.

I guess the cord, made out of PVC is reacting to the acrylic paint. Maybe the two plastics are incompatible. It reminds me of times I would glue models together, using too much glue and the whole darned thing would melt into a gooey mess.

I suggest you simply leave the lights on the tree rather and store it that way if it's possible.

Canndy Pan said...

I like the photo. I think it's a wonderful x'mas tree.

Anonymous said...

be careful, they recommend not using lights on metallic trees because there's a risk for burn/electrocution if there's a crack in a wire or a short or something. I guess the tree can become electrified...

Cynthia said...

It may have something to do with the pigmentation of metallic paints. I had the same problem with a stamp pad in gold, it's been over three weeks and the stupid thing still smears - messed up my Xmas cards!

But do be careful, if I were you I would go to Ikea and buy the clear ones. Losing one's house is not worth a pretty Xmas tree. By the way, I grew up with one of these and miss the color wheel and all. Don't remember it looking ugly, even though Mom put all kinds of white lights on it. Thanks for the memories!

Julie said...

Oh, that very thing happened to me when I decided to spray paint a vinyl coated wire file holder. Tacky, tacky, would not dry. So very frustrating. :(

lisavollrath said...

One trick for painting plastic items: get yourself a can of plastic model paint from a hobby store that caters to folks who build model cars. I've painted all sorts of crazy plastic things with it (or primed first with plastic model primer). Works like a charm!

Alfred T. Mahan said...

Incidentally, you *could* just talk to your friend who has experience painting plastic things, you know. I mean, it's not like I build models and paint plastic soldiers and tanks or anything...

..... Carmen said...

Your last comment made me laugh :) Very nice tree. Perhaps it has something to do with the spray paint on plastic... was it intended for platic? lol

E to the M said...

My local craft store has small rice lights and they have a metallic-ish cord.

Vacuum Queen said...

Awesome! I actually had a great color wheel, but we lost it in a fire. :( Haven't found a good one since.

Allison said...

Oooooh! Looks good! You are totally making me want an aluminum tree now!

Amanda said...

That was such a good idea. We set up our aluminum Christmas tree this year, but took it right back down because our second color wheel in two years just wasn't cutting it and I was afraid it couldn't handle the corded lights. Good to know for next year.

Anonymous said...

well, if it does stick then on the bright side- you have a pre-lit christmas tree!

Anonymous said...

You're not supposed to put lights on those trees- it's a fire hazard. I have a silver tree and a color wheel, which works well lighting the tree. Maybe two wheels would work better.

Amber said...

My first thought was maybe the electricity going through the cord is keeping the paint tacky...

Larissa Holland said...

i was going to suggest that Krylon paint for plastic stuff too, so now I have no relevant comment to make except, cool tree!
and also, don't leave it plugged in when you are out. Just in case you have a cord deterioration goin' on there.

Sarah Pecorino said...

if it's still sticky and you want it to bother with it, you can spray it lightly with shellac. Sounds weird, but we used to do it all the time in the theatre when spray paint didn't dry in time for rehearsal. You might loose a bit of the sparkle of the silver, but it won't stick to itself or the tree anymore.

Jess said...

Excellent. Thanks for the tip!

ro.duh. said...

clever! you can't go wrong anymore with a silver christmas tree. it's making a come back.

Erin said...

Ab fab! I love the artwork in the background of the photo, by the way.

Muddling Through said...

Oh well, some of my most brilliant ideas don't work either. But at least you learn what doesn't work. :)

~Elaine~

v8_grrl said...

You aren't supposed to put lights on a metal tree!!!!

It's ONE BIG ELECTRICAL CONDUCTOR!!!!

girl get those things off of there. probably safer with candles then lights :)
(joking about the candles)
but honestly no lighting of the metal tree

v8grrl

v8_grrl said...

oh...yeah and to the person who said they hardly ever hear about light problems anymore...that is because people don't use metal trees anymore!

we have one also, with a spinning stand and the light wheel and we just got a better light to go behind the wheel it looks great. not as great as the little lights but there is no way I would want to risk my kids or cats touching an electrified tree. ZAAAPPPP

Anonymous said...

there are LED light with transparent cord... we saw them at Target, and we have some from IKEA...

[J] said...

Looks great regardless of the grief!

Condo Blues said...

My grandparents had a metal tree with the light wheel. Now I morn that it went away in Garge Sale Heaven.

I don't think you're supposed to put incandesent (sp) lights on a metal tree because they still burn too hot when lite for long periods of time. Not as hot as the bigger bulbs during the 50's-60's but they still burn hot enough to melt things. LED christmas tree lights burn cooler and won't melt or singe anything. They might be a safer option.

Elizabeth Magee said...

Your tree looks really neat!
I spray-painted some clay ornaments in June and they're STILL sticky! I don't know what the heck happened. I can only figure that it was too humid when I sprayed outside or something.

Clare said...

If Charlie brown taught us anything, its that it doesnt matter what the tree looks like, its the heart that went into it! I love it though Beautifully shiny!

Pfeiffer Photos said...

So retro!

Sew Create It - Jane said...

I reckon you must be the mother of invention...you are so clever. If you can get away with leaving the lights on then I'd leave them on...that's the bit of decorating the tree that I hate most.

Amy said...

Such a pretty tree! Very modern and festive!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I, too have one of those aluminum trees and had the same issue. I ended up getting some of those ginormous retro round (but clear, not colored) lights. I found that due to the sheer size of those bulbs, it sort of distracts the eye from the white cord.

Anonymous said...

I'm a child of the 60's-70s. I thought that putting electrical lights on an aluminum tree was extremely dangerous. At least that was the propaganda fed to us during that time. ???????

ella said...

the cord must be coated with something. I have noticed in the tiny print that comes with those lights that htey want you to wash your hands after handeling 'cause there's lead exposure from touching the cord.
There! Just what you wanted to know! you fix your cord problem and OUT COME ALL THE DIRE WARNINGS for your life!

LindaJ said...

On the sticky cord issue... I have the same problem when trying to change the color of plastic doll furniture. The cord could be made from either plastic or vinyl. If it's plastic, Krylon Fusion works well. If it's vinyl (which it seems most likely to be), you'll want to use SEM vinyl paint. Krylon Fusion can be purchased at Home Depot and Hobby Lobby. SEM can be found at auto parts stores. Hope that helps and the tree is beautiful regardless!

EVA said...

WOW, thats a great idear. Merry Christmas. EVA

photobrea said...

Fire hazard or not, lights on an aluminum tree are just wrong (sorry!). You really should give the color wheel a try. I have a vintage 6 ft. tall aluminum tree covered in shiny glass vintage ornaments. Sitting in the dark and watching the wheel throw different colors on the tree is just magical. It's like stepping back to a simpler time.

Larraine said...

I think it's so funny that these trees have come back in vogue. Back in 196w (if I remember correctly), I was 15. My mother got one and thought it was great. I thought it was tacky to be honest. I've always been a real tree person. Still, I think they are a lot of fun. I wouldn't mind a small table top tree made out of aluminum, but I still like a green tree.

Petite Ace of Spades said...

Oh my !

"The tree is about six feet tall and rather skinny. It's like me in high school. I had silver metal braces, too"

>> The end of this post is hilarious !

I've been reading your blog for ages but almost never commented ... But that was way too funny not to react !

Happy Holidays,
x x x
___m___

Catherine said...

So pretty!

Carissa said...

I would have done exactly the same thing! And you know, if they stick to the tree you won't have to worry about stringing them next year!

P/F said...

Here's what I don't understand about all of the warnings against lights on the metal tree. (Almost) all of the artificial Christmas trees out there are made of metal too (metal pole w/ aluminum/metal wire branches. wouldn't this be a huge fire/electrocution hazard as well?

I don't know, I just assumed that today's lights are much safer now than the ones my parents and grandparents had in the sixties.

Melissa said...

I have always heard that there is a shock hazzard with an all metal tree. I presumed other trees were different because the needles were plastic.

In any case, to me the color wheel was the best. I grew up with a silver aluminum tree and I remember watching the whole tree change from blue to green, to orange to red. I suppose the closest thing to that effect would be the fiber optic trees. But the aluminum with the color wheel was best. (Use a bright spotlight in the color wheel for the best effect.)

317bossyaussie said...

We have a silver tree too. It was actually my grandmothers tree. I absolutely LOVE it. I was always told to NEVER put lights on it because it is metal and could cause a fire. In fact, I have the original box and instructions and it says the same thing. Like someone else posted, maybe it's changed now with how things have improved, but I think I would check with an electrician before doing it again or leaving the lights on when gone or sleeping....just in case. You don't want to be one of those statistics!
On the other side of it, I think I'll be doing some checking myself because the tree did look so nice and if it's ok to do, I will give it a try next year! Thanks!

317bossyaussie said...

We have a silver tree too. It was actually my grandmothers tree. I absolutely LOVE it. I was always told to NEVER put lights on it because it is metal and could cause a fire. In fact, I have the original box and instructions and it says the same thing. Like someone else posted, maybe it's changed now with how things have improved, but I think I would check with an electrician before doing it again or leaving the lights on when gone or sleeping....just in case. You don't want to be one of those statistics!
On the other side of it, I think I'll be doing some checking myself because the tree did look so nice and if it's ok to do, I will give it a try next year! Thanks!

Tracey in CT said...

The sticky spray paint is an issue with the silver color for some reason. I've spray painted LOTS of tap shoes for my daughter over the years, and never had any issues wtih spray paints of various brands and colors (like lime green, white, red, gold metallic) until the year of the White Elvis Jumpsuit. We were to spray the tap shoes silver metallic. It was a nightmare...the shoes didn't dry completely and stayed tacky for WEEKS. In the end, they never completely dried, and this was true of all the various brands of spray paint used by the moms in the class. All the costumes ended up with silver spray paint on them. Yuck. The studio has never asked anyone to spray their shoes silver since.

ejessop said...

Again, too late of a comment to help for this year...but the whole "paint not drying" issue is caused by interactions between the chemicals in the spray paint and in the coating on the wires. I had this exact problem with a theatrical project I did that required me to paint various electronic cables silver. I'd first tried spray paint, which originally seemed to dry but became tacky again later. Regular latex paint works very well, though it takes a bit longer to coat the cables.

Amy said...

Well hopefully you haven't thrown the string of lights out, you could still decorate something else with them next year! What about trying that stuff that manicurists spray on your fingers to make the polish dry? Or the shellack idea sounds good too! Love your pretty tree!
Great blog, keep up the great posts for 2009!

Jess said...

Well, everyone, here's my final update on the tree. We kept the lights on it over the holidays and had them on for hours every day. They're new lights. We chose to believe that lighting technology has evolved since the 50s and we'd take our chances, and didn't worry about it a bit. And the tree looked great.

The paint is still very slightly tacky, but dry enough to pack away. If it stays that way, that's okay. Overall I'm pleased with the whole deal.

Tracey, that's so interesting about the tap shoes! And everyone, thanks for weighing in on this conundrum!

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