Wire Craft Project: How to Make a Wire Tree

For your next wire craft project, learn how to make a wire tree. With a few snipped bits of wire and a few twists of the pliers, you can create these wonderful pint-sized plants.

| November/December 1980

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    Before you begin your project, use a pocketknife to remove any insulation from your electrical wires. To create a tiny tree, first stack several "peeled" wire sets together, grip the entire cluster with two pairs of pliers, and twist this "trunk" by rotating the tools in opposite directions. Next separate the short (root) wire ends into small bundles and twist the groupings. Shape the limbs as you form them (and be sure you bend the complete branches away from the unformed ones).
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    The tools of the miniature tree crafting trade.
  • Oak tree
    Any tree can be your inspiration for making a miniature version out of wire!
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    This 12-inch arboreal beauty made from 10-gauge electrical wire is perched on a chunk of glass and has a bird's nest full of pearl "eggs" secured (by a drop or two of glue) in a fork of its branches.
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    Note the dividing and twisting patterns on the end of these branches.

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  • Oak tree
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Anyone can partake in the fun wire craft project of fashioning wire trees. Handcrafting lovely trees from bits of scrap wire can be a relaxing, fascinating, and potentially profitable hobby. The little sculptures offer an opportunity for the artist to express his or her love for (and appreciation of) the largest of all plants, and even to faithfully mirror the intricate branch patterns that denote specific varieties of trees, the ravages of mountainside winds, or the gnarled stubbornness of age. Furthermore, though the tiny creations fit beautifully into complete miniature scenes, they can also stand alone — perched on a hunk of driftwood or wrapped around an attractive stone — as pieces of decorative artwork!

I've found that the craft intrigues children (including my son Tommy) as well as adults. And — because uncomplicated versions of the wire trees are rather easy to make — the hobby can be used to keep the young ones busy when foul weather forces them to stay indoors, and often underfoot.

Wire Trees: A Nature Study 

Whiling away a little time working with wire can, however, be much more than a child's rainy-day activity. Complicated wire tree sculptures that accurately depict living trees require a good understanding of arboreal structure and are usually created by patient, sensitive adult hands. Such finely crafted items make especially pleasing gifts, and can be marketed in stores for handsome prices. (I've seen one 12 inches tall sell for $75! )

Most tree species can be identified, of course, by their characteristic shapes and branching patterns, so — before you start making wire look-alikes — it might be wise to poke your head outside for a close study of the "models" growing in your neighborhood. Then you can let your imagination ( and your gained-through-experience ability to work with tiny metal strands) determine the size and shape your creation should take.

Materials for Wire Tree Craft Projects 

Although a number of different kinds of wire can be used to craft the miniature trees (picture-hanging "cable" being a notable exception), I prefer 10- to 12-gauge electrical wire for most trees. It's composed of a number of 22- to 24-gauge copper strands enclosed in plastic insulation. ( While tiny three- to five-inch sculptures are usually constructed of 24-gauge wire, trees as tall as 12 inches will be more substantial if made with the slightly thicker 22-gauge material, and even heavier strands should be used for trees over one foot in height.)

I've asked a number of electricians to give me their leftover bits of wire, and they've kept me supplied with enough trimmings to twist up a forest! However, if scraps are hard for you to come by, you can either purchase electrical wire (at about 14 cents per foot) or buy single-strand wire, by the spool, at a hardware store. (A small reel of wire, usually costing less than $1.00, contains enough material to make two or three trees, each four to five inches tall.)

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