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RGB DMX Mini Trees

Million Color Mini Trees



After the wreath tree addition for 2011 turned out so well I knew I wanted to take the application of RGB to other display elements and my first idea turned to finding a replacement for my old mini tree row.  I had the standard floral easels wrapped in 4 strings, red, green, blue, and white using 4 A/C channels of Light O'Rama and while they didn't look bad they weren't anything spectacular.  I knew I could come up with something that would give me even more color options and sequencing abilities.  Sticking with my own guidelines, everything in the display has been four colors and going forward shall be RGB and operated by DMX. 


MATERIALS LIST
  • Instructions downloaded from www.lightuplawrence.net for free of course!  Christmas Lighting is an obsession that is meant to be shared!
  • 1 50 node string of RGB LED Nodes on 8" spacing. I custom ordered mine on Aliexpress, be sure they are IP68 rated.
  • 1 waterproof, 12v, DMX 512 decoder module.  I ordered mine from HolidayCoro for $7.99 each
  • 1 4' tall Artificial White Alpine Fir tree, mine came from Walmart on after christmas clearance for $6 each.
  • 1 100 count package of small zip ties, $1.99 each
  • 1 4 dore waterproof pigtail, mine came from Aliexpress for $0.76 each
  • Small diameter heat shrink tubing, best price is through Mouser.com
  • 1 can liquid tape, $6 at Lowes

A Complete kit including all DIY materials (does not include the wreath itself ) is available here

STANDARD DISCLAIMER

I'm not an electrician, an expert in electrical things, nor do I have any training or degrees to qualify me as such.  ;)  I'm just a guy who figured out what works for his display.  Take this information as such.  If it works for you, GREAT!  I've accomplished what I set out to do.  If you see a problem with what I'm doing or have a question, please e-mail me.  I'm always excited and willing to learn something new.  I can't assume any responsibility for the outcome of your project if you chose to follow these instructions, or the fallout thereof.    If you think I'm an idiot, kindly smile to yourself, click your "back" button three times, and have a nice day!


TOOLS NEEDED
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Nippers
  • Small  screwdriver
  • Butane Torch
  • Soldering Iron with pointed tip
  • Flux core solder
  • Exacto or other utility knife
  • Sharpie Marker

STEP ONE


This is the tree I started with.  They were carried by Walmart for the 2011 Christmas season.  The normal price was $40 per tree and they came pre-wired with multicolored incandescent lights.  I waited until after Christmas and scooped up 6 of them for $6 each on clearance.  It really was an impulse buy but the opportunity to replace my entire mini tree row for under $40 was too good to pass up!  These particular trees are made by General Foam and because they don't sell anything directly to consumers, only to retailers, I don't have another source for these.  My best advice would be to look online for a retailer that deals with the General Foam product line.

The trees themselves come in two pieces, a "base" that has six hinged branches and a top or upper piece that is formed of straight wire branches.  The incandescent strings are built in "loops" and each bulb is attached to the branches with a small plastic clip.  It was a long and time consuming process to remove these and save each clip but I ended up using them to re-attach the RGB nodes and the cheap skate in me was proud that I didn't have to blow though a couple thousand more zip ties.  Start at the bottom of the tree and work your way up, slowly unfolding the branches as you go.  This will help keep the strings easily visible and accessible for removal.   I'd also recommend doing this in a place you can sit down  and make a mess.  The little white tinsel "needles" shed like crazy.  Our concrete floors made sweeping up easy but carpet would be a nightmare.


STEP TWO
       


To begin we will prep and wire the RGB Node string and DMX Decoder.  You;ll notice in this picture that there is approximately 8" between each node on this particular string.  I custom ordered these strings from China.  The default spacing for a node string is approximately 3".  Either one will work for the purpose of this build but the 8" spacing will make it a bit easier to align and wrap the branches as it gives you a little more flexibility.  All of the nodes that I've ordered for these projects are the new IP68 Rated resin filled nodes so there isn't a need to further waterproof or treat them.  All we need to do in this case is add our 4 core pigtail.  You'll want to wire up one of these 60 node strings for each tree that you are planning on doing.

For details, reference the RGB DMX Wiring section of our website here.


STEP THREE



Depending on which method of control you are choosing you may also want to wire up the DMX Decoders at this time.  Both of the unit's shown can be purchased through Holiday Coro.  Now, you don't have to use these, you could run the RGB Trees on a standard LOR or D-Light D/C Board.  You can also run a whole row of these on a single 9 Channel controller.  As you can see, when it comes to control you have lots of options so I'm purposefully leaving this section a bit vague.  Bottom line is you don't have to know which route you want to go, just begin thinking about it so you can plan for it down the road. 




STEP FOUR

The next step is fairly painless, although it does create a gigantic mess.  I suggest doing this either outside or in an area that is easy to sweep up.  We need to "De-Bulb" the store bought tree and doing this is bound to tear off at least a thousand tiny little white needles.  Guaranteed.  Each of the bulbs is held onto the tree by a tiny plastic clip.  With my big fingers just getting a hold of them posed a challenge.  After much trial and error I found the best way to do this was to employ use a pair of needle nosed pliers.  Just grab the back of the clip, twist and pull at the same time.  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  Due to the way these lights are wired they aren't useful for anything else.  If they start to get in the way just cut them off and continue on.  I toss all of these in a bag to use as a trade in for the LED swaps at Lowes come December.


STEP FIVE


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STEP SIX


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STEP SEVEN


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STEP EIGHT



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STEP NINE


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STEP TEN


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