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Colossians 2:1-10

Now, I think I may have gone a bit over the top this time. What happened was this: my friend Tom was down to do the family service talks at St James' Muswell Hill, and he asked if I could make him a tree. "I have just the thing," I said, "I have a conker tree growing in a pot. I have grown it from a conker." "How big is this tree?" he asked. "About that big," I said, waving my hand about three feet above the ground. "Hmm," he replied, "I was hoping for something a bit bigger."

Over the next few days, out came the jigsaw, and a couple of bits of MDF, a few cardboard tubes and a roll of green art paper. Now, read on...

rootsThe first step was to make some roots. That was the whole point of the thing, you see, to help people to remember that we should be rooted in Christ, strengthened in the faith and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7). These roots were cut - using a jigsaw - from two bits of 1200 x 600 x 6mm MDF, available from timber yards and DIY stores all over the land. Gill my wife said these roots were "Gaudiesque," which I took as a compliment.

These are the bits that the tree stands on, so you need some widely spaced flat areas at the bottom to act as feet. And you need to cut a slot in the top of one piece and the bottom of the other so that the two bits fit together. Make the slots a reasonably tight fit so that the assembly doesn't wobble around, and don't have a really curly root that loops around under the bottom slot or you won't be able to fit the other bit in from below. The smaller slots in the top are to receive the cardboard tube that makes up the tree trunk. Obviously you have to cut these the right distance apart or your tube won't fit (voice of experience speaking there).


roots fitted togetherSo these are the two roots fitted together and moved onto the grass. By some mysterious process the slots in the top to receive the tree trunk tube have disappeared! I will leave you to work out the order in which I did things here, and whether the whole thing was not fully planned before I started.


slotsHere's the base of the main tree trunk cardboard tube. This tube is 85mm in diameter and used to have a big roll of paper wrapped around it. You can usually find several kicking about near your A0 inkjet plotter. (What? You don't have an A0 inkjet plotter? Speak to a friendly engineer or architect or printer and they will happily offload any number of old cardboard tubes that they would otherwise throw away. Unless, of course, they are avid readers of Desert Island Church and have plans to speak on being rooted in Christ.)

Anyway, the slots are made with a jigsaw, or any sort of saw really. You have to make sure they are parallel to each other and to the axis of the tube, or it won't fit on the base. Cut some slots in the other end while you're about it.

first bit of tree trunk on rootsThen fit the trunk onto the roots. Already it's over a metre high.

node B in bitsNow, I'm quite proud of this bit. It's the junction piece I have designed so that the cardboard tubes fit together in an ultra-realistic tree-like way. It's more bits of MDF with slots - you'll have enough left over after cutting out the roots to make these.

The junction piece should be a bit wider at the ends than the diameter of the cardboard tubes - this one is 100mm wide where it fits onto an 85mm tube.

If I ever made a mark II version I would make the MDF a bit wider - say 120mm for an 85mm tube - and cut slots in the end like the root base pieces have. Then the tube would push into the MDF and the junction would be even stronger and more robust.

node B assembledHere's the assembled junction. You could glue it together if you want, but it will be fairly strong and stiff anyway.

node joints full setHere's a full set of junctions. You can probably tell from the sizes of the cross pieces that the branches get smaller further up, just like a real tree. The ones that don't have cross pieces are for the pipe lagging.

Pipe lagging? What pipe lagging?

roots and branchesPut all the junctions and branches together. By now it's enormous.

Note how the branches are carefully angled so that the centre of gravity of the tree stays over the roots. In other words, the large tube that sticks out a bit to the left is balanced by the smaller tube which sticks out more to the right. This ensures that the whole thing doesn't fall over, and helps in my quest for hyper-realism.

You'll probably want to take it all to bits in order to take it to church (you'll look a bit daft carrying a 3m high cardboard tree down Muswell Hill Broadway), but when you get there, put some tape round the junctions.

junctionIf you don't, the tubes may start to split, like this.

entire treeThe final touch is to cut out lots of leaves from green art paper. I used "fadeless art paper" (search online - it costs about £2.55 for 0.6m x 3.6m). It's made by the Pacon Corporation - an American company. Because it comes in rolls you have to iron it to make it stay flat.

Stick a strip of sellotape down the middle of each leaf so the paper doesn't tear, and then stick several leaves - more sellotape - to a bit of pipe lagging. Repeat to produce several branches, and then put the pipe lagging on the ends of the cardboard tubes. Again you will need to tape these in place.

There! A fantastic tree, accurate in every detail. Now, what was the point of the talk again?

Seriously, you have to be careful with over the top visual aids like this that people don't remember the illustration and completely forget what you're trying to teach them from God's word.


Desert island church by John Parker. Contact me via the about page. Text and images copyright © 2014 John Parker www.desertislandchurch.co.uk.