We’ve all heard the stories about people who put up their tree only to have it tip over during the night. I’m ashamed to say it’s even happened to me once in my younger days, but over the years I’ve honed my methods and now can put up a tree the kids could climb — I wouldn’t put it past my boy, either.
First, get yourself a real tree stand. It should be heavy — mine’s 12 lbs. — to move the center of gravity down towards the floor. Get one that’s welded together from steel, not cheap stamped metal. It should also have 4 bolts and not 3. There’s nothing more annoying then trying to adjust a tree with three bolts. Your brain wants left and right and front and back, not directions based on 120 degrees.
Then, throw out those eye bolts. I replaced mine with standard hex head bolts so I could chuck a 3/8″ square drive adapter into my cordless drill. The last thing you want to do while you’re under the tree is to twist eye bolts in and out. I had trouble finding bolts long enough that were threaded all the way along the shaft, so I ran them through a die to fix that problem.
Getting the Tree
When picking out a tree, pay close attention to the trunk. Make sure it is straight. Many trees have bent trunks, which make it much more difficult to get the tree up straight. If you absolutely have to get the tree with the bent trunk, at least be aware of it beforehand so you can compensate when mounting the tree. Not realizing the tree trunk is bent until after you’ve mounted it might mean having to take the tree out of the stand and doing it over.
If the guy at the tree place offers to cut the bottom of the tree for you, decline. What kind of Toolmonger doesn’t have a bow saw, or better yet a chain saw, waiting to be used at home? Before lopping off a few inches of the bottom, check your tree stand; if it has prongs that raise the tree above the bottom, cut it flat. If it doesn’t, you might consider cutting it at a slight angle. If the bottom of the tree sits flat on the stand the tree will have a harder time drinking.
Setting Up The Tree
Some people swear by putting the stand on the tree while it’s on its side, then raising the tree. You’re never going to get the tree on straight, so just suck it up and drop the tree into the stand when it’s on the ground. You’re going to want some help at this point, someone to hold the tree in position while you’re getting under the tree and to tell you which way you should move the tree to straighten it out.
Before you go under, make sure you have your drill with the right-sized socket and a hand pruner. The hand pruner allows you to cut any branches that interfere with getting the tree centered in the base.
Once you’re under the tree, make sure the tree is centered in the base, and snug the bolts up to the tree trunk. Now when your helper calls out left, right, front, or back, if you’ve aligned the base right, all you need to do is loosen the bolt in the direction you want to go and tighten the opposite bolt. Once your helper is satisfied the tree is straight, get up and take a look yourself. Once you’re satisfied, go back underneath and tighten the bolts about a 1/4″ into the tree, past the bark and into the wood.
When you’ve finally got the tree up, fill the base with water, then check it after 4 hours. Once the tree warms up, it sucks water like a sponge. Wait a bit for the branches to drop — we like to get our tree in the morning and decorate it at night — then decorate to your liking knowing the tree isn’t going anywhere.