John’s 2011 RGB Megatree


Click to Enlarge

While last year’s triangle tree worked out fairly well, it was definitely a last-minute design.  12 feet tall and containing 16 x 42 node strings, it was fun to watch for the last couple weeks in December.

But there’s always room for improvement.

This time, we decided to start earlier in the year, in order to end up with something extra special.

During October’s indoor tree demo, we confirmed that 48 full strings of light added about 100 pounds of weight.  At that trim height, the wiring represents a substantial load & leverage force.  So based on Walter & Jackie Monkhouse’s detailed plans I build a rebar-reinforced concrete base weighing 120 pounds.  This was fitted with sturdy eyebolts as designed, then securely  anchored in the ground with a quartet of 3/4″ concrete stakes 36″ long.

On top of the base I added a two-part pole assembly based on 10′ sections of 2″ and 1.5″ rigid EMT conduit.  From the friendly folks at I procured a 24″ star frame, a megatree hook set and a pully head.  From Lowes I bought, then installed, a geared winch on the pole.  This way the main tree assembly could move up and down for repairs, testing and potential bad weather.

Then, because of the recent 102 mph windstorm not far from our home, I added three external guy wires made of 3/16″ wire rope (rated at 800 pounds minimum breaking strength).  These attached to the top of the 2″ pipe, then anchored in the ground with more 36″ stakes, heavy turnbuckles and a handful of shackles.

The entire post assembly (20′ of pipe, less 2′ of overlap, plus about 2.5′ of star) was assembled on the ground, then tilted into place and anchored securely.

Using a 10′ A-frame ladder, I attached three StellaGreen strings to each of the hook head’s 16 angle brackets.  At this time, the pully head was resting at the top of the 2″ pipe section.  Had I used 1.5″ and 1.0″ pipe for the entire assembly, the hook head would have moved freely to the ground.  However, the sturdiness of the thicker pipe is reassurring.

Once the foundation was set and stable, the hook head was cranked up to full working height.

Finally, I built a base ring from 60′ of 1/2″ PCV pipe, joined together with simple sleeve fittings.  The string spacing at the base of the tree is about 15″ on center, and it’s a nice balance.  Our StellaGreen strings contain 85 RGB nodes on 10 cm (3.93700787 inch) spacing, plus an 2.5 meter pigtail at the beginning for convenient connection to a controller.  Thus, the strings offer more or less 28′ of light to work with.  In this installation, I didn’t want our home or the neighbor’s home to be damaged if the tree somehow tipped over.  So the tree is a bit shorter than it could be, per Mr. Pythagoras and some catenary sagging.  There’s about 3′ of node string at the base of the tree, arranged in a neat inverted sunburst pattern.

The tree is driven by a trio of E16-II Ethernet controllers.  Total power draw is around 800 watts peak.  85 nodes per string x 3 channels per node x 48 strings equals 4,080 nodes and 12,240 total control channels.  With a 44 Hz refresh rate across the entire system, color fades are as smooth as silk.

Neighbors say that at night, when they enter the neighborhood from 1/4 mile away, the top section of the tree peeks through the other houses like an iridescent spaceship.


Hoping to post some video clips in a day or so.  Click any of these photos above to enlarge.


9 Replies to “John’s 2011 RGB Megatree”

  1. Despite my trying, you’ve managed to out do me again! I thought my 1,556 channels were an achievement! I’ll get some video of my display posted soon and send you some links again.

    Looks great! I’ll have to buy some of your new mega strings for next year. Those strobe strings look sweet too!

  2. John, I am with you on this design, I had to do pretty much the same.

    I am installing my tree on top of a boat so it is made up of a few components from as well.

    I have a 10ft 2″ emt with 2 x 10ft 1.25″ rigid conduits inside which are joined using one of the christmaslightshow rigid conduit joiners.

    I am currently loaded with 16 stellagreen strings which are running 42 nodes up and 42 down (32 strands and I have added the faceted acrylic covers to the nodes. wow what a job that was to pull the hook head up the pole with pulleys and rope.

    I got this installed a couple of weeks ago and last week had some high winds here in So Cal so I hoping that the guys lines (3/16″) have held up when I get back to the boat this weekend to finish off the display. The guy lines had been upgraded due the extra weight of the stellagreens with the covers and also I installed show tubes and stars on guy wires as well.

    I used the 2ft 3-flare star which as 40 rgb modules on it for the top of the tree.

    I hope to get photos of the installation this weekend with video to follow the weekend after from the 2 day show.


  3. the top of tree is only 15ft above the top of the radar bridge, but this puts the top of the tree 35ft above the water line

  4. Mmm. Sad. This year, I will have no lights at all at my house.. Been a bit busy working on a few other projects for other people.. Does that count?

  5. John that looks relay big.

    Nice installation and smart safety devices to take it down in case of storm.

    Only week point I can see, is the plastic coated wire.
    Don’t use only one wire lock and remove the plastic coating around that place.

    Happy to see you got it ready in time.

Comments are closed.