Earlier this year, I was helping my dad clean out a part of his old shed to make some room for a new shelving unit, deep at the back I pulled out a strange shaped object and it took me a minute before I realised what it was, my grandmother’s old Christmas tree. When my parents first got married, they took a Christmas tree from my grandmothers house in Europe all the way to Australia and used it for many years to come. I remember it being set up in the tv room and always thought it looked like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Now this tree isn’t like the big bushy festive shrubs you may be use to, it’s very much a little bit on the scrawny side but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. So I thought, ‘I’ll fix it up and finally have a true vintage Christmas tree!’.
I personally haven’t seen another skinny tree like this so I’m not sure if it was just a European thing, a passing trend or perhaps because my family wasn’t the wealthiest, it was a ‘poor mans tree’. There’s no box (as it had to fit into a suitcase to be transported) and I have no idea if there is a brand I could look up. If you recognise such a tree, I’d love to hear any information you have, even if it’s just to tell me you know someone who had something similar. But I digress, today I thought I’d share the process of cleaning up this tree with over ten years of dust attached to it. It’s going to be gross but satisfying.
To begin, before I even brought it into my house, I shook off as much dust as I could because I didn’t want to keep getting dust and dirt all over my home. I inspected the tree to see how the plastic had held up and was happy to see that the tree wasn’t crumbling or frail in anyway. Hurray! I thought it best to start with the wooden base stand which is made up of two pieces of wood which form a cross base for the tree. One part of the base was a little worse for wear so using water and a little bit of baby shampoo, I gave the base a good scrub using an old toothbrush. I didn’t want to soak the base as I’m not sure the varnish would protect it and I didn’t want the water to warp the base. I couldn’t remove some of the dark staining but I’m hoping that next year I can sand down the base and re-varnish it to hide the stain. For now, I just wanted her clean and I was pretty happy with the results. I put the base outside to fully dry and it didn’t take long in the sun.
The tree itself is split into two halves that screw into each other. To wash the tree, I didn’t want to use anything overly harsh so I made up a gentle washing solution of warm water with a little baby shampoo. Then using a toothbrush, I scrubbed every single inch of the tree. It took me many christmas movies to make sure it was all done properly but I think it was worth it. I then rinsed off the tree using a damp sponge and a microfibre as I didn’t want to soak the tree just incase it started to rust or the water damaged it in anyway. Once rinsed, I made up another bucket of water and baby shampoo solution and using a fluffy sponge, I washed the tree again just to make sure she was nice and clean. Luckily when I washed my tree it was quite a warm day so I left the tree on my outside table to dry which took about an hour.
The following day, when the tree was green and smelt delicious, I noticed that the nut attached to the lower half of the tree was really rusted into place. It had to be removed in order to reassemble the tree to I used a bit of WD-40 and sprayed it around the nut and left it to soak for a full day. I put a plastic bag around the base to make sure the WD-40 wouldn’t go everywhere which was a good idea as Brian (my cat), was very curious about the whole restoration process. After a full day of soaking in WD-40, it was still a bit of a challenge to remove the nut but my Dad came over and made it look super easy… I’m pretty sure I loosened it up for him. We then reassembled the tree starting with attaching the tree halves together and then attaching it to the base. We added an extra washer to help secure the tree and she was up and standing in all her twiggy glory.
I’m going to be a bit honest here and say normally, I love Christmas and decorating my house, but after such a crazy year, I’m not really in the mood. So I didn’t pull out any fancy or even vintage decorations and instead grabbed a bag of plastic baubles and some very old string candle lights and dressed up the tree. I’m hoping right before Christmas the festive spirit will hit me and I’ll strip and re-decorate my tree but for now, I’m happy to have at least a little something to enjoy.
It’s not exactly ground breaking or anything over special especially when you see some other people’s massive Christmas trees but I’m really happy with how it came together. With a little elbow grease and time, I was able to bring a little festive joy into the house. She’s skinny, a little lop sided but I love her just the same. I’m sure my grandmother would think it’s great that her festive twig is now proudly displayed in the living room and is all squeaky clean.I’m also sorry that the photos of the tree are not the greatest, our curtains are still waiting to be made and our garden is also a bit of a mess so I did the best I could. If our curtains arrive before Christmas, I’ll retake the photos and upload them below.
If you are restoring a vintage Christmas tree, I’d love to see your progress and how you did it. I sort of made it all up as I went along.
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