DIY outdoor aluminum pie pan Christmas tree

pie-pan-christmas-tree-nightBack in the day, folks had fewer material possessions, so they used their imagination — and resources at hand — to create cheery Christmas decorations. Reader Lucan had fond memories of the lighted outdoor pie pan Christmas trees of her childhood — and handily recreated one for herself. Get yee some pot pies (Pam says that one of her favorite comfort foods is Marie Calendar’s chicken pot pie — the big two-serving one, who ya kidding, comfort food needs to be eaten in large portions)… eat ’em up… get a string of lights… and some stray plywood… and you will soon be in pie plate Christmas tree business.


What an awesome idea — but Pam and I wondered — doesn’t aluminum conduct electricity, which would cause anyone who touched the tree to get a big shock?

Good news, Lucan thought of this and responded:

I did ask before making the pie pan tree. The bulbs go through holes in the wood, so the metal of the bulb does not touch the metal on the pie pan. The wood separates them. I made it about six years ago and have never had a problem.

pie-pan-tree-reflectorWell done, Lucan, especially for making sure to follow the NOEL rule — that is — NO Electric Lights on aluminum trees, whether they are made of pie pans or not. Stay smart and safe this holiday readers, and when DIY-ing with electricity, make sure to consult with a properly licensed professional.


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  1. Mary Elizabeth says

    I remember making something like this as a holiday project in school in the 1950s, but with no lights. We drew pictures of our favorite holiday/winter activity or object, colored them in bright colors, cut them out in a circle and glued them in the aluminum pie tins, which the teacher had been collecting from our moms all fall. I think we used a protractor to make the circle just the right size for the inside of the plate. Then we glued tinsel around the rims of the tins and the teacher thumb-tacked them to the bulletin board in a tree shape. The Jewish kids drew menorahs and so on for their plates.

    In Brownie Scouts, we also used to make ornaments for our Christmas trees using the tins from the individual servings of Table Talk Pies. (Do they even sell these little pies anymore? They probably tasted like cardboard, but we thought they were “swell.”) The leader came in with the fronts of lots and lots of old Christmas cards (probably saved from her own stash and/or solicited from neighbors), and we found a focal point on the card picture–kids on a sled, a poinsettia, a snow man, Santa, etc.–traced a circle around it in just the right size to fit inside the pie tin, cut it out, and then glued it inside the pan. A line of glue inside the rim was then covered with glitter. Two holes were punched in the pan (our leader did this part), and we threaded a bit of red or green yarn or ribbon through them to make a hanger.

    This was so much fun that I went home with my one ornament and convinced my mother to give up her stash of saved pie tins (my mother saved EVERYTHING), bits of ribbon and rickrack and last year’s Christmas cards so that my sisters and I could make more pie tin ornaments. They glittered very nicely on the tree.

    And speaking of lights on the tree, we were never allowed to have Christmas lights on our tree, aluminum or evergreen, because when my mother was a child her family always spent Christmas Eve overnight with her aunt and uncle, who had a very nice house with a glassed-in porch where they put their Christmas tree. One Christmas the defective tree lights set the tree on fire, and they all had to run out in the cold in their pajamas until the fire department said it was safe to go back in. There was tremendous damage to the porch and part of the house. So she never trusted lights after that. When they came out with the low-heat safety ones, she allowed my father to put them on the tree, but she insisted the lights be turned off whenever the room wasn’t occupied.

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        Thanks, Rick! It is what they now call the “4-inch mini snack” tin that we made the ornaments from. But I swear it was more like 3 1/2 inches then. 🙂 Do you suppose that we could find those little tart tins without having to eat all that pie?

        • Rick S says

          Mary Elizabeth,

          The WEBsturant store has 3″ pans, see below 🙂 seems like a bargan and plenty to hoard, I mean save, for other projects.

          Wilkinson A90 3″ Foil Tart Pan Deep 7/8″ 125 / Pack
          Each only


        • Lucan Watkins says

          My neighbor had his parent’s pie pan tree. He replaced the aluminum pie pans with metal tart pans. The tart pans dulled and he had to go back to the original aluminum pie pans.

  2. Sara says

    When I was a kid, we had huge pie pan star on our roof at Christmas. I think my parents might still have it, in which case I need to get my hands on it! Thank you for reminding me!

  3. JKM says

    Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten about decorations like this. There’s so many more choices now and so many people have the same things, albeit at different scales, that simpler, more personal decorations have gone to the wayside. Thank you for sharing this – and making me smile this morning.

  4. Ruth says

    I dearly love homemade decorations like this. The one that was a favorite of my family was the ‘ice candle’. Take a half gallon cardboard milk carton, put a candle in it, fill around the candle with broken ice cubes, fill with melted wax. The wax will melt away leaving a big square candle with a lot of interesting holes in it. Decorate with a holly spring. this was a favorite in both girl scouts and the church youth group. Sigh, just thinking about it makes me want to empty out the milk carton and make one.

  5. says

    A wonderful idea! I remember doing a tree like this in the secnodary school. I had about 9 pot pies so forming a tree was quite difficult and I had to make the cordage myself with dad… Half of the lights didn’t work properly and I had my fingers burned, but I felt so proud of the product. Hope I get to make it once more!

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