Custom PCB Revives a Vintage Tree Stand

After 56 years, [Jeff Cotten]’s rotating Christmas tree stand had decided enough was enough. While its sturdy cast aluminum frame was ready for another half-century of merriment, the internal mechanism that sent power up through the rotating base had failed and started tripping the circuit breaker. The problem itself seemed easy enough to fix, but the nearly 60 year old failed component was naturally unobtanium.

But with the help of his local makerspace, he was able to manufacture a replacement. It’s not exactly the same as the original part, and he may not get another 56 years out of it, but it worked for this season at least so that’s a win in our books.

The mechanism inside the stand is fairly simple: two metal “wipes” make contact with concentric circle traces on a round PCB. Unfortunately, over the years the stand warped a bit and the wipe made contact with the PCB where it wasn’t intended do. This caused an arc, destroying the PCB.

The first step in recreating the PCB was measuring the wipes and the distance between them. This allowed [Jeff] to determine how thick the traces needed to be, and how much space should be between them. He was then able to take that data and plug it into Inkscape to come up with a design for his replacement board.

To make the PCB itself, he first coated a piece of copper clad board with black spray paint. Using the laser cutter at the makerspace, he was then able to blast away the paint, leaving behind the two concentric circles. A quick dip in acid, a bit of polishing with toothpaste, and he had a replacement board that was close enough to bolt up in place of the original hardware.

If you’d like to see the kind of hacks that take place above the stand, we’ve got plenty to get you inspired before next Christmas.

5 thoughts on “Custom PCB Revives a Vintage Tree Stand

  1. Especially ought to last if you use those AWWWful LED lights. Good save, though. I am amazed that in 56 years, noone noticed how perpetually unstylish rotating trees, are. I saw a silver one yesterday in a victorean, uh… area… not the beat victoeian area. Very gentrified blue-collar. If ever these could be made pretty, the one I saw could be a contendor. But then some like chocolate covered peanut butter. No accounting for tastes, or lack thereof. Being accused of having taste is a problem I will never have. ;>) And I would have fixed it too. Might scare away birds in the garden. Must be SOME use for it…

  2. A tip for everyone who has the same problem but doesn’t have access to a laser cutter to create the mask on the PCB before etching. You can use an ordinary “water resistant marker” (I believe these are also called “magic markers”). These would allow drawing the traces directly onto the PCB, this would be sufficient for withstanding the acids long enough to etch the PCB.

    Good job is restoring this old tree stand. I’m sure it will be functioning for a very very long time.
    In other words a job well done

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