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Author Topic: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?  (Read 7884 times)

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Offline SwampDonkey

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Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« on: November 05, 2004, 02:18:25 PM »
On thursday I called the local wreath shop and asked for specs for tipping balsam fir for the wreaths.

1. disease/insect free
2. Healthy green tips, no green-yellow discoloration or curl
3. 16-18 inches
4. bundle sticks shorter than 4 feet and bundles under 50 lbs

I collected over 300 lbs in 7 hours on my spruce plantation. The fir are naturals coming in between. I coulda got another 100 lbs but the way I piled mine prohibited that. I was going to go up today to the plantation (2 miles away), but its SNOWING and wet. :(

Anyone in Michegan or Maine or Vermont collecting tips for wreaths? I tried making wreaths but my hands get tendonitis and stiff.

As far as I can tell, women are way more tolerant to pain then men cause the shop is 99% women. I tried it 3 days and my hands were stiff for a good 5 days afterward. :D :D I give my hat off to those ladies for that hard work. The shop foreman is kind of a domineeering type, but she has my respect. She's in her 50's and still going strong.  When I tip, I make sure the cut ends all go one way. If you don't it slows things down on their end. Just try it for a day and you'll find out. ;)


cheers
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1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline Tom

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2004, 02:39:51 PM »
I sure would be interested in a "tour" type explanation of this procedure and the occupation as well.  I guess I never thought of this as a stand-alone business. :P

How about teaching me about it and take some pictures maybe.  It would be a good chance to show off your plantation too. ;D

This sounds like another of those niche businesses that could be started on a shoe string all over the country.   It doesn't have to be fir, I'm sure.  I've even seen many made from grapevines.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2004, 03:08:05 PM »
Tipping just started here, ours are mostly white pine and the needle shed was over last Saturday...about 1 pm. The pickups full of sacks of tips are steadily on the road right now. Trees will be moving shortly, they're being marked now in many fields.
The tipping has gone mostly to Mexican labor. Roping and wreathmaking is mostly women, it is grueling work. Both sets of machines are quite simple and the shops are small.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2004, 03:22:49 PM »
I will do that Tom , Hopefully the gals aren't camera shy either. We only need to show the hands. ;)

Balsam fir is most highly sought after in the US wreath market. Unless your allergic, thus you have fake fir wreaths and garland. There is also a difference in the balam fir in Maine, Quebec and the Maritimes because it has a strong smell and is more sought after. Some folks are alergic to the smell as well. There are several wreath making facilities that run for 6 to 8 weeks up to the week before Christmas. It is hard to get help for this work since it causes tendinitus in some and you have to be quick with your hands. Your expected to make at least 45 wreaths in a 8 hour work period, excluding break times. The company I take my tips to have their own wire making factory, 7 miles away. The province would like to coordinate balsam fir thinnings on crown with the tipping season, as suggested by the 'committee on wood supply'. The biggest shortfall , as suggested above, is the wreath making labour.
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline Tom

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2004, 03:30:54 PM »
Just coming in from right field and not knowing what I am talking about. ..................

Why don't they ship the tippings (? something else I need ot be taught :D )  To remote areas rather than trying to make wreaths with limited labor in one locale?

Couldn't the tippings be sent to Atlanta, Miami, Birmingham, St. Louis, etc, etc. as cheaply as shipping the wreathes?  It seems that it would open up a world of labor.
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Offline sprucebunny

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2004, 03:56:47 PM »
It snowed here , too. How much do you get a pound? I got lots of fir to thin out.
A friend and I make 20 - 30 wreaths each year.
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Offline Danny_S

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2004, 04:54:34 PM »
Friends of mine make wreathes each year. They used to make upwards of 120 / day between the two of them. They were like machines. I made my 36 / day and whined over that!!  :-[  They usually made enough per year to fill a 40' tractor trailer. We bundled them 6 / bundle and compressed them down so we could fit lots in the truck. It was very hard work but good $$  I think we got $3.25 / wreath then, that was about 5 years ago...
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Offline etat

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2004, 08:42:40 PM »
I have no idea why but reading this just reminded me of picking and shelling HUGE amounts of peas and butter beans when I was a kid.  After I got married we'd have a big garden and i cobbled together one of them beater type pea shellers to save myself on labor.  You could dump almost a five gallon bucket of peas in it at a time. You take them peas and pile em in a room overnight with an air conditioner blowing on the hulls and they'd shell lots better.  Of course it'd beat em up a bit more than hand shelling, but it would save hours and hours of labor so I didn't care.   I never could figure out a way to make a butter bean sheller.
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Offline Mark M

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2004, 08:51:58 PM »
ck - I ain't never seen a pea-wreath before, that must be a southern kinda thing!  ;)

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2004, 11:51:36 AM »
AT this shop the workers are paid minimum wage, plus $1.30/wreath foe each additional wreath, over the first 185 made per week. One lady makes over 100 wreaths a day on a machine and most make 50-65 wreaths/day by hand. We were making 12 inch wreaths for this order I worked on.

Tom:

The simple and short answer to not shipping the raw material is value added. ;)
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline Tom

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2004, 12:10:01 PM »
Swamp,

I was thinking you could start a wreath company in another locale or interest someone else in it and start shipping trimmings all over the country. :)  I'll bet you can generate trimmings faster than folks can generate wreathes. 8)
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2004, 03:39:55 PM »
Tom:

[edit] If I'm in a good area I can tip about 400 lbs in 8 hours, enough for 100 - 12 inch wreaths. I could definately supply a good wreath maker to keep her busy for a day.[/edit] Works out to a bit over $10.00/hr for me. You won't get rich on it, but it's on par with a farm hands wage in my area. Also, if our dollar gets much stronger there's not going to be much profit for the wreath shop. ;)

You have to be vary careful what you tip. I find that if the bow and its needles are not arranged in a flat splay, then they have a green-yellow color. And that color is almost impossible to see in full sun. You can see it when you have the tips pressed on your stick so you can see the contrast. Today I had to cull almost 5 sticks of tips out of  8. :o  Each stick hold 50 lbs or so. Half the tips I collected today, my father helped and he didn't understand about the branch length and I wasn't quite up on the discoloration issue untill the buyer pointed it out. I sorted and shortened a little over 3 sticks worth. I find the trees in partial sun have what they want, the trees open grown have that off color. Weird! My fir has 18 + growth on trees over 8 feet. I wonder if this is a result from glyphosate? More likely low nitrogen availability

I agree with cktate on the pea shelling process as well as the bean thrashing. Done all that too. :D :D
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2004, 02:57:10 AM »
Had to edit my previous post. That new fandangled math might mess folks up. The wreaths are 4 lbs each, so 100 wreaths can be made from 400 lbs of tips. ;D
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline Jeff

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2004, 02:53:48 PM »
Tammy and I want to make a large wreath for the end of the House and maybe a couple smaller ones. Neither of us know what the procedure is for "tipping". Can someone explain it and maybe give instructions on making wreaths?
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2004, 04:16:56 PM »
Well, here we go.

Ok, I decided to make a 12 inch wreath from red osier dogwood sticks. You'll see I braided mine but you don't have to, one single stem would suffice. Its a very flexible stem.

Wreath frame:


Here I've tied the 3 strands of dogwood, back 3 inches from the tip. Started on the small end of the stems. The wire I'm using is a bit heavier than typical wreath making wire, but it won't snap when I put the torque to it. ;) I descovered I had a big visitor in my back yard nibbling on my dogwood and he left a little pile of moose marbles where I planted some yellow birch. hmm hmm >:(


Here I braided the dogwood for the wreath wire frame. It's a little hard to hold while doing it, but manageable.


Here is our 12 inch wreath wire made from the braided dogwood. :)

The regular wreath wire frame is sinusoidal (wavy) and not the straight kind.
For a 12 inch wreath you only need 4 lbs of tips.

Quality control:


The two tips on the left are unacceptable. The first has a tip length too long, the second is a poor color. The first two also have the needles that spiral around the stem of the tip. The 3rd tip is dark green and the needles lay flat and don't spiral.

A closer look

Poor tip

Notice the yellow discoloration and the spiralling of the needles around the stem. This makes a poor wreath. This condition occurs in full sunlight, low nitrogen makes the needles yellow green on some wetter sights.

Good tip-above

Notice the dark shiny green needles of a good tip lay flat with the stem in a double row on each side of the stem.

Good tip-below

Notice the lighter color on the other side of a good wreath tip (needles). The stomates make the needles have a white sheen.

V-Node

Notice this tip has been tipped back and the main stem is shorter then the V-shaped growth node, which are bent inward when applied to the wreath.

Process

step 1:  take your wire and spool off about 10 inches and use your left hand (if right handed) to wrap the fine wire around the heavier wire core. Each turn should move you along to the left on the frame at 1" to 1-1/2" to speed up the process (speed doesn't matter when making your own). Don't need to tie it.


step 2:  Your tips you collected in the woods can't be longer than 16 inches or the stems get too big to work with (1/4 inch stem max). Your going to have to tip your tips, so to speak, so that they are no longer than 8 inches long. At this stage your going to have to use the first tip only from each branch so you have only one end that had a broken stem. The reason why you do this is you have to tie-in to these first tips at the end of the wreath making, so no broken stems stick out. They should snap easy like snapping string beens in the garden; finer branches may be troublesome to break so have the clippers ready.  To make it quick just place the previous broken tip on the next your about to snap off, same orientation. Keep the orientation of the tipping one way, meaning the V notches of the annual nodes should all point one way.  Make sure when tying your tips that the stomata (white underbelly) face down and the dark green faces up. Take 3 or 4 of these new tips in your left hand and attach them to the wire core with the finer wire with no more than 3 wraps, wrap each turn tight and hold the tips so they don't slip 'round on the wire frame. Tip cut end should point slightly inward toward the centre of the wreath donut-hole. Now flip the wreath 180 degrees and add 3 or 4 more tips on the opposite side of the first bunch and at the same position. Make sure the tips point to the left as the first bunch did. Remember all tips have to point one way as you work around the wreath. Once that second bunch is attached, flip the wreath back 180 degrees again. Make sure you don't twist the attached tips around the frame, they should stay in tact with the wire. Use a loose grip when flipping.



Step 3. Get 3 or 4 more 8 inch tips. From now on, tip your branches and work from the tip end. Tip back toward the broken end you brought from the woods. Sometimes the whorals on some branches are longer than 8 inches and they need to be tipped back. Don't throw anything away unless its discolored or diseased. You should be able to use the whole branch if it was cut to spec above. When you tip, make sure the foliage of each V (growth node) are longer than the main stem your breaking. Don't want the broken stem to protrude beyond the foliage, or it'll look like h***. ;). Use your index finger as a guage and this bunch of  tips is going to be tied at a distance no longer then the length of your finger to the right of the first bunch of tips. Use the previous wraps as the start point of that finger measurement. Make 3 tight wraps of the wire your tying with, then flip. Keep the wraps within an inch of space. Again using a loose grip when flipping so the tips stay in tact as you tied them. Remember all tips one way and green face up. This procedure continues around the right hand direction untill you reach the first tips tied on the wreath, flipping each time you tie new tips.



Step 4. This is where you tie-in to the first bunch of tips and it will take maybe 4 to 6 flips to finnish in order to conceal the cut stems.  Take your 3 or 4 fresh tips and shove them in under the first tips while prying the first tips upward at 90-120 degrees from the wire frame. Don't pry in excess as it may break off the tip ends. The broken ends of the newly applied tips should be concealed. Now flip and procede as before while concealing the broken ends of the newly attached tips. When everything is tied-in cut the wire as to leave enough to tie the tail end of the tying wire to the frame wire.


Here is your finished wreath all tied-in with a bow and the addition of a red pine bow with cones above the bow.

Tipping stick

A wreath tipping stick is used to collect the tips. The tips are all placed in between the string and stick in the same orientation (tips one way) to make it easier to make the wreath when delivered at the shop. If you make wreaths for a living you will appreciate the way your tips are oriented on your wreath making table, else you'll waste time turning tips all day. A real pain in the wreath maker's a**. Don't want to get the wreath makers angry, this job is already tough enough. ;) The stick should be under 4 feet to allow 50 lbs of tips to be placed on it. Remember 50 lbs can seem heavy if you have to walk out to the truck for several hundred yards. Better yet bring the 4-wheeler along to lug the load of sticks. ;)

cheers :)
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline sprucebunny

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2004, 04:24:42 PM »
I'm sure SwampDonkey has more experience but what little I know..
You need a frame..for a 36" wreath I've used Pex tubing to make the frame. Screw the ends together overlapping.Use some longer branches-about 3 feet long and hold 3-4 on with the green wire in each area of the ring.Wrap wire around spirally.(got that?) This is like a base.For a big wreath you might want more branches to give body and stiffen the ring. Once that is wired on , cut handfuls of tips about a foot long so that you have something fan shape and taller at the back of your clump. Wrap around the base with wire three times then make another nice clump and wire that on about5"along on the base and go around till it's all covered.And Voila!
Is that clear as mud? ;D
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Offline sprucebunny

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2004, 04:26:20 PM »
Guess I'm a SLOOOW typer.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2004, 05:00:36 PM »
3 days experience, with a harsh, domineering teacher hitting me with a bull whip to get my production up. :D ;D ;D

Then I experienced 5 agonizing days of tendonitis :D :D
“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Offline Jeff

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2004, 05:18:39 PM »
Looking forward to it Donk. Thanks sprucebunny, the more info I have the more likely I got a chance to get it right. :)

Donk, yes, edit the first post. Then I can copy the whole thing into the knowledge base later on. :)
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Offline Stephen_Wiley

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Re: Anyone tipping fir for wreaths?
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2004, 11:24:58 PM »
For many years it was a tradition to take our kids up to 'Silver Falls State Park'. Where the kids could make: peanut butter bird feeders, ginger bread houses, ornaments, etc. While the wife and I made wreaths.The materials were always made available for $1. Hot coffee, choclate, cookies and doughnuts are always provided free of charge.

The kids have all nearly grown now and have drifted off to other things.  This year the wife and I will probaly go alone.
Even though we have the materials to do our own at home.

It is always enjoyable to be up at the lodge and to enjoy the serenity of the park and falls. Especially during the years the snow is present. The 'Falls'  are especially beautiful with the snow covered Pacific Silver Fir, Douglas-fir, Hemlock, Spruce, Cedar, Maple, Alder and Ash trees.
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