We have battled year upon year with a base for our Christmas tree that was a second hand one, given to us by my wife's parents. Plastic and rudimentary, it took a long time to get the tree straight and even longer to keep it there, needing to make sure our kids don't go near it and we don't touch it. It was always a fine balancing act.
This Christmas however, we'd had enough of the frustration and inevitable arguments with trying to get this one to work, and decided to buy a new one. This one was available from Homebase for around £35, but you got £10 off if you bought it with a tree. I took the discount.
It's squat and wide, which already is an improvement on the previous one which was flimsy, tall and thin. Having seen the demonstration video in store and has a mini play with it before buying, the one thing I hadn't managed to do is test it properly with a tree. What you get is basically a fat wide plastic base with a gap in the middle which is just large enough to accommodate a Christmas tree's base. I couldn't quite get my head around the science of it, and was desperately hoping it would work, especially for the price tag!
The way it works is that you put the tree in, and there's a spike on the base of it that sticks up into the bottom of the tree, keeping it in place. There is then a contraption around the opening of the base that consists of what seems like a think steel cable fed through the four corners, which you can tighten and release with the use of a pedal that is at the edge of the base. Once you've popped the tree in and tightened it, I have to say that the results are amazing. It didn't move at all. We had to adjust it slightly to ensure it was straight and this was easy enough, you just have to life the pedal as opposed to push down on it and this completely releases the mechanism and you can start again.
I will say that as a word of warning to be careful with releasing it as it is instantaneous and quite snappy, if you don't have a good hold of the tree it may fall! However, as long as you know this then it's fine, and this is not a criticism of the base at all, just something to be aware of. The pedal also has a little switch on it that locks it into place so that you can't accidentally unlock it while you're not holding it. That really wouldn't be good!
The base can hold plenty of water, and I suppose like all Christmas trees you just need to make sure there's enough in there. As a comparison though, with our old base, we were filling it up quite a bit as it wasn't really reaching down to the bottom, while this one we only had to refill once in the couple of weeks that we had the tree up for.
After Christmas is all over and you put everything away, the base is actually pretty easy to clean as well. You can get inside and wipe it out, as there'll be sap etc in there, and it stores neatly enough as it's quite flat. We're very happy with the purchase, and we just know that it will last a good few years and be well worth the money. It may cost quite a bit to start with, but the ease of use and the hassle free nature of it compared to our old one is easily a justification of spending the money. Highly recommended.
My Dad always used to stick our Christmas Tree in a galvanised metal bucket filled with sand ... and it usually fell over within an hour. Since those days I have been constantly looking for the perfect Christmas Tree stand - one that keeps the tree solidly upright and which is so easy to use that nobody argues and shouts about putting it up.
After decades of searching, I eventually found my dream stand; the Krinner Christmas tree stand. My stand was bought by my son who was working at Homebase at the time. He used his staff discount to buy the stand that all his customers were raving over, and I think paid around £25 for it. Not cheap, but worth every penny, as I have discovered over the intervening 3 years.
~~What it looks like~~
The Krinner is a solid green plastic ring with a subtle embossed yellow line around the bottom; the diameter is 34cm and the height of the stand is 4cm. It is very heavy at 4kg so that it provides a solid base for the tree without taking up too much space. Four very sturdy black clamps are joined together by a strong wound steel cable, and this cable can be tightened by using the black lever at the side of the stand. Each black lever is ridged so that the tree trunk can be gripped securely.
The green plastic ring is actually also a very secure water chamber. This can be filled up with water up to 3 litres to keep the tree fresh. A small red button in the top of the green stand can be removed to fill the stand with water.
Inside the stand is a large black plastic well. This well has a sharp spike on the floor, located centrally so that you can impale your tree onto it for extra stability.
Recommended tree sizes for this stand are up to 250cm with a trunk diameter of up to 12cm. The steel cable ensures that the claw levers tighten around any unsually shaped or knobbly tree trunk in total synchronicity, preventing any pushing or sliding to one side or the other as the cable is tightened.
The Krinner is made in Germany and for me embodies sturdy German efficiency. The comprehensive instruction leaflet has a ring of German bossiness and efficiency about it; nothing is left to chance:
"Always place the stand on a flat, even surface - THICK CARPET IS NOT A STURDY SURFACE" ... "Unauthorised opening of the tree stand is forbidden and can be prevented by the use of a small additional padlock".
~~How it works~~
Using the stand is so simple and easy - I am impressed all over again every year that I use it!
Place your tree inside the black well, impaling it on the central spike. Get somebody to hold the top of the tree so that it is upright. Using your foot, pump away at the foot pedal, slowly closing the ferocious levers until they clamp the trunk of the tree with a very firm embrace; the tree cannot wobble and you cannot close the levers any further. (Releasing the clamps after Christmas consists of one swift upwards push of the tightening lever.)
Put some water in the water tank and enjoy Christmas!
~~Any negative points?~~
There is one small negative point about this stand - the water container is very easy to fill up, but almost impossible to empty, leaving nasty, smelly, stagnant water in the bottom to discover next year. Instructions tell you to tip the stand up with the handle towards the sink; "Residual water remaining in the tank will eventually dry out by itself". This may be true, but an huge amount of residual water does remain in the tank, despite shaking, tipping and generally straining my back by lifting the surprisingly heavy stand about.
I believe that later versions of the Vinner have improved drainage holes to overcome this problem.
I have owned this stand for 3 years now and it holds the tree as firmly as the day it was bought. It was worth spending a bit more on such a brilliantly designed device. It has never marked my wooden floorboards; water has never leaked out of it; and it has completely emininated those boring family rows which involve getting the tree into the perfect position, only to have it slowly fall down to one side because of an inadequate stand.