Tigard fabricator crafts 700-pound wine bottle tree

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Moviegoers at Progress Ridge Cinetopia marvel at the unique wine-bottle Christmas tree in the theater's lobby. Frank Emmert, owner of Emmert Fabricators in Tigard, created the tree.With the holiday season in full tilt, the combination of wine, colored lights and Christmas trees seems to be a natural fit.

When you’re charged with placing 700 pounds of wine bottles on a lighted 12-foot-tall Christmas tree in a busy public area, however, there’s little more to think about than joy to the world.

That’s the challenge Tigard metal fabricator Frank Emmert took on when asked to construct a unique kind of Christmas tree for the Cinetopia Theater lobby at Progress Ridge. Instead of piney branches supporting strings of lights and ball ornaments, the glowing “tree” that dominates the entrance area consists almost solely of empty bottles from the theater and restaurant complex’s extensive wine selection.

When Sib Hall, a manager at Cinetopia, asked Emmert to create framework for a tree like the one in a photograph she showed him, the veteran metal worker concentrated on safety and stability and let the bottles and lights take care of the TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Frank Emmert, owner of Emmert Fabricators in Tigard, has been in business for more than three decades. In that time, he's never had an assignment as unique as Cinetopia's tree, he said.

“The challenge was to build it in such a way that it wouldn’t tip over,” he says. “You’ve got very close to 1,000 pounds there. If something like that falls over, it would do some damage, I’d guess, to anybody who was in the way. It needs to be stable. I was also building it in such a way that it could break down and be storable.”

Emmert, 69, has helmed Emmert Machining and Fabrication at 9446 S.W. Tigard St. for 35 years. An assignment to build a wine-bottle Christmas tree went a bit beyond the regular realm of someone who started his career building dentist drills.

“I don’t do things like this on a regular basis,” he says. “My main focus is industrial work. I’ve worked on everything from dentist drills to armored cars to aircraft carriers and heavy equipment parts — both manufacturing and repairing them. This is more like artwork than what I’ve lived on.”

That said, he admits the whimsy and seasonal spirit of the bottle tree project certainly captured his fancy.

“There’s a bit of the Christmas spirit in me,” he says. “When this time of year comes around, I get a bit enthusiastic. I told them I could do it and just took it from there. There’s a lot of beauty in Christmas.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - More than 40 strands of LED lights decorate the wine-bottle Christmas tree that holds a place of honor in the lobby of Cinetopia.

He started crafting the round bar and steel tubing to support the wine bottles — selections from Cinetopia’s 800 varieties — in mid October.

“They did the bottles,” he says. “All I did was build the structure to hang the bottles on.”

Working intermittently on the framework in between other less glamorous jobs, Emmert says this kind of project brings out something special in his workmanship.

“It usually ends up being a labor of love, rather than something I’m going to make a lot of money on. I put extra hours on it to see that it looks the way the customer wants to have it look,” he says. “I finished it on the fourth of December and delivered it on the fifth.”

While Cinetopia’s maintenance crew brought together the various elements, including the framework, bottles and lighting scheme, Emmert provided assistance as needed.

“They wanted me to be there to show them how to do it, so that’s what I did,” he says.

At his longstanding business, Emmert focuses on a mixture of machine work and welding for a customer base largely comprising Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Vancouver, Wash. With the demand for fabricating tied to the state of the economy and construction industry, he’s had as many as 12 employees, and lately has gotten by with five.

While business has its ups and downs, Emmert, who’s expecting his first grandchild in early March, has never lost his drive to craft and create.

“I can’t go as fast as I used to, but I enjoy what I do, and I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve done,” he says. “I’ve seen a broader spectrum of things to do than others I’ve known in this trade. I plan to do this as long as I can until I start having physical problems. Why quit a hobby?”

Receiving praise from Hall and other employees of Cinetopia, Emmert is pleased he could help deliver some Christmas spirit to the bustling business.

“They seem to be very happy with what they got,” he says. “That’s always my main objective, to not have an unhappy customer.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Halle Sheldon, 8, and Maddie Schatzman, 8, have their picture taken by a Christmas tree made of wine bottles at the Progress Ridge Cinetopia.

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