|Project by SantaPaulaCraftsman||posted 11-25-2009 08:46 AM||11773 views||5 times favorited||10 comments|
A ‘tree house’ for my son (or was it for Dad?)
“Dad, I want a tree house!” said my 12 year old. We were finally living in a home with a yard big enough for an extra structure, albeit not with a tree big enough to support anything larger than a simple platform. A stilt house was the only solution. Not ideal, but it would have to do.
The idea of building a solid, long-lasting structure with my son, Isaac, was exciting. I could finally hand down some woodworking skills by building something HE was interested in. I asked him to draw me a plan, and I was soon reviewing a complicated picture of secret trap doors, a periscope, sky-high viewing platform, disappearing ladder and other ‘boy’ items.
Hmm. Maybe I can leave this out…substitute this for that… add that… include this….yup. I can make this work.
A good friend, Paul, was as the only other dad I knew who was as enthusiastic about making sawdust as I. His son was a good friend of Isaac. They lived only a block away. Perfect! Paul thought a timber frame structure was the only way to go. If you’re going to build from scratch, why not be creative, and have the chance to use some good old fashioned hand tools? How could I possibly refuse?
I envisioned a picture-perfect craftsman style Greene & Greene-inspired cottage in the sky, but the joinery and unique details, I thought, would take so long that my son would eventually lose interest in the project. That would be unacceptable. After all, his participation and input was the genesis for the project.
We tried to keep it simple but elegant, with some neat joinery that served structural purpose but would show off the collective skills of Paul and I. Oh yeah, and the efforts of our sons. After all, I thought, I’m going to show this off more than he is. And when he’s a few years older… well…. it will probably be my office or man cave.
Paul brought over his collection of Japanese saws and timber frame chisels. Jeez, are those things sharp. I started to look like I had a self-mutilation fixation… with my cuts healing just in time for the next weekend’s efforts.
We used 4×4 posts for the uprights and framing, 2×4 studs and ¾” plywood for the walls, and a hefty floor of 1×8 planks. We let in the floor and ceiling beams with mortises in the upright stilts, and added a skylight for lighting. Two double hung windows with screens, Plexiglas angled windows between the roof and sill, a trap door for entry, and shiplap siding, stained deep brown, gives it a really unique look. We finished the roof with standard home construction plywood, paper and shingles, and I caulked the hell out of every joint I could find.
The whole effect definitely provides a ‘wow’ factor.
Now, a minor concern was local city code enforcement. I had carefully reviewed the rules, but was a little concerned when my wife called one morning to tell me a code enforcement officer was at the front door of my home, asking to see the ‘rental’ that had reportedly just been built in the back yard. I rushed home and enthusiastically presented our collective efforts. “Check it out!”, I exclaimed. “Over 5 feet away from the property line, under 120 square feet interior space, no electric or plumbing, built to standard building specs, and under the height rules.” He studied the structure while I held my breath. “Hmm, looks like you did your homework,” he finally said. “This is pretty neat!” Ok, I’ll close out this report.” Relief.
I’m not sure what this did to the value of my home, but the experience of working with my son and fellow wood enthusiasts was truly priceless.
-- Life so short, the craft so long to learn