Building the Tree House

I put off building a tree house for my son because I didn’t want to damage the  beautiful maple tree in the backyard by hammering nails. (Nails in trees are an entry point for fungi and other diseases.) Then it occurred to me that I could support the framing for the deck in the Y of the tree and not put any nails into the tree itself.

Building the Tree House. Photo 2.

I wanted to build the tree house with my son and not for him so that I could teach him about basic construction. Growing up, I was always working with my father on carpentry or shop projects or gardening with my mother because like most children up until a generation or two ago, I was expected to be productive from an early age and to learn useful skills all the time.

I didn’t want to make one of those professional-looking tree houses from a kit or plan because I wanted to teach my son how to conceive and build things from raw materials.

Building the Tree House. Photo 3.

I also wanted to show him that homemade things have a charm and authenticity that factory-fresh clones lack. As an artist, I wanted to show him that something like a railing could be crooked and irregular and still be as strong or stronger than one made perfectly straight and uniform.

Building the Tree House. Photo 4.

Since the tree house was going to be an “old-school” tree house that was designed to be played on by children instead of admired by adults, I decided that a simple crow’s nest design would be best, with a simple railed platform like the crow’s nests on the masts of old sailing ships. With that in mind, we made a climbing net to get up to the tree house.

Building the Tree House. Photo 5.

Every time I look at the tree house, I realize I should have made a “saddle” from cut up truck tires to protect the groin of the Y.  I’ve also got to use my oscillating power tool to trim some of the  tree house deck away as the tree goes. When I do that, I might remove the horizontal girdle of 2×4 spacers and replace with pieces of tire, but that does nothing about the 4x4s resting on the groin.

My son looks out from the nearly-finished Crow’s Nest.
My son showing off his new tree house to his mommy.
The Crow’s Nest is ready for Nerf gun battles.