You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘treehouse construction’ category.

 Treehouse Chronicles cover with stickers

There’s still time to give the dreamer among your family and friends a great book for the holidays. Our book, Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft, has won seven national book awards and praise from reviewers everywhere.

The most recent reviewer, Cheryl Hurst, Managing Editor for the Spencer County Leader, had this to say in late November 2006:

“Wonderfully unusual and architecturally amazing pictures and illustrations of this unique hideaway are only a tad of what makes this book one of the best I have ever read. It is artistically exciting to view and articulately insatiable reading. The humorous and poetic wording author Lewis spreads throughout the 130-page, hardback bound edition are a joy to comprehend, often left this reader laughing out loud. Combined with well chosen and cropped photos, balanced with magnificent watercolor illustrations and sketches, and iced with true-storytelling sidebars, Lewis has a winner on his hands.”

If you would like to purchase a signed and personalized copy, please visit our website, tmcbooks.com. You can also purchase the book through Amazon.com, other online booksellers everywhere, or your favorite book store.

 The Uppermost House in winter.

The Uppermost House, our 300 sq. ft. timberframe treehouse in the Maine woods, is full of odd things. Perhaps the oddest, is the drawbridge—it certainly gets the most comments. Cobbled together out of timbers, lumber, cables, pulleys, boulders, and plumbing supplies, it is a contraption in the finest Rube Goldberg tradition.

The theory is simple: make a set of stairs that look like the spinal column from a Stegosaurus and that can be lifted into the air with ease because they are counterweighted with big rocks yet fall gracefully to earth (unfolding their steps as they descent amidst a cacophony of creaking, grunting, and thunking sounds) when the (hidden) catch mechanism on the counterweight is tripped by a secret latch. See, simple.

The key to this whole mess, is the catch mechanism. Here is an excerpt from the book, Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft, that tells the story of the discovery of the magic gadget:

Sometimes a dashed plan is like a poor draw in poker. If the title to your house is on the table and you’re dealt just a pair of twos, you either bluff well or end up living with your in-laws. Ted came back from an expedition to the local hardware stores today with dire news: we can’t use a gate latch as the catch for the drawbridge. One store didn’t have any latches. One store had cheap flimsy things that weren’t up to the task. And the last store had so much stuff lying in the aisles that Ted gave up and waded back to his truck. I had always known that a gate latch was the key to this Rube Goldberg contraption, and now I had to face the cruel fact that it wouldn’t work. I felt like the guy who swam across the English Channel until he saw the waves breaking on the beach in Calais, France. He didn’t think he had the strength to make it, so he turned around and swam back to England. Things suddenly looked so hopeless I feared we might have to start the whole treehouse over. “If we can’t make the stairs work, how are we ever going to get up into the treehouse?” I moaned.

Ted, always the optimist, yelled “Don’t give up yet,” and then bolted downstairs and out to the sprawling garages. A half an hour later he returned from what he calls “the land of archaic hardware” with his hands full. “There,” he said proudly, spilling a jumble of oddball widgets onto the table. Among the treasures was a spring-loaded door catch with no apparent way to attach it to anything, a neat little thing milled from a block of aluminum with a perpendicular pair of what appeared to be thumb screws, another door catch that had “Push” stamped boldly on the side of it but no moving parts, and, lastly, an odd, cylindrical, aluminum, ball-bearing-equipped, spring-loaded, something-or-other. This last item turned out to be the pearl. (Our other business partner, Frank, has a collection of outbuildings that are the equivalent of giant oysters. A tiny little annoyance-a metal thingy of unknown purpose-gets stuck inside one of these buildings and over time it is transformed-at least in the human mind-into something wonderful, and sometimes even useful.)

You can see where this is leading. To read the whole story, and see a detailed drawing of the catch and the drawbridge itself, please click these links:

drawbridge gizmo

stair-composite.gif

And, to see the whole story of the building of this whimsical treehouse, please buy our award-winning book, Treehouse Chronicles. If you buy it from our website, TMC Books.com, we will sign the book and include a personal message (if you wish). You can also purchase the book from all online and retail booksellers.

Thanks for visiting our blog.

The Uppermost House in winter.

Last night I found my daughter staring out the kitchen window. “Oh, no,” she said, hands on her hips. “Dad, wears the snow shovel?” I looked out and saw just a dusting on the lawn. “I don’t think there is enough, Mandy,” I said. “Oh, there will be,” she said, confidently.

This morning at 5:30 I was shovelling six inches. Welcome, winter.

For the next four months, we will hibernate, coming out only to shovel off the skating pond, scrape a windshield, or go for a quiet ski across the fields. But, every once in a while, we will trudge out to the forest, climb three stories into a tree, light a fire in the stove, and just sit and watch the world go by.

If you want to find out more about the treehouse, and the award-winning book that tells its story, please visit our extensive pages, or our website, tmcbooks.com. You can order a signed copy of the book directly from our website and get it in time for the holidays!

With the holidays coming, I thought I would give you a sneak peak at our book Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft

Please see the links to sample pages at the end of this post.

The book, published in 2005 by TMC Books (Too Many Cats), a micropublisher made up of three guys working out of an old barn in New Hampshire, has gone on to win 7 (seven!) national book awards. It will make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in treehouses, family, relationships, natural history, and dreaming big dreams.

Yes, this is shameless self-promotion, but don’t just take my word for it. Here is just a (small) sampling of the outstanding coverage this story has recieved:

  1. The story of this amazing treehouse and the book that tells it’s tale has been featured in over 30 newspapers across the US including USA Today, the the Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News, and the St. Petersburg Times.
  2. The treehouse has been featured on local TV as well as on the Home & Garden cable channel, on the Hallmark channel, and on New Hampshire Public Radio.
  3. The book has been praised by dozens of reviewers including the chair of the National Outdoor Book awards, Garrison Keillor (of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion and Writer’s Almanac fame), Bill McKibben, author of the classic book The End of Nature, Judson Hale, Editor-In-Chief of Yankee Magazine, and Michael Collier, the director of the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.
  4. The story has been told in magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Maine Boats Homes & Harbors, Portland Monthly, and Accent Home & Garden.
  5. If you want even more, check out our endorsements and review pages.

And now for the fun part
SAMPLE PAGES FROM THE BOOK
(just click the embedded links)

Treehouse Chronicles
“The story of what happens when big people decide
to be kids again and they have tools and lumber.”

Read the introduction by Tedd Benson, renowned timberframe builder and author.
Read the opening essay.
Things didn’t always go smoothly; read about a couple of close calls.
This book is all about family; read about the author’s Mom.
Full of natural history essays; read about a brush with hurricane.
Read about a touching father and son moment (sort of).
A three-year lesson in problem-solving; read about a clever solution.

Hooked? If you would like to buy a signed copy of the book (personalized by the author), please visit tmcbooks.com. Alternately, you can visit your favorite online bookseller, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

This time of year each night gets darker and colder and the frost seeps deeper into the earth. In a few short weeks the ground will be clamped solid four feet down. I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I worry. November was wet, very wet, we nearly set a record for rain. Walking in my yard was like walking on a gigantic sponge. You could dig for clams in my yard, it was so wet. When the ground is this saturated, it has no strength, no holding power; the trees of my forest just stand there–floating more or less. And November means wind; usually the first big blows (50 mph+) of the year. And that means that I worry about the treehouse. Soggy ground, huge tree floating, enormous treehouse to catch the wind–a recipe for apprehension.

I hope it goes below zero and stays there for a week.

More than 50 people visited the treehouse over the Thanksgiving break and for an hour or so on Saturday there were 18 adults in the treehouse at the same time. This set the all-time record, at least in terms of sheer human tonnage (approaching 3000 pounds). Nothing moved, nothing creaked, the cables just hung there, taught as always. The decibel level was astonishing. At one point I stood up on a bench and began counting people on the first-floor deck (pointing dramatically and calling out the numbers). When I finished I made a terrified face and shouted, “quick, I need at least two people to move to this side of the tree!” A lady in the back shrieked. Several people rushed forward and panic seemed imminent. Then people began laughing and a guy threw a pine cone at me.

Two days later 15 junior high students and their chaperones showed up. The total weight was lower than the record day, but the number of questions (some of them very clever) was way up. The smart-aleck remark of the day came from one young man who, after hearing me rant about how much of a hassle it had been to work up in the air hanging from ropes, raised his hand and said, “Wouldn’t it have been much easier if you just built this thing on the ground?”

Later, another boy took me aside. “I had a treehouse once,” he said quietly. “Now it’s a ground house. ”

“Wind?” I asked.

“Wind,” he said.

And we just stood there with our hands in our pockets, nodding together, commiserating; two guys sharing a common trajedy: one that had already occurred, one that was inevitable.

 Treehouse Chronicles cover with stickers

Sales of the award-winning book that tells the tale of this treehouse have been creeping upward lately–no doubt from people discovering that this is by far one of the best holiday gifts ideas ever. If you would like to learn more or buy an autographed copy, please visit TMCBooks.com, or Amazon.com.

In November 2005 we spent a long and frantic day with the film crew of the HGTV show “Look What I Did!” After hours under the hot lights and endless re-takes (“Now, this time, put more emphasis on the word ‘screwdriver’ and don’t pick your nose), lousy take-out food for lunch, and countless trips up and down the drawbridge, the crew finally pulled out of the driveway with a promise to make us famous.

And now their handiwork will be shown for all to see. To find out more about the HGTV spot, click this link: See the treehouse on HGTV, or tune in to HGTV on Sunday, November 19, at 6:30 (EST) for a virtual tour of the Uppermost House!

And don’t forget to check out the award-winning book we wrote about this crazy building: Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft.

Treehouse Chronicles cover with stickers

 fall-04.gif

The simplest solutions are often the most elegant. Designing a system to keep the Uppermost House (the 300 sq. ft. timberframe treehouse described in the award-winning book, Treehouse Chronicles), up in the air, we had two goals in mind:

  1. Make it simple.
  2. Do no harm to the tree (put no holes or fasteners in the trunk)

After tossing many ideas around, the solution we implemented met both goals beautifully. We used a combination of three simple components:

  1. a hexagonal steel collar
  2. suspended by a set of cables
  3. which support a series of wooden trusses

This Collar-Cable-Truss (CCT) system provides great strength and stability and is about as simple as engineering ever gets.

The structure of our tree, in part, dictated this solution. The tree is a 200 year-old white pine, nearly four feet in diameter at breast height and 105 feet tall, divides into two trunks 37 feet above the ground. At the point where the tree divides, the trunk swells to over four feet in diameter and each fork is about two feet in diameter, giving us a massive and strong anchor point for our suspension system.

So here’s how it looks:

suspension-system.gif This schematic shows the CCT components in relation to each other.

And here’s how we put it together:

  1. The hexagonal steel collar (made from 1/4-inch angle iron segments) is assembled around the tree and bolted together at each corner with welded eye-bolts (safe working load over 2 tons each)
  2. A cable (3/8 inch) is attached to an eye-bolt (with triple cable clamps) and then run up and through the fork in the tree and down to the eye-bolt at the opposite corner of the collar. (At the fork, we ran each cable section through PVC pipe to protect the tree and spread out the load.) Three such cable segments are used, connecting all six collar corners.
  3. A second set of cables (5/8 inch) is connected between the centers of three of the collar segments and run up and down through the fork of the tree, just like the first cable segments. (The cummulative strength of all the collar segments gives us a safe working load of something over 15 tons.) 
  4. Six, triangular timberframe truss segments are bolted to the center of each collar segment.
  5. A set of wedges is driven between the end of each truss and the trunk of the tree (this snugs the whole thing up and provides stability).
    truss-collar-wedge.gif 
  6. Large horizontal wooden timbers are bolted to the vertical section of each truss and braced against the trunk (stabilizing the system and allowing us to get the trusses perfectly level).
  7. A wooden collar connects the lower ends of each of the trusses, mirroring the steel collar above, and tying the entire system together.

trusses-suspended.gif Here is the the system in place in the tree.

Although simple (in principle), getting all this stuff up in the tree required over six weeks of effort. In the end, we had a strong and stable 23-foot hexagon hanging in the sky and ready for its floor joists. The rest of the treehouse was easy (yeah, right).

For those of you contemplating building your own dream house in the sky, if your situation is similar to mine, you may consider using a system such as this.  BUT, PLEASE BE AWARE: I am not a structural engineer and I make no claims that this system is safe. I took the advice of experts while building my treehouse. Please consult professional arborists, engineers, and builders before you try anything like this yourself.

If you have any questions, send them along. Good Luck!

Wind gusting to close to 60 mph, and driving three inches of rain ahead of it, rocked the treehouse and our old farmhouse all weekend. Our deck furniture blew across the yard (it can’t blow out of the yard because of the stone walls) and a section of metal roofing ripped loose from the garage. I fixed the roofing from a ladder, pounding in galvanized nails between gusts. In the early afternoon, I went out to the barn to look for a tool and when I rumbled the big door open one of the barn cats shot out between my legs and was immediately caught by a fierce blast from the northwest. Rolling head over tail in a big cloud of dust, sand, and woodchips, the gust bowled my furry friend back into the barn where he found his legs again and bolted up a ladder and into the hayloft. I didn’t see him the rest of the day.

Wind is a common theme around here from November through April and my attempts to work around it have often proved futile. The following excerpt is from , Treehouse Chronicles near the end of 2003:

In the last days of November, I wrapped the building in plastic, hoping to protect it from the onslaught of winter. But, on December 8, a big storm blew in from the northeast loaded with birdshot and blasted most of the plastic off. When it was over, the building was forlorn, like a wrecked 15th century galleon with shredded sails. And that was just the beginning….

Here is a photo from the book of my beleaguered treehouse from that gusty November:

treehouse in tatters