Making sawdust, counting fingers.


Norm Abrams I ain't. My creative spirit is inherently imprecise, but I think I know how to "finesse" my way through woodworking projects. Rather than follow tried and true plans, I design my own stuff, believing that the design and subsequent implementation are the true artforms of woodworking.

The Bed

First in the gallery, is my most ambitious piece to date. This is our bed. It is made from red oak, felled by Hurricane Fran. It comes apart into several different pieces (otherwise I woulda never gotten it out of the workshop) for transportation. It is very heavy, having been severly over-engineered in the design process. It is almost entirely wood, except for the T nuts which hold the legs to the side battens and for a few screws used to set the glue properly. It is quite comfy with a queen sized spring loaded futon mattres. We digs it.

Ella's Treehome

Treehouse construction is perfectly suited for my temperament. There are no predefined plans- the builder must react to the tree and the building process itself. There are no hard and fast measurements going in. Not long after we had bought our land, I knew Ella had to have a treehouse. Here's the basic process I followed:

•   I scanned the 3 acre lot and found a beautiful cluster of 3 large beech trees and a massive oak. They formed approximate corners for the structure. The plot is on a hill with a beautiful view overlooking the Eno River. The hill allows for a stair access, rather than the traditional ladder.

•  My friend Ben Franklin and I went out with 4 massive 2"X10" pressure treated boards and horizontally affixed them to tree pairs. We used 10" long 5/8" diameter galvanized lag screws, one for each trunk, to secure a pair of 2"X10" planks to each tree pair. Contrary to some tree-hugging beliefs, this is the least impactful method of attaching treehouse foundations to a tree. The platform is about 6 feet off the ground at the front of the treehouse and 12 feet at the back.

•  Once these foundations were established, we affixed perpendicular 2" X 6" pressure treated joists with standard to narrower than standard spacing.

•   Then Bridget and I put deck planking down on top of the joists to form the platform. We built the floor to accomodate one of the beeches to protrude right through the floor. This ensured the indoor space was big enough, and it gave the treehouse a true arboreal feel. I wish I'd take pictures of the platform on its own. Bridget loved coming to the platform and I think it got her thinking about letting me build a grown-up version!

•   Then, I built the stairs for accessing the house. I had to buy some large stone in the ground to serve as a foundation. The stairs rest on these at the bottom and are bolted to the platform at the top.

•   I built a handrail to help get up and to ensure some sense of safety.

•  Once the platform was completed, I built framing for the walls. This I did with non-pressure treated wood, thinking it would be sheltered from the elements by the roof. I kind of wish I'd done it with pressure treated. Oh well. When this was done, I had the basic structure.

•   The next phase was to install the siding to the framing. This is cheap old Oriented Strand Board ("OSB" to you pros) to keep the structure sound and to provide a nailing surface for the eventual exterior siding. This eliminated the wobble significantly.

•   Then, I put on the roof. I chose to go with a shed roof, for ease of installation and to allow (dare I say it?) possible expansion on to a second level when Ella gets bigger. There is a slight pitch to the roof, to allow run off. The roof of course, must accomodate the beech tree going right through it. The flashing around the tree still needs work to ensure it is leak proof.

•   Next, I put posts on the deck. My groundhouse builder, Michael Chandler recommended wedging these posts from below the fulcrum point, rather than just bolting them onto the joists. I went with a combination approach, which seems really sturdy (important given the consequences of a twelve foot fall!).

•   I topped off these posts with a flat railing at about the 3 foot level, so 4 year olds could see above the rail. The resulting height is giving Bridget the heebies, so I'll probably put an additional copper railing above that.

•   Instead of wooden slat railing, I have made a rope mesh, pirate style, to enclose the lower portions of the deck. It is pretty cool and allows for a better sense that you are up there in the trees.

This is how it looks right now. Of course, more work is to be done, including:

•   Finish putting roll roofing on top to ensure it is completely dry in the rain.

•   Put siding on. I'm thinking of going with a more random, low grade version of cedar shingling, so it will look like a wacky version of the big house.

•   Build the windows. Plexiglas only, off course. Perhaps the three small windows will be port hole style.

•   Build the doors- something very rustic looking.

•   contemplate the inside walls. They are bound to have nails sticking through from the siding if I don't do something.

•   Put screening in between the top of the walls and the ceiling. There is a good sized gap which I want to use to ensure ventilation and still discourage wasps from nest building.

•   Build the built-in furniture.

•   Let the kids go nuts!


These are a couple of the tables I've built. Bridget and I teamed to do the funky tile work on the weird black and pink one. Hey, it's functional! The glass top one I designed and built to serve as our breakfast nook table. The cherry veneer takes a pounding unfortunately, but it looks nice.

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