Archive for Biophilia

Twisted Juniper Cat Tree – Part 2 – Platforms

Posted in All Things Trees, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

Patience. This tree took a lot of patience. In particular, fitting the randomly shaped platforms between and around tree branches.  This portion of the project was the slowest, yet in my opinion, makes the tree really pop.

Using the shape of the tree, we determined where the platforms would be, what size and shape they were to become, and how we envisioned the cats getting to each one. Saki is a spry and wiry guy, but Pixie…not so much. She could be called small, but portly. To date, most of the smaller in-between levels are unused by Saki, but Pixie will carefully pick her way to the top most every time she uses the tree.

Using a 2′ level, string line, tape measure, sharpie, and an eye for straight lines, we started in. A laser level would be a good idea too. The first points to be defined and cut were the bigger branches.  Smaller limbs can be manipulated more easily than the anchor branches.

The main tools to make the cuts are a reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”), angle grinder, hand saws of various shapes and sizes, and the good ole fashion hammer and chisel.  I generally start with the sawzall, dig with the chisel, and fine tune with the grinder.

***A word to the wise…wear some protective gear. I am no model of wisdom…***

In order to ensure the best fit and location, cut and fit the platforms one at a time. We would cut the shape we wanted, then modify as the tree demanded. To get tight and snug connections, whittling away at both branch and platform is mandatory.

We cut our platforms out of plywood scraps from one of my job sites. Scraps of this size are pretty easy to come by as they are considered useless once they are less than 16″ wide. These platforms are 1 1/8″ thick. If you cannot find thicker plywood, two pieces of 1/2″ laminated and screwed together will work just fine.

Live load testing is recommended.

To make things comfy, we rounded off all the bottom edges with a router and 1/4″ round over bit. Then, an old sleeping bag pad was cut to fit.

After trying to cut, then glue the pad in place, we reverted to cutting the pad a little big, gluing it to the platform, then trimming – much faster.  After applying 3M spray adhesive, the platforms were placed foam down and loaded up with anything heavy to ensure a good bond.

We picked up a couple of yards of fleece from a fabric store and set to wrapping the platforms. Fleece is soft and stretchy, just what was needed to deal with the irregular platform shapes.

The top was covered first, wrapped over the edges and attached it to the bottom using Elmer’s glue and staples. A second piece of fleece was cut just shy of the edge of the platforms and glued over the folds and staples.

This portion of the work was completed after all the platforms had been cut and fit into place. Minor adjustments to the tree were needed due to the extra thickness.

I used a variety of deck screws ranging from 1″ to 6″ in length to attach the platforms to the tree limbs.  My goal was to hide the fasteners as much as possible and to do so, I countersunk the screws as much as I could. Many of them are buried in knot holes and crevices that the tree offered.

A couple were driven through the fleece and platform and into the tree. In these instances, the screws often sliced right through the fleece leaving a small, barely noticeable  hole.

In cases where the holes had to be drilled, some red and black markers, then stain provide a decent camouflage. If you were a real pro, you’d probably use wood filler, but that’s above a beyond what our little life demands.

One of our platforms surrounds a branch completely and had to be installed in two pieces. The picture above and below show the fleece wrap of the platform after it has been attached to the tree.

And that is how we assembled the platforms. Comfy, clean, and secure.

The Forest Ranger that pulled us over quizzically eyed the massive juniper in the truck bed, “It’s a little early for Christmas tree cutting in July don’t you think?” Not when you’ve got 6 months of preparations… 

 

It doubles as a lovely Christmas tree, don’t you think?

Twisted Juniper Cat Tree – Part 1 – Base

Posted in All Things Trees, Tutorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

So my wife has been wanting an indoor habitat for our two cats ever since we got Mr. Saki.  Every time she would bring it up or show me the hideous carpet explosions online, I’d cringe.  We put out heads together and thought, “what if the cat tree was made from a real…tree?”

And that was it. Every hike from there on out we were eyeing trees and debating on what would look the most artistic. Aspens were on the list, but they are hard to find in ample supply. Junipers, on the other hand, grow like weeds in the high desert.

This project took over a year to complete with large gaps in production. After all is said and done, the cats love it, and we love it.

It did not take too long to find a good specimen for the tree in Central Oregon. Junipers have begun to grow so much that some are concerned about the trees’ effects on the environment. I am personally allergic to the pollen, so there was a bit of joy in taking a limb off this tree.

There is a bit of back story about what happened on our way back to the pavement; forest service, flashing lights…we’ll tell you about it over a drink and good food…

When we got home, it was very clear we had over estimated the size of tree we needed. We trimmed off the useless twigs and branches and identified the main beams we would use for the tree.

Using a wire brush and chisel, we stripped the outer layer of flaking bark to expose a nice red layer of bark.  on the more dead portions,  there was build up of dead bark and dirt.

Working in custom home building affords one with beam cut-offs (or “drops”) of sizable proportions.  One such drop was selected for the base of our tree.  This was a 5-1/8″ x 18″ glulam beam that I cut into an 18″ x 18′ square.

After staining the base, I used a piece of steel plate (about 3/16″ thick) to run two 1/2″ x 8″ lag bolts and a long piece of all-thread through.  To counter sink the plate and soon to be inserted lags, I made a number of cuts with a Skil Saw and then knocked and chiseled  out the wood.  A router would work good for something like this, but I’m a framer.

Using the lags to hold the tree in position, I drilled through the base and into the tree with a 1/2″ x 16″ long drill bit.  I disassembled the tree from the base and drilled and additional 4 inches. This hole would receive the 5/8″ all-tread and tie the base to the tree.

We injected construction adhesive into the hole we drilled, re-positioned and tightened down the lags, then drove the 5/8″ x 24″ all-thread into the tree.  The drilled hole is only 15″ deep, so the all-thread needed some extra love with the hammer to take it the full 23″.

After driving the all-thread into the glue, hole, and tree, we let is sit for a few days to allow the glue to bond.  Then, we torqued down the nut and re-tightened the lag bolts.  Care must be had with the all-thread bolt.  Too much tightening and the all-thread could be pulled out of the tree.

In the following posts you’ll notice cross over between the stage of construction and what is being described. In reality, we set out to accomplish one thing, but would work on everything effected by that single item. Staining is one of those items.

Arian found a number of stains at the local Re-Store and mixed up a color she liked for the dead sections of wood. Using a dark stain and multiple coats of polyurethane, the color of the bark really stood out against the dark stained grain.  The three coats of polyurethane also served to protect the bark from further peeling and sap dripping on floors.

To be continued…

Boho bird mobile

Posted in Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

Next to the tree wall, I would have to say this bird mobile is my favorite part of the nursery. I first spotted this mobile in the DIY section of this blog and fell in love with it. I don’t have the patience to be much of a seamstress, however, and even though the pattern online looked fairly simple, it also looked very time consuming. I sent pictures of the mobile to my mother-in-law, who also made my fabulous crib bedding, in hopes that she would be inspired. Thankfully she took the bait and about a month before Ansel was born I got a package with these lovelies inside.

Putting the rest of the mobile together turned out to be more of a process than I had expected. Tom scored some laurel branches from a landscaper. We bought some wire to attach the birds to the branches with and used some jute twine that we had on hand to hang the branches.

I cut the wire cuts into short pieces and threaded them through the cloth to serve as “feet”. We attached the wire feet loosely to the branches so we could easily adjust the birds.

Next came the balancing act. Thankfully my husband took the lead in this because I sure wouldn’t have had the patience to make it happen on my own! Tom tied the branches together to find the center balance point. He then drilled holes through the branches.

We ended up using masking tape around the birds in addition to the wire as a more effective temporary hold. (Here I am nine months pregnant and SO ready to meet Ansel.)

Little Ansel loves watching his mobile almost as much as he loves staring up into real tree branches.

Old Door + Fallen Branches = Shelves!

Posted in All Things Trees, Creative Reuse, Tutorials, Upcycled Forest Nursery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

To go with our forest theme, as well as to be consistent with our habit of upcycling materials for our nursery, we decided we needed shelves that made creative use of something old and also had something woodsy. We kicked around several options and I poured through pinterest photos looking for the perfect idea. I saw several shelves held up with rope that I really liked, rustic looking but a bit too beachy. Tom had the idea to use branches as braces.

Tom also thought it would be cool to make use of an old door for the shelves instead of buying regular shelving. We found this one at The ReBuilding Center here in Portland.  Old is in many ways synonymous with quality and craftsmanship in the world of construction. This door is solid wood through and through.

Tom cut the door in two pieces.

Safety Tip: Materials painted before 1978 are likely to have lead paint so be sure to read up on it and take the necessary safety precautions!

He then cut each piece of half lengthwise.

We painted the shelves with several coats of polyurethane to seal the paint and provide a wear resistant finish.

For the supports I found fallen pine branches on my walk home from the bus stop.

Tip: Use a portion of the branch to rub and knock off all the loose bark.  This will save the mess inside and reduce the flaking of the bark after the shelves are in use.

We mounted the backs of the shelves to the wall using long screws anchored into the studs.  The shelves are leveled and temporarily held in place using a piece of lath.

The most challenging part of this project was getting the branches cut. Living in a condo with no work shop makes projects like these challenging, but not impossible.  A piece of ply wood can be used to layout the shelving location and a keen eye and patience can be used to trim and cut the branches until they meet the wall and shelves in just the right way.

The branches with less “character” can be cut much quicker using the plywood as a guide to keep your cuts perpendicular and straight.

If you have access to a proper shop, a set of clamps, and a deep enough saw, these cuts can be made in a very clean manner. For the rest of us, we’ll use the “rustic” excuse.

After the cuts are made and the branches all meet the walls and shelves in an acceptable layout, we pre-drilled holes in everything and began screwing it all together.  We used multiple screws for redundancy where the branches were thick enough.  These pine branches were soft enough that the screws could be counter sunk and hidden in the bark.

This branch was the most challenging.  It meets the lower shelf half way up and then connects to the upper shelf in two locations.  We live on the second story and Tom was  up and down the stairs for 30 minutes trimming and adjusting.

After getting everything together, we applied another coat of polyurethane to everything.  Applying the final coat to the branches first allowed any residual bark to flake off onto the dry shelf surface instead of onto a fresh coat of wet polyurethane making for an easy clean up and smooth finish on the shelves.  The polyurethane did a great job and securing the bark to the branches.

About Us

Posted in About Us with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by Lax Cat Creations

We live in Portland, Oregon with our two very sociable black cats, Saki and Pixie. We are approaching  7 (mostly) wonderful years and have moved from northern Arizona, to Bend, to this beautiful city of Portland where we plan to stay and build our futures. We are passionate about creating beautiful and functional art by repurposing old materials.

In May we welcomed our first child, Ansel Jude, the inspiration for many of the projects on this blog. In particular transforming the second bedroom of our apartment into a nursery that reflects the beauty of nature, specifically the forests of the Pacific Northwest. We also recently bought our first home. It is a real fixer and will no doubt provide endless project opportunities.

Tom is a project manager/ building analyst for a green building company and also a full-time student. Tom is a Level I Ski (PSIA) and Level II Snowboard (AASI) instructor. When he has free time (what’s that again?) he loves nothing more than to be on the slopes.

Arian was a Public Health student at PSU until Ansel was born. She looks forward to returning soon! Arian is also a licensed Aesthetician and has a background in the performing arts. She loves to dance, sing and write music.

In addition to the nursery projects, some of the most quality time we have spent together has been working on various other projects for our home and cats. We hope to post all of these projects along with the steps we took in creating them.

Welcome to our blog. Thank you for visiting!