Archive for carpentry

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…

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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.