Introduction: Reclaiming a Tree House
This instructable will show you how to reclaim a treehouse into heavy duty shelving and a workbench/toolstands. This build was motivated by the need to remove my childhood treehouse as it had become hazardous from rot. I happened to be building a workshop and used the wood to keep down costs.Taking down a tree house with power tools can be dangerous. Get knowledgeable help if you are at all unsure about what you are doing. Enjoy!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Power drill (screws)
Appropriate bits (for me phillips and spade were majority, forstner bit would also work, also drill bit sized to bolt diameter)
Claw framing hammer (nail removal)
socket set (bolt removal) with adjustable wrench to hold bolts from spinning
quick release wood clamps
pocket hole jig was used to hide supports on workbench
movers dolly was super helpful in moving sections of treehouse
angle grinder (for cutting the bolts that won't unseeze)
prybar for the stubborn nails
small knife/utility knife (for the top tarp)
Compound Mitre Saw was great for big cuts but use your preferred cutting tools
a carpenters square would have been great but I did not have one at the time of this build. If you have an ok eye doing 90 isn't that hard.
I also do not have chisels so I didn't use but they also would have been super helpful especially a 1/2" or 3/4" for cleanup and recessing things
pretty much all the wood was reclaimed or scrap. If your wood was pressure treated (wolmanization) wear a respirator when cutting and don't eat off the surface/your hands
A purchase of high end 1 1/2" screws was made but mostly used on the work bench surface (for those of you who would counter sink and putty over your screws be my guest but I am too lazy for the minute difference in surface smoothness compared to that of a well sunk screw)
majority of metal bolts, screws and weird wood binding washers were reuse
Step 2: Stripping the House
I started at the top. I removed remainder of tarp with utility knife
top beam was hammered upward until priable
side railings were hammered inwards to free up nails (nails were then pried or hammered while raised on one end tilted up until priable)
4" by 4" corner posts were cut down with circular saw (reciprocating saw would probably be easier and safer)
Once the railings were down structure was much more manageable
I scoped out bottom of top platform and decided on my major cut
I also started scoping what wood could be reused where. This requires alot of creativity
Lay the pieces you have out and think about the dimensions you can get with your wood. I also scored free wood floating around the house in the garage and basement. Free wood is not that hard to get in the form of pallets and such if you don't have enough. I suggest planning and jointing if you care about the squareness and finish of your pieces. I only cared that my workbench surface was smooth and level to 1/16th. I am sure many would want to a 32nd or a 64th but I don't do alot of precise woodworking so for me it was just about having rough cuts with enough room / extra to adjust my cuts later.
Step 3: Cutting Down to Size
I split the whole tree house platform in one continuous cut. I probably should have marked out my line but I have done some house framing and felt confident. I did a pretty even split that was very straight. A sure hand and confidence with the tool helps alot. Knowing what the scroll saw should feel like and keeping and eye on the leading edge of the cut is critical. I am no expert but it came out great for me. A chalk line or pencil line with a measuring tape would be a great aid if you aren't confident. You can always reduce down with a second cut if you don't like your edge.
The structure at this point having been split in two was no longer stable. As you can see in the photo I leaned one section against a tree. A tree house is very heavy. Don't do this on your own. However I did. It was dangerous moving something that weighed at least a couple hundred pounds on uneven ground that would sink and or have random roots and ruts. It can be done but this was by far the most dangerous part of the project. Get a buddy to help you. I used the moving dolly to roll the pieces into my garage. Measure your garage door. I barely fit into mine and even sideways it was a challenge to tilt them up once in.
Step 4: Shelves Post Build
Here are some pictures of the two shelves I built. One unit has 3 shelves made of the railing from the tree house cut down and spaced with a book I had. I used a level to attach front beam. I used spade bit to recreate the aesthetic of the holes on the 4bys. Drill your bolt hole before spading obviously.
The other section I left as is just to have a spot to park my oversized metal equipment and tools.
A level and square are your friends. Use them if you care at all about good construction. If you are safety conscious a couple degrees of back tilt can be good (front legs slightly longer) if you want to overload/are worried about forward topple.
Boy that wall perpendicular to the shelves looks awfully empty. Lets build a workbench with the large 4bys left over and the railing top beams :)
Step 5: Bench Build
I cut recut the 4 by 4s to get them to the same height (within a 1/16). I used a compound miter saw but you could use a reciprocating or a circular. Whatever gets the job done.
I staged everything upside down cutting the table surface beams last.
The surface was two randomly perfect pieces of mismatched painted wood I found in the basement. Where the heck did these come from (there is nothing orange in this house).
If you only care a little bit about being level throwing a piece of flat wood between each of the posts and setting a level midway can get you to a decently flat surface (check to see if your floor is flat also).
I used the wood clamps I had on hand (not that many). A square again is going to be critical. I used the high end screws for the legs because I wanted them to be really strongly secured since I put alot on my benches.
I have a hidden pocket holed 2 by 4 holding up the center of the bench to give the frame extra stiffness and strength.
Oh on bench height 4-6 feet tends to be a good range but measure a piece of furniture or counter you feel comfortable standing at. I made mine a touch high in case I want to throw on drawers of a bottom shelf later. Also I prefer tall chairs for a workspace sometimes.
Step 6: Finished! Work in Progress!
Well that is it. Not so complicated. You have some shelves and a bench if your tree house is at all like mine. But while these elements of the workshop are functional they like the shop itself are also evolving entities. I added a draftsman adjustable lamp into the leftmost point of the bench bench surfase. I also added a face clamp and pencil sharpener.
I haven't really modified the shelving at all. One of the two shelves was out of square by a couple of degrees but it serves my purpose (open face single shelf unit). I did add some nails to hang my helmets and some other tools on them. I also put a ton of stuff on them. They seem way sturdier than what I was going to buy from amazon. Probably holding about 200 pounds of stuff apiece. Who knows what modifications the future holds.
Let me know if you liked the project or want to see other builds. If you have suggestions or improvements chime in below at the comments section. Thanks for reading. Go make something already ;)
Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016