Woven Branch Playhouse: What Does One Do With a Branch Shedding Tree?

Introduction: Woven Branch Playhouse: What Does One Do With a Branch Shedding Tree?

About: I make stuff. All sorts of stuff. I prefer to use materials that would otherwise be headed for the landfill. It's the best seeing someone's face when you tell them what that nifty item is made from (post-po…

We have this amazingly old willow in our yard.  And it sheds branches.  LOTS of them.  Our house, before it became our house, was a rental property for some years, and this tree was neglected, if not outright ignored.  Branches grew wherever they happened to sprout out, and no care was taken to thin them out or keep the canopy free of deadwood.  Hence, shedding branches.

Once we moved in, the yard was quickly tackled.  A kind neighbor came and pruned the tree for us (it was crazy.  He was swinging around in the tree by one hand, a chainsaw in the other).  Between the shed branches and the cut branches, there were... a lot of branches!  We put our heads together (as we often do, the wife and I) and began to build!  

Though we had a HYOOGE pile of branches, it was rather amazing that we didn't have enough to finish the project in a single season.  But with the first stage of building, we were able to get rid of all those branches into something cool and useful! 

Step 1: Large Branches for Framework

We started by cutting down the larger branches (over 2" in diameter) to roughly equal lengths(approx 4 ft.) for uprights.  We then cut some for some overhead pieces for roof supports.  Due to the irregular nature of the branches, we had to put in some random limb pieces for support, to make sure that  the structure would stand on it's own.  3" to 4" grabber screws and a cordless drill are EXTREMELY useful for this step.

Step 2: Setup "warp" in Branches

This is the hardest step to explain,and the most essential.  Taking the longer branches and stripping them of any subsidiary smaller branches, start to create vertical "bars" between the existing uprights.  This, in weaving terms, is the "warp".Some cord or wire can be used to lash these bars in place while other weaving goes on.  Once there are a number of warp branches, the woof  (horizontal) branches can be woven in and out of the warp branches.   More branches can always be added in for warp or woof as needed. 

The pic below is what we were able to finish after the first season.  So many branches, it seemed we would NEVER get through them all!  But it was surprising that we had no branches left, yet we weren't done with the project!

Step 3: Keep Adding As Needed As Nature Provides.

Doors and windows can be allowed by leaving out branches in the weaving.  As nature provides more branches, be sure to weave them in, adding support for your weaving as needed.  This is a rather organic, intuitive process, and you will be dealing with materials that are by no means standard in dimension.  So don't feel bad if you need to take something apart and restart.  This is a work in progress, and has seen several permutations.  I'm rather sure that it will continue to evolve.  So have fun!

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    7 years ago

    Growing up on Alaskan FAA Stations, in Yakutat my favorite "toy" was a leftover saw I found in a WW II site. With this (and no rope) we would cut down tall alder saplings to use as a ti-pi frame, leaving the top branches to entangle, keeping the frame together so that the boys found it too difficult to tear down. We added a large layer of underbrush to keep the outer layer of hemlock branches attached. We used hemlock because the needles were flat and soft. Even though Yakutat & Yakataga, has MORE rain than Seattle, the inside was always dry. Our later ti-pis had a diameter of about twelve feet. When I first got the chance ( in 5th grade) a Boy Scout Handbook, I was so disappointed. All of their camping required unavailable tools and supplies. However, the emergency lean-to shelter inspired our ti-pis. My neighbor's Girl Scout Handbook, was even more disappointing. At least I was no longer sorry that I missed the opportunity of being a Scout. Civil Air Patrol ia way more FUN!

    Master Beorn
    Master Beorn

    7 years ago on Introduction

    We had a butternut squash decide that this was better to grow on than a trellis this year, so we had to disengage some squashes from the south wall, and rebuild. Such is the nature of such things.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    thanks for this! I've been trying to find ideas for a small "chill-out" space for when I want some time out, but I can't seem to make Google or YouTube (or Instructables, sigh) understand that I'm not looking to build a full-size cabin! I should be able to adapt your design, so thanks much