We always thought it would be cool to have some sort of catwalk for our cat to skulk and hide from way above. I wanted to design something for the whole wall, something that would be a bit artistic, sculptural, and somewhat functional for us(besides the entertainment factor). After getting little bits of inspiration here and there from what others have created for their cats, and thinking about how to make it work for my aesthetics, this is what I came up with. Hope you get inspired by the design, and enjoy all the cute cat photos!
Step 1: The Beginnings
The first photo shows what is the current state of the wall. Just a Safe Painting.
I had some vague idea about making an install for the cat, maybe some shelves, boxes, ramps, and a cave. I found some cool things online to inspire me, and decided to incorporate some bookshelves into the main structure(it can't be all about the cat!) and then some hideaways above it all for the cat to sleep and spy with complete confidence.
I drew out some plans on paper, then made a rough model using strips of paper. I ended up changing things here and there, but isn't that always how a spontaneous build happens?
My starting materials list was small, cost just under $100 and some things were not even used. Minus that and add to that the hardware necessary, and this project can be done for about $100.
(3) 5/4" x 8" x 8' premium pine..(I only used 2)
(1) stair tread (11.25" x 48")
2' x 2' birch plywood
.25" x 3" x 48" strip of poplar
oak dowel, which I ended up not using
and 4' of blue carpet runner
few dozen upholstery tacks
about 40 #10 biscuit joints
7 various types of shelf brackets
Arduino Uno, Radio Shack LED strip, plus wiring, and turning knob
Read and looksie ahead to see how I made a very cool feature for the Humans and the Cat...
Step 2: The Rope Bridge
My first opportunity to work on the project after I had purchased the materials was in the evening. I decided to start on the rope bridge as some could be fashioned down in the wood shop but much experimenting was needed, and the warm and cozy upstairs was a better environment for that.
I cut the strip into 6 pieces for the slats and decided to experiment with different finishes that I had, as the winner would determine what would be used for the rest of the project finishing. I had three finishes at my disposal: 1. Tung oil/beeswax finish 2. Linseed oil/beeswax finish 3. Renaissance wax finish. My results/thoughts are as follows:
1. tung oil/wax mix was thick and mild-smelling(and some of the wax structure had separated and had to be discarded)
2. linseed oil/wax mix was thinner and a little odiferous(think of your oil paint-by-number kits from the seventies)
3. The Renaissance wax mixture was Evil-smelling. I have now delegated it to purposes of greasing up the Table Saw.
I decided to use the tung oil/wax mix for the rest of all the wood finishes.
Step 3: A LOT of Miter Cuts
I am glad I made a paper model of what I wanted to build. I am also especially glad that I labeled everything with letters according to their build progression. Even as I cut each piece, I labeled onto the wood exactly as on the paper, even its orientation. This made things a lot easier, as challenging as this project was.
I changed the parallelograms to 90 degree boxes as it just would have been too complicated, and would have hindered the utility of the shelves, as it turns out. I was just trying to introduce variety without functionality. Simpler is best.
Step 4: Even MORE Biscuits
Oi, by the end of this I had deemed myself the Biscuit Queen. The basic Ryobi was great. I read through the well -written manual and had little to no problem achieving what I needed. I made test cuts on scrap before I started, of course. I used #10 biscuits, two per width. Some were at 90 degrees, most were at 45 degrees. I was diligent about making perfect marks for centering, and it paid off later when my joints fit very nicely. My only complaint with the Ryobi is that it is difficult to lock the settings in, so you must periodically check for "creep", to make sure that your first, middle and last cuttings are identical.
Step 5: So MUCH Clamping
This got tedious, as well, but the best rule is to go slowly, do small sections at a time, and have plenty of/a variety of clamps at your disposal. Plenty of glue, a damp sponge, a rag, and a drop cloth are all necessities for keeping all this under control and achieving success.
The third pic(the up-close one) is a groove I routed to embed the LED strip into. First time I used my Dewalt combo router, and this was the gateway project to get me hooked, for sure.
Step 6: Revisiting the Rope Bridge
While all the clamp-drying is happening, what better time to work on the bridge?
I stacked up all six slats with masking tape and put them under the drill press.
The holes were only slightly larger than the clothesline rope I would be using, and I had originally decided to use hex nuts, as that is what was available in the work shop. (Aesthetically, it didn't quite work for me, so I purchased some large wooden beads for several dollars and used those instead.)
The third photo is after the finished install. It is attached to the bookshelf, and leads up into the Cat Cave(fourth pic), which is made from the leftover half of the stair tread, outfitted with a semi-rigid suede rectangle, fitted down into the front with a 1/4" groove. It stays in most of the time if the kitty isn't too rowdy. Easy enough for me to tack it down, but I want to be able to clean it periodically.
Step 7: The Kitty!
The Wooden One, not the Real One.
Again, first time using a tool of mine, the Scroll Saw. The clearance of the machine wasn't so good for such a large cat profile, but I managed okay.
The eyes were another story.
At first, I thought I could use my fancy Robert Lawson coping saw for this. That failed, or I failed. I was a little stressed. I ended up bringing it back to the scroll saw. All was good. The eyes were a little larger than I wanted, but the Kitty(the Real One), ends up facing the other way for a better view of humans that might walk by to possibly feed him, and so doesn't even amuse us by looking through the Cat Eyes. (The shadows that the eyes and tail produce are hilarious, though, especially when The Kitty is up there, wagging his own tail, and glaring independently with his perfect amber eyes)
Step 8: The Cat Shelf
I cut the stair tread to fit the bottom of the cat silhouette, then routed a 1/4" groove to accept the cat cutout.
A heavy bead of glue, and backer blocks from scraps to lock that cat profile in.
Step 9: Lots of Sanding, Then Oiling
I sanded everything Good, rounding the edges and cleaning up edges where they didn't look satisfactory. Having a vacuum, an almost-damp sponge, and a dry cloth are tools you'll need for this endeavor.
I tacked the LED strip into the groove with quilting needles(!) They were the seemingly correct fastener for the job, as I had to puncture through the silicone housing and into the soft pine. I pushed the needles through, then lightly hammered, then clipped the heads off(yellow balls).
Attaching to the wall: Knowing that I would be placing books and such into the shelf boxes, that made it okay to utilize shelf brackets that would be later hidden. In the fourth photo, the two grey ones you can see. the third bracket is under the initial step platform on the bottom right, and it is just a 3" zinc angle bracket. Naturally these are all anchored into studs. That was the trick, and solution for me. Other possible options ended up not being viable options, and this was easy and strong.
After I had attached the unit to the wall, I just had to install the Cat Shelf right away.
Step 10: The Electronics
Hole drilled into wall to accept cables from LED strip.
Pulled through, with pins showing to insert into Arduino.
Pins inserted into appropriate holes, also turning knob installed to allow complete Roy G Biv color scheme to be realized on LED strip. I used the old radio shack strip, which can be finicky to work with, so have provided some workable code below.
Here's the code:
Ooh, look, violet!
And now I've outfitted the shelves.
Ooh, look, Crimson!
And a cute Mouse.
A 30 second video showing the entire spectrum of Roy G Biv
Step 11: Upholstering and More Light Pics(!)
This particular carpet runner was corded, think corduroy, so was nice in that I could just cut along the groves for a straight line.
I thought upholstery tacks would lend a nice touch, and am glad I went through the trouble as The Kitty loves to show the carpet what cat claws are made of. : ) (antiqued brass is what I used)
Step 12: The Bribe and Glamour Shots
Catnip was offered. It did the trick. Now the cat is a pro and utilizes the entire structure.
And Lots of photos.