A Spiral Stair for the Tree House

Somehow, writing about making toys with my nephews and niece reminds me of making the spiral staircase for Peter’s tree house.
            There needed to be a means of getting from the main floor of the treehouse up to the chess loft (see chess sets). We decided the best route to go was some sort of spiral stair. We had found a white pine tree with unusual branch formations. Peter cut it down and dragged it out of the woods, it turns out this was quite an epic, but you can read about it in Peter’s book Treehouse Chronicles if you are interested. Peter had also cut down a large dying fir tree; come to think of it, there was a story behind cutting that tree down too. Anyway, we cut slabs out of the fir trunk and stripped the bark off the white pine; the latter was a particularly nasty job. The idea was to take the naturally upswept branches of the pine and use them as natural supports for the outer ends of the treads of the stair.

Tree trunk for Stairway


Interior Tree House, from Treehouse Chronicles

            In order to get this right we had to haul the now de-barked pine tree up into the tree house and locate it, a process that created a somewhat bizarre sight and nearly caused a car accident as passing drivers witnessed the hoisting of one tree up into another. Once in place we were able to rotate the trunk of what would become the stairway to take best advantage of the support branches that nature had provided. With trunk in place, we could concentrate on the final shaping of the treads. Peter had cut up the fir into slabs with a chain saw; we now finished these off with drawknife and plane. On the inner end of the tread, I cut a large dovetail, in the trunk I then cut a matching wedge shaped socket.

Illustration from Treehouse Chronicles

Finally, the upswept branch that was to be the support for the outer end of the tread was cut to the right height and the tread was driven into place with a mallet. The ends of the upswept branches were set into sockets drilled in the underside of the treads. The finished stair is strong, simple, and to use a phrase that Peter coined; has lots or “organic funkiness”.
            While I will admit to having a general concept in my mind for the spiral stair, we had to invent a lot of the process as we went along. I think that combination of imagination and invention is what reminds me so much of making toys.
            You can read more about the tree house by clicking on the treehouse category in the right hand column of the page.


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