Building a “Tarzan” Tree Hut (Aug, 1929)

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Building a “Tarzan” Tree Hut

IF YOU want to experience the sensation of a wild ride with the airmail, select a night when the weather man predicts “whoopee,” don a helmet, goggles, leather jerkin, or what have you, and seat yourself in a swivel chair in the highest tree hut you can find. To help the imagination, take along a flash light and a book of airplane adventures. However, you won’t need these after the storm breaks. Boy! Feel those air bumps! You zoom to get above the storm. You roll! You side slip! Then, crash! The wing has crumpled! You’re in a tailspin! You grab your ‘chute! You throw open the cockpit (or hut window) ! Wow! The wind takes away your breath! The rain slashes your face! A flash of lightning! All about you empty space! Another flash! Tree branches are revealed below! You are about to crash! Too late to leap!

A good test of nerve, this, for you fellows who expect some day to pilot a plane, under varied weather conditions.

Undoubtedly, there has been an increase in the construction of tree huts in the past year. In a recent motor trip, I came upon dozens of them, some finished, many in the course of building. Aviation is having its influence on the airminded, suggesting the tree cabin as next best to owning a plane.

Where is your tree? Each tree has its particular problem. A tree with many branches affords excellent support for a hut. A straight tree with a few large branches may have a hut built around it, supported upon brackets. A group of two, three or four trees may have a hut hung between them.

The photograph shows a hut built between the branches of a willow tree by Boy Scouts of Villa Park, Illinois. The hut is not one of beauty, but new lumber was not available and the boys had to do the best they could with boards from a tumble-down barn. That is often the case, and the gang’s specifications call only for a substantial foundation, a tight roof, a door and window, bunks, a stove, and room enough to turn around in.

Tree Branches Support Floor A diagram shows how the foundation of the willow-tree hut was framed with tree branches. If 2-by-4s or 2-by-6s are available, it would be better to use them, because of the greater ease of spiking them in place. Branches used for floor sills and joists must be thoroughly tested for strength and their bark must be removed to prevent rapid decay. In addition to the framing shown in the diagram, a post extends from the tree crotch to a girder placed under the center of the floor for reinforcement; and there are block supports and diagonal braces. A careful study must be given to the framing, because each member must be secure, with no possibility of its racking loose in heavy wind. Bolting may be best in some places, anchoring with strap iron in other places.

With the framing completed and floored over, setting the wall studs, sheathing them, and constructing the roof will be quick work.

Make a lean-to or a gable roof, with a rise of at least 3 inches to the foot, to give it adequate pitch to shed rain. Lay the roof boards close together, then cover them with heavy roofing paper.

Sash Window Is Best A screened window with wooden shutter is sufficient for warm weather, but a sash of the size used for basement and garage windows is not expensive, and you will need it unless you expect to abandon the hut for the winter. Perhaps you can find an old sash. It will be no trick to reglaze a broken light or two.

A battened door is good enough, with pioneer latch and latchstring. If you install a stove, place a sheet of galvanized iron under it, and protect the wall behind it with another sheet, or with a sheet of asbestos; also protect the wall or roof through which you run the stovepipe. Double deck your bunks. Maybe you can pick up two discarded bed springs or borrow a couple of army cots.

No modern tree hut is complete without a radio, so install an aerial and a ground. A good ground will serve also as a lightning rod.

Tree huts are reached by extension ladders, rope ladders, ladders made by nailing cleats to the tree trunk, and by a combination of these. Usually the lower length is made removable, and pulled up out of reach to make the hut inaccessible.

To gain entrance to the willow-tree hut shown in the photograph, one first climbs into the crotch of the tree, then up the branch on the right of the drawbridge. When all are in for the night, and the cat has been put out, the drawbridge is raised. Obviously, this is done to discourage airminded sleep walkers from descending in scanty attire.

An accompanying diagram suggests how to frame the floor for a small two-tree hut. First, spike a pair of 2-by-4 blocks about 30 inches long to each tree (A, Fig. 2), on opposite sides, with the tops on a line with one another. Across the tops of these blocks rest two pieces of 2-by-6 (B), for floor girders, and spike them to the trees. And across the blocks near the bottom spike a 2-by-4 plate (C), one on each side of the trees. Cut separator block D (Figs. 2 and 3) to make a snug fit between 2-by-4s C, and spike it at the center of their length.

Girder B projects several inches beyond the trees, to support the end floor joists E. After cutting enough joists of the desired length, a spacing of 16 inch or so, center them on the girders and spike them in place. Then spike the headers F to their ends. Cut struts G, next, with ends notched to fit over header F and plate G, as indicated in Fig. 3. The struts must be cut accurately to make a good piece of joinery. Tie the center struts with the 1-by-6 tie plate H. With the platform framed and braced, lay the flooring, then proceed with the construction of the hut.

With the substitution of heavier timbers, and the addition of struts, the same form of construction may be used for a larger platform.

  1. Hirudinea says: May 11, 20117:54 am

    That’s really neat, bet it wouldn’t be allowed today.

  2. Anton says: May 11, 20118:06 am

    Weather “Whoopee” in a tree house?…

  3. tom says: May 11, 20118:34 am

    Like Hirundinea said; it looks like fun. Now you’d be turned in for child endangerment. Fortunately I survived my treehouse built by me and buddies(even girls!); old boards, rusty nails and all other potential hazards including falling out of the tree.

  4. Toronto says: May 11, 201112:01 pm

    Don’t forget the dropped hammer – I caught one on top f my head when I was about 6.

    (Yeah, yeah. Insert joke here.)

    I still remember the name of the kid who dropped it – Ronald MacDonald. It didn’t mean anything to me then.

  5. Don says: May 12, 20115:09 pm

    Check with your township, city, or county, whichever level has a building department that you are subject to. But by and large, in my experience, neighbors are usually the most serious concern (who else is going to tell the township to get involved?)

    Most cities will allow a tree-house without a big fuss. It’s best to keep it small, away from your neighbors wall and not make it unsightly.

  6. John says: May 12, 20119:29 pm

    Don: That was a very good idea. This website makes a similar suggestion to Don’s.

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