Treehouse Hardware 5


Simple Goals1and2

A couple of the more obvious objectives when building a treehouse are:

  1. Make sure the structure is safe and sturdy, and
  2. Don’t kill the tree

 

Grunt Like a Caveman

Well, it turns out one of the ways you accomplish those laudable goals is by minimizing the number of penetrations through the tree’s outer living layer of tissue.  That means fewer connectors, which also means bigger connectors.  And when I say “bigger”, I mean grunt-like-a-caveman-with-your-new-weapon bigger.  Our weapon of choice for the main attachment points to the tree is this beauty – a 1-inch diameter x 14-inch long lag bolt.

"L" and "A" with the Monster Lag.  Yes, those are fairy wings and yes, she's about to do a military press!

“L” and “A” with the Monster Lag. Yes, those are fairy wings and yes, she’s about to do a military press!

Being trained as a mechanical engineer, this sort of over-sized monster hardware appeals to my primal need for high safety factors and bad-ass equipment.  (sorry for the language L&A, but sometimes Papa’s gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em.)  It also gives my kids something heavy and dangerous to play with when Mom’s not looking.  And it’s a nice conversation piece when guests are over:

Typical conversation:

Me to other guy: “Dude, check this out!”
Other guy: “Awesome!”
Wives: “You idiots…”

 

Eye Bolts, Turnbuckles, and Shackles.  Oh my!

Eye Bolts, Turnbuckles, and Shackles. Oh my!

More Hardware Fun

Luckily our treehouse design comes with some additional perks for the specialty-hardware-loving engineers/dads/nerds like me.  You’ll recall from a previous post that we have a front beam that will be suspended by cables attached to the tree above.  This nifty feature calls for quite a few pieces of additional specialty hardware.  Galvanized steel cable, thimbles & clamps, turnbuckles, shackles, forged eye bolts, load plates, and so on.  It’s like Christmas for an engineering nerd…or a redneck (they have a surprising number of similarities).

Check out my weightlifting, Papa!

Check out my weightlifting, Papa!

 

I seeee you!  (3/4" Forged Eye Bolt)

I seeee you! (3/4″ Forged Eye Bolt)

 

Check out the horseshoe thing, Papa!  (Shackle)

Check out the horseshoe thing, Papa! (Shackle)

 

Where I Bought the Stuff

Unfortunately, monster lag bolts and hardware pieces like these are not available at your neighborhood Ace Hardware store.  So thank goodness for Internet shopping.  There are a number of professional treehouse supply websites that sell all sorts of specialized hardware, massive lag screws, etc.  But good golly they are pricey! (and I am notoriously frugal)  I’m sure these sites are run by fine folks who know what they’re doing, but $35-$40 per bolt just seemed silly to me.  So after considerable scouring of the web, I came across a couple sources that deserve a mention and a ‘thank you’.

Lippincott Supply in Vallejo, CA - http://www.lippincottsupply.com/
These folks carry lots of specialty fasteners.  I got all of my large bolts, washers, and nuts here.  At about $8 per bolt for the 1-inch x 14-inch lag screws, they were WAY less expensive than the $35-$40 price at the treehouse supply places.

FarmAndRanchHardware.com in Saugerties, NY - http://www.farmandranchhardware.com/
After doing some digging to make sure this was a legit site (it is) I ordered the wire rope, turnbuckles, shackles, and related accessories from here.  The company is actually Fehr Brothers or something, but they sell some stuff through this website.  Their prices were considerably less expensive than places like Grainger or McMaster-Carr.  UPDATE 6/10/2014 – I got a comment from the company saying the site is now http://endurancehardware.com/.

 

A Couple Custom Pieces

There is a perfectly good knee brace bracket available online, but something about spending $190 on two of them ($95 each) seemed obnoxious.  So like any good engineer, I took to SketchUp to design my own and contacted a local welder/fabricator to make some custom brackets at about half the price. (Thank you, Brandon!)

The design I chose is made from 1/4-inch plate steel and (I’m hoping) should allow for a little easier installation of the knee braces.  We’ll see how that turns out…  One thing to note – my earlier versions of this design failed to account for water drainage but luckily I wised up and incorporated slots for drainage in the final version.  These have been cleaned, primed, and  finally painted with a fancy-schmancy galvanized paint to resist corrosion, which was considerably less expensive than powder-coating.   I’ll report later on how well this design works out.

This is the SketchUp design for the knee brace bracket.  It is supposed to hold a 4x6 at a 45-degree angle to support the back of the structure.

This is the SketchUp design for the knee brace bracket. It is supposed to hold a 4×6 at a 45-degree angle to support the back of the structure.

 

And here are "A" & "L" with the actual pieces.  Load plate on left - knee brack bracket on right.

And here are “A” & “L” with the actual pieces. Load plate on left – knee brack bracket on right.

 

Next Up…..Construction?

Ladies and Gentlemen, this fell from the sky and we don't know what it is.  Definitely alien.  Probably.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this fell from the sky and we don’t know what it is. Definitely alien. Probably.


5 thoughts on “Treehouse Hardware

  • Reply
    Fred Couse

    Thanks for your warm comments on our website “farmandranchhardware.com”, which (since your article) has been reformated as “Endurancehardware.com”. We truly are a “legit” site, with over 150 years of international experience under our parent, Fehr Bros. Industries, Inc. A few years ago we recognized that smaller, individual customers had similar needs to our corporate partners and this site was established for those with smaller sized needs. We promise you the finest quality and, hopefully, the fastest service in the Industry……………….all backed by our easy return policy if you’re unhappy. Happy Tree Housing!

    • Reply
      Brian Post author

      I had the knee brace hardware custom made by a local welder using the drawing in the blog, which cost less that the ones available from the treehouse hardware sites online. The knee brace itself is a 4×6. Hope that helps!

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