Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Tree Part Construction Set


I just want to start by assuring Jessi (who worries about my wife) that I spent most of the weekend doing useful things around the house, but one of those things was pruning branches from an overgrown cedar and I had to cut them into pieces that would fit into our yard waste container anyway, so the tools were already out, and from there it was really only a very small step to making this simple construction set from tree parts.


I didn't even take the time to sand this piece of scrap lumber (mostly because my sander seems to have taken up permanent residence at the school), and drilling those fifteen 5/8" holes took almost no time at all. I chose 5/8" holes because I already had a couple length of 5/8" doweling in the garage, although I didn't have enough for the whole project. I debated with myself about whether or not it was worth a trip to the hardware store for a few more sticks, but then I remembered Mark Frauenfelder's DIY warning (from his terrific book Made By Hand) that once you cross your property line, you might as well give up on getting anything more done that day. Instead, I scavenged around the garage and came up with enough 1/4" square doweling to complete the project. So indeed, the children of Woodland Park will be putting square pegs into 3/8" round holes . . . Or, rather they'll be putting round holes onto square pegs.


I'm going to start by introducing this to the kids with removable dowels because I think it will make the toy more flexible as they rearrange them to suit their construction needs . . .


. . . but I can imagine wanting to glue at least a few of them permanently into the base.



I can also imagine that we'll want to ultimately make a much larger one (or several of them) because this will likely only accommodate 2-3 builders, at most, at a time. I'm thinking of this as a prototype that we can use to iron out the bugs before making the classroom-sized version. For instance, all I've provided here are 3 different sizes of "cookies" along with a handful of 2-hole horizontal pieces. I did drill some of the cookie holes off-center to allow for a little more variety, but I'm expecting that as they play we'll think of other types of pieces that will work. For instance, filleting a few of those sticks into 2-hole half-rounds is probably in the offing. I'm taking the drill and jigsaw to school today in case we come up with ideas.






This construction set doesn't have the artistic merits of the Cookie Tree or the Bottle Bush, nor the "wow" factor of the Tree Part Balancers, but I think it's rustic simplicity has its own charm nevertheless . . . And it has the added bonus of not eating up my entire weekend.



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16 comments:

Scott said...

Your kids are so lucky that you have been pruning trees at home! I think this simpler construction set may lead to the greatest creativity among the children. It's great.

MOM #1 said...

Amazing! That is so creative and fun and organic and natural. You've got a lucky group of kiddos!

Ms. Jessi said...

Okay, okay...you have been redeemed! :) I admit, if my husband was making something for kids I would excuse him from his chores. At least you did it from your pruning clippings! :)
I really enjoy these homemade projects you come up with. You should patent them!

McDroll said...

I' love it, I love it, I love it! Going to do this one - the simplest are always the best! Thanks Tom...off to get the chainsaw!

Juliet Robertson said...

This idea is VERY marketable. I like it. A lot. Oh yes.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I would think the kids could put holes wherever they wanted in more tree "cookies" using a hand drill. I found an old brace and bit and a T-shaped hand drill while on vacation this summer. Didn't find any egg-beater drills, so I may have to break down and buy one new.

Sherry and Donna said...

Cool really cool! Actually there is something very 'Fred Flintstone' about this Tom. I can see some pretty cool vehicles being made out of this idea if you placed some holes to accommodate a series of axels ...???!
Donna :) :)

Kami said...

Brilliant! So simple, yet I can totally imagine how much fun the kids will have....

CHILDHOOD MAGIC said...

ah yes. so simple and yet so perfect. the kids could play with this for hours. thanks for the idea!

SquiggleMum said...

I thought the same thing as Juliet actually - very marketable Tom!

Michelle said...

Love it for it's simplicity :) It might not be fancy as bought toy but it is cool and cheap! ;) Subscribed to your blog so I can keep track of your future projects! :)

jenny said...

You are unstoppable :)

Now I wonder how much it would cost for one of those to be shipped from Seattle to Sydney?

Anonymous said...

I want one in VA too...I am actually using your blog, as well as our Austrailian preschool friends to propose an outdoor nature classroom for our school in VA...I could really suck in my principal if I had one of these for her to play around with........I'll pay you for a few sets of those tree cookies with letters too!

Erin

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

That is all kinds of awesome!

Scott said...

I agree with Donna. Let's add some wheels!

Teacher Tom said...

@Erin . . . I just went through the proposal/persuasion process this year so I might even have some "sales" ideas for you. Please contact me by email (Tom at Hobson.org). I really want more kids playing outside!

Thanks everyone! I have a few photos of the kids playing with them that I hope to share with you . . . They have their own ideas!

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