Treehouses, forts, lemonade stands and rafts

Fun summer DIY projects from scrap lumber and real lemons

Summertime DIY fun
I got tired of sitting in front of a computer the other day and decided to walk over to Lyon Books to see what I could find (I always find something good over there). I came across Treehouses and Other Cool Stuff: 50 Projects You Can Build, by David & Jeanie Stiles, which is filled with fun, do-it-yourself building projects that even a kid can do.

“If you are an adult, you may recognize many of these projects from your own childhood,” the book’s intro says, “like the lemonade stand, the raft and the model sailboat. We have picked projects we feel are timeless that appeal to kids of all ages and from all backgrounds.”

The book starts out with instructions on how to build a sawhorse from scrap lumber and plywood, and a classic, old-school wooden toolbox that uses an old broomstick for its handle. (The authors encourage the use of recycled materials whenever possible.)

After offering some useful, basic carpentry tips, the book goes into a chapter called “Huts, Treehouses & Playhouses,” featuring complete, easy-to-understand instructions on how to construct such cool things as a sturdy, wooden tree-fort or an A-frame treehouse, each complete with ladder and a handy wooden bucket that can be lowered by a rope on a pulley.

The “Swinging Treehouse”—suspended between two trees by heavy-duty nylon rope, and accessible only by a hanging rope-ladder that leads to a trap door in the center of the floor—is pure imagination-stirring wonderfulness. I’d love to have one of those in my back yard!

Projects are rated for difficulty, from one to four hammers, with a four-hammer project—such as the lattice, chicken wire and plaster “Dragon House”—being the hardest.

The birdhouse made from two cedar shingles, the desk lamp made with a can and some old gas-stove flex hose, and the four-person, plywood “Circle Swing” are all easy, one-hammer projects.

The “Ski Sled” (which employs a used pair of skis for runners) and rolling lemonade stand made of scrap lumber and a recycled bike wheel are great two-hammer projects that just about anyone can build (younger kids will need a little help). The “Recycled Raft”—another two-hammer endeavor—is a great way to make use of empty plastic milk cartons.

This book is filled with creative projects, from small to time-consuming, to arouse the interest of any bored kid (or adult) on a summer day. Check it out.

Cheap lumber

If you don’t have any used wood lying around your yard or shed, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore (220 Meyers St., 895-1271) sells used lumber, mostly trim and molding, says Director Owen Bettis. If you need other pieces of wood to build your treehouse, lemonade stand or chicken coop, Moss Lumber & Hardware (13407 Garner Lane, 895-0700) offers “cull lumber” (basically “seconds,” left after the lumber has been cherry-picked for perfectly straight pieces by customers) for up to 80 percent off the original price.

Good lemonade, Part 2
If you need a simple, reliable recipe for refreshing, ice-cold (real) lemonade to sell at the lemonade stand you build, former Chico city councilman, legendary caterer and KZFR programmer David Guzzetti offers this little gem:


1 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup of superfine sugar
1 cup crushed ice
4 cups water

“Pureed strawberries are great to add to it, also,” he advises.