Finish Used: 3 coats of Sherwin Williams Hi-build pre-cat lacquer applied with cheap turbine HVLP. Only the floor panels were dyed to add some contrast using a powdered aniline dye.
It all started on vacation last year at a children’s play place called “The Trailhead” in Crested Butte, CO. Inside was a large Cedarworks play set that caught my eye (and the attention of our 2-year-old). It is from their Rhapsody series (check them out online at www.cedarworks.com). The play set was really cool, but when I checked the price to build the configuration that would work for us, it easily fell into the build-it-yourself category.
I wanted to take the elements I liked and morph them into a more custom feel. Their system is fully reconfigurable and pre-drilled to accept all sorts of accessories. We will probably never change the set-up (due to the space where it exists) and all the holes and screws didn’t appeal to me.
I hopped into Sketch Up and began with their 2-foot-on-center post idea and changed to slats with sliding dovetails. I don’t like all the floor screws, so I made mine screw in from below. They have some nice routed wall panels, but they fit in grooves in the posts. I went for something more suspended (gives a more airy feeling) with clips holding the walls in place. The Sketch-up design evolved a lot during the process and gave us a way to test ideas out before committing to them in wood.
I did satisfy my desire to have no exposed screws, as long as you don’t climb inside and see how the floors are held together.
Here are the details of construction. The 14 posts were made from 10/4 ash and are 2 1/4″ square and 78″ long. The ends have the female dovetails to receive the slats. The slats are 3/4″ ash with male, stopped dovetails on both ends. The ~150 clips were made from various thicknesses of ash, routed in long strips and cut to length. The panels were cut from 5 sheets of 4×8, 1/2″ Baltic birch ply (with very little waste). The routing took a long time. 1/4″ bits break pretty easily when you are in a hurry. I made a jig for the trees and clouds. Sanding the grooves was a knuckle-buster.
It took a few sessions to get the wood cut, a few more to route the panels, and lots to sand to prep for finishing. I sprayed 3 gallons of lacquer (had to wait for warm days–luckily we get those in winter in Colorado). Everything was finished apart and construction took most of a day.
I am posting the basic play set, but it will receive a ladder on one end and possibly a slide on the other. We are already scheming several add-ons to make it even more fun (lights, colored steps for the climbing panels, etc).