When The Wife and I were preparing for The Understudy to be born, I knew I wanted to build something for him to be in his room. I looked all over Pinterest (yes, cool dads look at Pinterest) for some inspiration. I found the growth chart rulers and knew I wanted to make that. That looked easy and it would be something we could keep forever. Then, I saw some amazing tree bookshelves. They were so cool, and I knew that if I could come up with an idea, I could use my resources and make it come to life. (Resources: Stepdad… He builds houses. College buddy… He designs sets for theatre using computer programs. Use your resources and give them beer. It works. Remember, I used to roll burritos.)
I did a lot Pinteresting and came up with an idea. I would use the growth chart ruler as the trunk of the tree and the shelves would come off at angles like branches. I drew the wall with dimensions and a ROUGH sketch of what I wanted to do and sent it to my college buddy. Then, he went to work.
There was an outlet on the wall that we wanted to cover, but still have access to. So, we decided the trunk of the tree would be hollow, a box using three pieces of 1x8x6. We could then reach under the trunk and plug in something if we wanted to access the outlet. We also wanted it away from the air register so that it wouldn’t warp the wood. This allowed the tree to be off centered on the wall and give us different lengths of branches on each side of the tree. We also wanted a branch to go just under the window, etc. The point here is to use the space that you’re given and incorporate the tree into that space. No two trees are alike.
In the end, he came up with different diagrams for us. One with the overall look, one with the height of each branch from the floor to the point it exits the trunk and even one with the length and angles of each branch so we knew what length and angle to cut each one. Better than Ikea’s instructions by a long shot! It saved a ton of time for us when it came time to assemble. No guess work. Just follow the instructions.
We decided to use common board for the tree bookshelf. It’s a very inexpensive pine with lots of characteristics of a tree (knots, rings, etc). We bought 6 pieces of 1x8x8. First, I made the growth chart ruler.
Then we went about cutting each piece of wood. Notice on the diagrams that each branch was labeled, L1, L2, R3, R4, etc. After we cut each piece, we labeled the end that would be attached to the trunk so that we wouldn’t have to waste time later. Brilliant, right!?! I came up with that one. Once each piece was cut to correct lengths and angles, I stained and polyurethaned each piece.
Now, it’s time for the assembly. We attached each branch to the corresponding side of each trunk with a nail gun. We assembled each side of the trunk and carried them into the room with the growth chart ruler.
It was very important that we attached the tree bookshelf to the wall so that it wasn’t going to come down (obviously). There weren’t studs in the spot we wanted to attach it to. So we got some heavy duty anchors to attach a couple smaller pieces of wood to the wall to also help with spacing and leveling each side properly. We attached three small wood pieces to one side of the trunk and attached that entire side into the anchors on the wall.
We tested the branches to check for sturdiness. The shorter ones were very sturdy and didn’t need any other kind of support aside from being attached to the trunk with the nail gun.
The longer branches would need to support more weight at the ends since more books would be able to be on them. So, we installed some small L Brackets at the ends of the longer branches to give them that support. We did the same with any other branches that seemed to move when we put weight on them. (It turned out to be only 4 branches, total)
After attaching the right side, it was time to attach the left side to the three smaller pieces against the wall. Then, we installed the L brackets to branches that needed support.
Once both sides of the trunk were attached, it was time to install the growth chart ruler. We used the nail gun again to attach the ruler. It left some really small holes that you don’t notice unless you’re a few inches from the tree and looking for them. You could fill the holes with wood filler and try to match the color, but I decided it would look better to leave that out. Trees have holes.
In the end, we have an amazing tree bookshelf and growth chart ruler all in one. The Wife loves it and The Understudy seems fascinated by it. It’s also done in a way that if The Understudy gets too old for it and doesn’t want it on the wall, it can be removed and reassembled somewhere else. Or, the sides can go away and we can keep the growth chart ruler forever. That’s the most important part to us as parents. The holes in the wall can be filled and he can put up all the Beatles posters he wants in there. (Just a suggestion, kid.)
Having a kid brings out amazing things in people. I wanted to be more creative than I’ve ever been. Seeing his tree bookshelf every day is a reminder to me how excited I was and how inspired he made me. I’ve seen growth chart rulers, I’ve seen tree bookshelves. But never all in one. I hope that you will be inspired to make something amazing and share it with us. Maybe it’s your own version of a tree bookshelf. All I can say is, go for it. It takes a lot of planning and decisions that need to be made, but it is worth every second that it occupies your inspired brain. Need some help or have some questions? Feel free to comment below or contact me directly.
Happy inspiration, my friend!