Saturday, March 10, 2012

DIY Tuesday...a little late.

Sorry, my dear readers, for the tartiness of this post. I should have done it all in advance, unfortunately I hurt my back unexpectedly, so I did not get to post it. From now on I intend to have it ready for you all sooner! My lesson has been learnt!

Since I did not get the chance to make my original plan for DIY, I am going to post one of my articles from "The Stew Magazine" from last april. Apparently alot of people enjoyed it, but I never actually put it up on the site. I did post more pictures to help people understand how it was built, so here it goes:

How To Make A Cat Tree

I know...most people do spring cleaning in spring, but we have an indoor cat that picked us just before Christmas from the SPCA, and she hasn’t had much to do. So we decided that a cat tree was just the thing she needed! We looked around at the ones in the stores, and although beautiful and well made, that they were out of our price range.

With a little ingenuity, after waiting for the right things to show up at the reuse shed, we gathered up the materials to make one fairly cheap. The main materials that are needed to make a cat tree are thick cardboard tubes that carpeting stores may have, carpeting or sisal rope, something that is reasonably thick and wide for a base (plywood is an excellent choice), and screws or industrial staples.

Our monstrosity of a home-made cat tree is six feet tall, has three tiers, and uses an old 80s style black-and-brass headboard as it’s base. The top tier is a thrashed drawer from an unusable desk (a little wood glue made it serviceable), the middle tier is an 18.9 liter water bottle (with the top cut off), and the low tier is a little white laminate wall cabinet (we screwed it shut).

With a huge stroke of luck, we managed upon two rolls of the same carpeting when visiting the reuse shed. United Carpet was kind enough to give me three six-foot lengths of thick six-inch diameter cardboard tubes, although I only used two of them. Lastly, we went to Speedpro Signs, who also gave us two thick four-inch diameter cardboard tubes.

We did have to buy some things for the constrution, such as the L brackets to secure the tubes to the base. We used three L brackets for the bottom, then three brackets for the top, for each tube. Using the brackets also required us to use nuts and bolts, along with washers, to secure them to the tubes and the base.

Now, just so you know, screws and bolts are not the same thing. Screws allow you to screw something into another thing, making it’s own hole. A bolt, however, requires that there be a hole already there. In other words, we had to use a drill to make the holes for the bolts. Also we were afraid to use screws because the sharp end could hurt our cat, with the exception being the brackets for the base, where it was more sensible.

They always say to measure twice and cut once. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that with carpet, you need to add to the measurement if it is really a thick carpet with built in rubber underlay. Our first cuts were about two inches short, so take into account that your dimensions may be bigger than you measure due to the thickness of the carpet.

We also learned that cutting the boxes was affected, as our first attempt left the edges without carpeting. As well, cutting a slit to where the post (the tube) meets the box, and cutting a hole for the post, was by far a better approach than starting from inside the box. Doing it from the outside in will give it a much more finished look, because all you have to do to finish it after the edges are inside the box is cut a piece of carpet to fit the bottom.

To start building our cat tree we had to come up with a design for the materials that we had. I wanted the tree to be six feet tall, to give our cat a challenge, and to get her away from my kids. I also wanted it to have three tiers, so that as she got older, she had easier choices on how to get to the top. I wanted the largest box (the big drawer) to be on the top, so that she could hide from view if she wanted to. With those things in mind, my husband came up with the design of the taller tubes in back, with the smallest one in front. He also figured that with the height that I wanted, and being unsure about cardboard tubes over 4x4 post, that it might need extra stability, hence the smaller tube between two of the tubes.

Holes had to be drilled into the three tubes on each end, so that the L brackets could be attached to the base and the box piece (be it a drawer, water bottle, or the like). The important thing here is that on the inside of the tubes you use washers on the bolts so that the nut has more surface to hold onto (less wear). Once you have your tubes attached the way that you want, and the boxes attached, then you need to get to work on the carpet.

Remember our struggles with measuring carpet? It’s better to have extra than to have too little. You can always cut the excess off after, but too little leaves a gap. We have a household staple gun that we used, using ½ inch staples. I have to say that with the carpeting as thick as we had, I think we may need to rent an industrial one that can take longer staples. If your carpeting is less than ½ an inch thick, you’ll be good to go.

Our final product, as you can see, also includes some sisal rope. It is not required to make the cat tree, and we had to buy it (two rolls for $16 from Rona), but we thought that it would be better than trying to put carpet on the outside of the water bottle. The rope was glued on at quarter intervals using a hot glue gun. The rope was also glued on the ends to keep it from unravelling. We also used some leftover foam board from a previous project as a balcony for the water bottle, as the cat was having a hard time getting inside it.

The cat tree we made is an oddity, but our whole family put in two weekends to make it for our cat. I am sure that if you choose to make one, it will far surpass ours in looks, but our trial and errors will hopefully help you. I will be posting some web addresses for cat tree designs that are either free or inexpensive, along with many more pictures of the cat tree, on my blog at

I also have the link to see the photos of how my husband did it, with the materials I managed to acquire! Hope you all enjoy, and next week will be posted on time!  :)

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