In which we briefly consider the joys of treehouses, and then find ourselves stranded on a desert island, with only the native flora and fauna, and the parts we salvage from our shipwreck to make shelter. Somewhere along the way I review the LEGO Ideas Tree House 21318
Almost a year ago now, we first heard that the Ideas Submission by of a Tree House was approved I started to reflect on why treehouses have such appeal. As a youngster, I always like to keep my feet firmly on the ground. However, as we entered our teenage years, by brother, and a friend of ours took to a large pine tree in my parent’s back yard with a ladder and a couple of beams of wood. After some careful bolting on, additional planks were added, and after a few weeks, they had constructed a platform to escape from the world and hang out, free from the demands of secondary school, even if only for an hour or two.
Fast forward thirty years or so, and my brother’s and my children now have a tree house of their own, in the same yard, but from a different tree. This one looks a little more grand than the previous platform – with walls, a roof and windows: A place where the kids could gather and let their imaginations take flight, free of their parents concerns.
And so I came to see the reason that Kevin Feezer’s submission gained the 10000 votes of support, and then successfully passed through the approval phase without too much effort. A tree house is also a home for the imagination: It can be a ship, or and airplane; a camp in the jungle or a palace, serving high tea. You can read my take on the press release here
On opening the box, I was amazed at the scale of things: the sheer size of the box, the thickness of the instruction manual and the number of bags containing elements. This included ten bags of foliage elements.
It is just too hard to convey the sense of excitement and adventure that I am overcome with as I survey the bags. I pick up the instructions, and bag number one. For a brief moment I close my eyes, and find myself drifting away…
And so we now find ourselves waking up on a Desert Island, the morning after a horrendous storm. Our priorities move towards seeking shelter…
I have been searching for my partner and our children, since our boat was wrecked on this forsaken island. We made it safely to shore together, before getting separated as we left the beach. One thing is for sure: When we reunite, I don’t think we are going to get away from this island for some time. I must start searching for a place to build a home. If I stay still, they are more likely to find me, given time.
I come across an area, rich in its variety of landscape – verdant greens, both bright and dark, and more 2×4 bricks than I have seen in recent years outside of the world of Minecraft. Some technic elements form the frame of the base which will form the roots of a mighty tree. As I explore the space, I lift a rock and find some gems buried underneath.
After forming a small path, with medium stone grey studs and round tiles, it becomes obvious that part of our landscape is missing: If this is where we are going to build our home, perhaps we will need some fresh water.
It is late: I will start my search for fresh water tomorrow.
As I explored the local landscape, I saw the ground grow up in front of me. Thankfully a body of water appeared in front of me. A stream in fact. It was not the normal bright blue I had become accustomed to over the years. It had become closer to a dark azure. Although the river had started separately to the ground I had been standing on, it joined fairly quickly – and the blue was rapidly covered by a transparent later of plates, looking quite the dynamic bubbling brook. The riverbanks developed in dark green, with details added in dark tan in the corners.
I took a drink from the river – it was blissful: so sweet, fresh and calming. Tomorrow I shall start work on the tree that I shall build our home in. I am sure that I will be reunited with my family soon enough.
Not as much to do today: I put together the base of the trunk of the tree. You can’t have a tree house without a tree. I found where all of those 1x2x 2 2/3 bricks with 4 studs on the side have gone now that the Brick Heads are becoming endangered. I also found eight ‘stud with handle’ elements which seem to poke off at odd angles from the core.
Today we saw further development of the base of the tree. With lots of reddish brown plates, as well as dark brown elements, we see plenty of inverse arches and cheese slopes
The wider plates are used to build up the bulk of the trunk, while the narrower ones are built up in order to mount them on an angle. We also have one of the few printed elements that can be found in the set. I can see that the job ahead of me is going to be a big one, and I do not know what has become of my family. Hopefully I will find some answers soon. In the meantime, I shall resort to carving inspirational quotes into the side of my tree.
A big day today. Equipped with a mixture of reddish brown plates, bricks and inverses slopes,I installed some of the larger branches to the tree, adding to the core of the trunk as we go. The first two branches are simply on grid, however the third is pivoted on a 2×2 turntable, and pokes out at an in-between angle. A further limb emerges on another angle thanks to a rogue technic connector.
I found a herd of wild Brickheadz on the island. I ‘repurposed’ a few, so that I might use the bricks with studs on the side. In a last minute push in the remains of the day, I added to the core of the trunk, building up in a similar fashion to the lower truck, but with a few subtle changes for the corner planks. To finish off for the day, I build a swing. My kids always love to play in a swing.
As the sun set, I took a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by the local Brickheadz today, so that I could continue building up my home.
I remain concerned as to the whereabouts of my family while I am building our future home. I am sure that before too long they will be able to see where I am building, and come and join me. I hope to see them soon.
I spent today cladding the upper part of the trunk: first building the core up with plates, and then cladding the bark. By the end of the day, I feel as if I have handled almost every form of reddish brown plate during this project. Perhaps there are still a few I have missed, but there is still plenty of time for them to near up on me.
As well as the bark on the tree, which is a little narrower than the previous base section, I added a buttress under each of the major branches that I built yesterday, using either an arch to inverse arch.
As I built on, I found that I needed to cut up some wood to help with the building. a small limb on the tree did not appear to be useful for weight bearing, so I cut it down, and refashioned part of it into a bird house. I can’t remember where I found the paint for it, but it was awfully convenient.
Tomorrow, I think I might start work on the actual shelter. I hope the family arrive soon: I am going to need some help lifting the materials up into the tree.
Having spent the better part of the last week preparing my tree for habitation, I thought the time had come to start putting together some form of cabin to shield me from the elements.
Fortunately, I have been able to pick up a lot of our ship’s wreckage from the shore of the island, and it looks like I shall be able to fashion several living spaces, as well as some furniture from it. Starting with an octagonal platform, I lay down some dark brown floorboards. On one side of the room, I built a bed, and I thought it best that I hide my spare pair of scissors underneath it. You never know when they might come in useful.
I was able to make a dresser, a writing desk and a rather neat round window, using some unconventional techniques. Whatever it takes: it appeared to work. I also found a pair of brass binoculars amongst the wreckage, and I placed them on the window sill to dry out. It has been a big day. There were some footprints around the wreckage on the beach, but I could not find their owner. I will return there tomorrow to get some more materials to complete my walls and windows.
Using flotsam from our shipwreck, I have been able to complete the walls around my cabin, although I remain uncertain about how I will get it into the branches.
And then, as I was retrieving the window frames, I saw my wife, also gathering wood to build a shelter. So glad that we are together again. I worry about the children. ‘They were fine a day or two ago.’ She reassures me. ‘They were setting up their own shelter under a giant log, and didn’t want to come out yet. I found some fruit that they could eat, and left it nearby. I’ll go and bring them back tomorrow: they have been enjoying the adventure;’With the light fading, I saw a glint in the wreckage, and found part of a mirror. It could come in handy’ We had also found some oil lamps in the wreckage – so we retrieved them and installed them in the hut. Then with some optimism and brute strength, my wife and I threw this first cabin up into the tree. I hope it is easy enough to get to: I need to put the roof on soon. However, I need to think of the rest of the family: perhaps a bathroom: nothing worse than having to climb down the tree in the middle of the night.
Exhausted, I fall into a deep sleep.
My wife suggested we build a bathroom today. we have now brought as much of the shipwreck as we could find near our tree, so it is not too hard to transport. Which is good, as we have a lot of useful parts here to use: doors, window frames, and so many remarkably intact panes of glass.
We start with a basin and, for reasons I don’t quite understand, but am sure that in the fullness of time I will appreciate, a new fangled lavatory. The kids will appreciate a bath if they ever stop enjoying their adventure in the forest.
It would seem that in our world here, the toilet paper will bee made of leaves, with the sheets rolling off closer to the wall, ensuring an end to one of the great eternal debates.
We have only completed so much… hopefully we will be able to get some walls up properly tomorrow, as I think this is currently a little draughty!
Lets get some walls onto the bathroom today. And some plumbing and windows. Nothing says privacy like going to the bathroom thirty feet up in the air.
My wife is quite clever. She suggested installing a barrel outside the bathroom to provide a pressure head for the lavatory and bath plumbing. Sh also added a shower by hollowing out some sticks and lining them with pitch.
It is quite a feature packed bathroom, if I say so myself, and it fits quite snugly into the tree. We have added a crane over the river so that we can bring up water to the water tank.
Finally, we add a little bridge that runs from next cabin that we will build. Using a clever arrangement (if I say so myself) of clips and round plates with a bar.
Adding another living space today: will it be a bunk room for the kids? A living room? A study or Laboratory? “Yes” says my wife.
Using the same octagonal base that has served us so well for the last too rooms – and they are still standing! -we start work on some bunk beds for the children. Hopefully they will turn up soon – I reckon they will be pretty tired when they decide to join us. It will be important for them to have somewhere to sleep. There were no long, firm, but narrow, branches available, so we use the oars from one of the life boats to build them up. We also found some specimens from the ship’s earlier landing: a preserved dragonfly in a jar, and a rare flower, under glass. We also found a microscope – not quite in working order – so we scavenged a few interesting parts from around the place to get it back together.
I really liked the way that we constructed the round portal in the main bedroom, so we repeated the technique here, providing a useful mantle piece. I also built a little home for one of the small animals around here. As this will be the main living area, we have extended the front decking out a little further than the other floors – but there will be pictures tomorrow.
We ran out of time before the sun set today, so I have not finished the walls and windows.
Hopefully we will get the living room/lab/bunk room finished today.
The sound of the bunk bed being built was too much for our daughter. she reappeared for a short while today. She manages to scramble up the side of the tree much more easily than I can.
Our house has come together nicely, but we need to put some grooves together. Hopefully our shipwreck will yield some useful parts for that tomorrow. Then perhaps some steps and a camp site kitchen. Certainly, we will need to finish building up our tree as well. At the moment I feel a little vulnerable from the weather. Fortunately, we appear to have been stranded in a temperate zone, and it is fairly dry at the moment.
Today, we set out to build the roofs for our tree house. We built them using the dark blue wedge plates that we salvaged from the wrecked hull of our ship. I was impressed that they all came together so simply. They look very similar, but there were enough differences between them that I appreciated the suggestion that my wife made: Colour code each roof, so that we would know how to set it up once we got it up into the tree.
It felt much more comfortable having a proper shelter to spend the night in, although I am getting a bit tired of having to scurry up and down the side of the tree. I won’t be too long before one of us has a nasty slip. Perhaps we should build some steps tomorrow.
Having completed the house, it is starting to feel like time to work on getting the tree closer to completion.
With a new brick that I had only heard tell of previously, and a turntable, this terminal continuation of the trunk will serve as the point of off take for the branches. Using the new 2×4 brick with room for an axle, a 2×2 with axle hole at the other end, and a turntable somewhere in between, this section sees the connections for branches heading off at 45º to each other. I am glad I had the help of other members of the family to install it above the house.
Has it really only been two weeks since I started work on our house? Progress has felt faster since my wife and daughter found me.
After so much time in the tree, it felt like it was time to come down to earth: and slowly. I have been starting to worry about the workplace health and safety implications of a place like this. Perhaps the time has come to stop climbing up and down the tree, and to just set up a flight of stairs. Using an ingenious method to bring the bottom stairs around in a quarter circle, we made a point of attaching a safety rail so that we could all feel more comfortable.
My wife felt that the best way to get our son to return was to stop leaving food out for him overnight. this morning, he returned, full of exciting news about the adventures he has been having.
Altogether, with our house all but complete, we decided to cook up a feast. Im so glad that we discovered pumpkins growing at the case of the tree: they are one of my favourite vegetables.
There was something magical about our campfire tonight… Some of the kindling we used came out of a box labelled Ollivander’s Finest Wandz. I’m not sure what it meant, as they just looked like ordinary sticks to me.
We installed a crate to lift supplies up to the tree house as well. We dropped it in the river by accident, and managed to catch a variety of vegetables. there may have been a fish in there somewhere too.
While we set the table, the kids investigated a most peculiar flower, which seemed to just spring up out of nowhere today.
We found a candle to light up our dining room. We must install some lanterns closer to ground level too, as it can get very dark. Together again as a family after all this time, however, I think we will sleep well tonight. We also built a telescope up today, to look out for signs of potential rescue, but I don’t appear to be able to see it right now.
Today, we added the first layer of branches to the tree. We needed to gather more foliage than we initially prepared, but fortunately there was an abundant amount of material available.
Two smaller branches join up via mini ball joints, while the larger branches attach using double click joints.
The whole family got into the spirit of installing the branches here today. Someone even went out on a limb…
The weather is starting to heat up: I am glad we are getting the branches built up now: they are providing some very useful shade for us. Each one is ever so slightly different. I’m not are that their exact location matters… too much. Todays branches are all attaching at 45º to those we built yesterday.
The extra branches make sitting out at lunch time more pleasant than it was the other day: the shade makes for a welcome change. Tomorrow, we will make one last big push to try and finish the final branches.
Almost three weeks since we started, our family has endured shipwreck, separation, attempted to domesticate Brickheadz to use their parts, and now almost finished our new home.
We are rapidly running out of parts to build with. I wonder it all of this material we used to build our tree house came from our ship, could we build a boat out of the parts we used to build our tree house?
That is a challenge for another person, at another time.
Today, however, we place the upper branches, again offset compared with yesterday, and also some lower branches. In this area under the tree, we also install some lanterns, to help us find our way through the evenings without tripping or stubbing my toe.
It has been an adventure to get here, and I am grateful for my family: My wife, daughter and son. Reaching this point with the house has all been about ensuring we can be safe and sound on this island. Hopefully, we will not have to endure many storms. It is hot, but does not feel tropical. Perhaps the cyclones and hurricanes can pass us by. Who knows how long we will all be here. It’s time for someone to man the telescope, and look out for passing ships…
Epilogue: Six months later
We are yet to be rescued from the island, but we have become accustomed to the island lifestyle/l making do with what we have, hunting the occasional Brick Heads for parts and so forth.
However, a most wondrous thing happened today: the greens of our tree have disappeared, and been magically transformed. The dark orange I have seen before, but the yellowish orange is new. Autumn must now be upon us. I fear that soon the foliage may drop. But as the days will get shorter and the nights colder, being able to get as much light into our house as possible is a great advantage.
Building this tree house was a delight. You can see how the whole process seemed to carry the story along as it went. I’m sure your story will be different.
There are so many things about this set that I love. Probably the most important is the size of the tree itself. We have large branches, smaller ones, and some on weird angles. The techniques used to get these angles are quite interesting, and worth looking through the instructions to understand and adapt for your own build. There amount of foliage here, in both summer and autumnal colours is fantastic. These elements are made of polyethylene, which since last year has been exclusively sourced from sustainable sugar cane. They are the same plastic that they always were: no softer, no harder, no more likely to biodegrade and son’t taste of sugar (the sacrifices I make, so that you son’t have to.
The colour contrast between the tree and the house itself, as well as the roofs is terrific. It goes together, but there is a definite feel that the house has been made from different timber to the tree. This is helped with the different shapes of brick, as well as the occasional change in colour used.
Once again, the ideas program has brought an inspirational set to market: This set is rivalling my love of the Saturn V as a building experience, and I am happy to give it five out of five Arbitrary Praise Units. I cannot really fault any aspect. It is comparably priced with other sets of this size – helped by the lack of licensing I am sure. I recommend this set. Its beautiful to look at, and uses interesting techniques, and is a great source of brown, nougat and dark orange bricks and plates, as well as foliage elements.
The LEGO Ideas Tree House goes on sale 1st of August (24th July to VIPs). It costs US $199.99 – CA $269.99 – DE €199.99 – UK £179.99 – FR €199.99 – DK 1799DKK –AUS $279.99.
I really hope you have enjoyed my story. Why not leave your thoughts in the comments below, and follow the blog for more news, reviews and ideas.
And until next time,
This set was provided by the LEGO Goup’s AFOL Engagement team for review purposes. All opinions however, are my own.