Welcome to The Making Of The Faraway Tree!
First, let me say that this is not a tutorial. It's more like a behind-the-scenes to its construction. Unlike sewing, which is better illustrated with detailed step-by-step instructions, building with cardboard isn't. Often a person can tell just by looking, how a cardboard thing is put together.
Second, while I'd been letting the idea of a Faraway Tree model percolate in my brain for a long time, I didn't hit on the final layout until a month or two ago. Before that, I'd considered a swing-open style like this dollhouse, and a twisty Slippery Slip using some kind of clear tubing from a hardware store. All doomed to failure for all kinds of reasons. Then I saw this rocketship at a friend's house while on a playdate and it clicked. Incidentally, I also want to build the rocketship itself from cardboard (how easy is that?) but that would have to wait till I'd done the Tree.
Looking back at the toys and playthings I've made for the kids, their favorites have been the ones that do something. They appreciate the aesthetics of something handmade, yes, but they also want to know how that something works. So if you've been reading this blog a while, you might have seen this trend in my toys - most of them do something beyond just being a softie, or a cardboard box. This Tree could have been just a static free-expression treehouse they could decorate with their markers, but it is a lot more fun with a working slide and elevator!
Well, enough talking already!
To begin, the main supporting pieces of the Tree look like this
They slot together without glue. Some Physics principle keeps them standing firm.
In the picture above, I cut a large central hole in each of the floors, to position the chutes. These holes would eventually be off-center, and I wanted some room to manipulate the chutes to get the best positions for a smooth ride. You'll have to do some actual testing!
When I'd marked the positions, I threw all those floors out and recut four new floors with only the final small holes in them:
Here you can see the zig-zag configuration of the chute:
With the chute done, the elevator was assembled next.
First, the roof of the Tree was glued on.
Then, a little basket was made, and holes poked into it. This was threaded through the stabilizing pole. If I had been bothered to leave the house, I'd have bought a long skinny dowel from Michaels and sawn it down to size. But instead I found a wire coat hanger and straightened it. Not as lovely as wood, but free. If you are making this, do not be tempted to leave out the pole. Without it, the elevator swings free, crashes into the sides of the shaft and gets stuck. Your kids will thank you for doing that extra step.
I cut the coat hanger to length, and saved the leftover wire bit for a crank. This was made by drilling a hole in the end of a short dowel and gluing the wire bit into it, then bending it to shape.
Next, I tied string was tied to the basket and wound the other end of the string around an old thread spool. The short dowel was threaded through the spool, glued in place and the spool suspended over a hole in the roof. The dowel axle rotates freely within a little cardboard tunnel. For visibility, I used short pieces so you could see the dowel under and between them.
And this is the final set-up of the elevator:
The working features of the tree finished, we moved on to the details:
Cut-away walls with doors and windows,
glued in place on different-sized floor circles to allow ledges to stand on;
a ladder for the Land portal;
a washing line
and little people:
This took me three days (which is nothing) to make it - working only in short spurts whenever the kids didn't need me to serve snacks, or draw princesses, or read books. The completed Tree is about 30" tall. It's big, but it's cardboard, so when it falls apart, it gets tossed out without feeling like we spent a lot of money on it to take up space in our house. Emily has plans to decorate it in the near future. I don't care- I like the natural look, but it belongs to the kids now and it's out of my head at last, so I'm happy!