I was back this year with my traditional, mostly homemade Christmas gifts. Although actually this was really a birthday gift, the birthday boy’s big day is two weeks before Christmas, so he (along with the two other December birthdays) usually gets his gift on Christmas day.
Back in the fall I started looking around for gift ideas. I wish I could tell you how I landed on this persons Etsy page, but I can’t. All I know is I saw this awesome wooden modular play castle, thought it was pretty epic, and then texted my other half to ask him how easy it was to make. His response was “piece of cake.” Don’t ask him about it now.
(Search on Etsy for Modular Wooden Castle for the original product)
I would have bought the original from the source, however it was quite out of budget and hey, it’s way cooler to be able to say you made it yourself anyways.
We started back before Thanksgiving thinking “look at us getting a head start and all so we aren’t stressed out about trying to finish such a large project days before Christmas while simultaneously trying to finish about 20 something other gifts.”
(That’s foreshadowing by the way in case you didn’t pick up on it.)
Our first step was a run to Home Depot. We used a 4’x8′ piece of Birch plywood. Supposedly they are only suppose to make minimum cuts of something like 12″, but we managed to get the guy to cut the piece down to 6″,7″ and 8″ widths. If you decide to make this, hopefully you’ll be able to talk them into the same, because it did save us a ton of time and trouble. Tommy, using is mathematical genius, determined how many of each width we needed based on the templates I had drawn up.
Next step was to take all the pieces and cut them again. Depending on the piece, some were cut into the heights, while some the widths. Again, Tommy and the table saw were the masterminds behind this.
And that was the last time anything was easy. Tommy’s plan was to use a router to cut the notches in each piece used to slide them together. Because of the way it fits together you want at least half of your pieces to be flat on both sides so you can flip them upside down (confused? Look at the pictures to follow). So logically he started off on our short plain pieces… and then the router broke and everything came to screeching halt.
The end result was putting it off until a week before Christmas, then struggling through about half the remaining pieces with a semi-broken router and then finally purchasing a new router. All a week before Christmas.
Tommy did all the detail work (zig-zag tops, doors, and windows), but with my lack of woodworking knowledge and the fact that I was not present when he did it, I have no clue has to how exactly he did it. All I know is he did it, and that’s all I really cared about at the moment. Our original plans also included some pieces with square notches, however the points were much faster to make so with the time crunch he just did all of them that way.
While he was finishing with the new router, I sanded my heart out and then we both finished the last 20 or so pieces. We finally finished around 2am on Wednesday the 21st (yes, 4 days before Christmas).
Of course, despite the fact that it was 2am we had to put it together.
Yup, pretty epic!
The sets I had seen online consisted of either 18 or 28 pieces. Ours came to a grand total of 60 pieces. Yeah… little overboard, but that’s how we roll. I wish I had taken a picture of all the different style pieces stacked up, but unfortunately I didn’t. Sorry.
I finished each piece with a beeswax and olive oil polish (recipe here) which took an alarming four hours to do, but was worth it because it gave the pieces a nice smooth finish and feel and deepened the color a bit. After I finished I sat them all up to dry for 24 hours and then wiped off the excess.
I also added two “draw bridges” from scraps of wood and used my wood burner to add the details.
I even (badly) burned our initials and the year into one of the tower pieces.
The last touch was some grass and the moat from inexpensive, silky fabric from JoAnns which I hemmed on my sewing machine.
Some play castle characters were also added to the mix. And voila! An epic play castle.
It was a big hit Christmas day, with at one point, all 6 of the nieces and nephews in it. The two oldest (7 and almost 7) enjoyed helping to build, while the two middle ones (pictured above, the birthday boy who turned 3 and his cousin who is 4 1/2) played in it the whole time it was up and cried when it had to be put away to go home. The two youngest (who are 2 and 13 months) were still a bit too young to really enjoy it.
While the project wasn’t necessarily difficult to execute, it was time consuming and you’ll need a basic knowledge of woodworking as well as quite a few tools. But overall it was a fun project (okay in the middle of it I probably wouldn’t have said that) and the results were awesome. Which is why when we gave it away, we actually stated that when it’s life with them was over, we wanted it back!
Beg and plead all you want, but we have zero plans of making these to sell. One, because it’s not our original idea so that wouldn’t be right, and two, it’s just way to time consuming to be worth it, at least to us. Tommy vowed “never again!” when we finished, which again, is why we asked for it back one day.