I Had a Tree Stand Dream
I love to build and tinker with things and I got the bright idea to build a tree stand in 2013. I decided to write up the entire process from idea to using the finished product in the field.
DISCLAIMER: This build/DIY guide is for informational purposes only, I do not guarantee the safety of this design or build process. I have built this stand for my own purposes and it will be used by myself at my own risk. When I use this stand I will be using an accredited safety harness and climbing gear for my own personal safety. If you decide to follow or use this guide you do so at your own risk.
I’d suggest taking a read before getting into one. Will Your Harness Kill You?*
OK, with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
My research started like most new DIY projects do, firing up the Googs and searching for “How to make a tree stand”. This usually results in me either watching hours of YouTube videos or trawling the numerous links on forums and blog posts. I also checked out how the Pro’s do it and visited the many tree stand manufacturer’s websites and downloaded a few images for “inspiration”. With the research completed, it was on to the drawing program to knock up a few designs and blueprints for the stand.
Gathering the Materials
With the design blueprints knocked up, it gave me a rough idea of what materials I would need for the build. The first decision I had to make was whether to build the thing out of steel or aluminium. Steel was the easy option for me as I don’t know crap about welding aluminium, the cost of the stand would be lower and this was an easy trade off to the reduced weight when carrying in the field of an aluminium stand. I came up with several designs but opted for a single seat post design. This reduced the weight of the stand when carrying it, especially now I wasn’t using aluminium. With this being the case I decided to use 25mm x 25mm x 2mm box tubing for the seat tube and 20mm x 20mm x 1.6mm box tubing for the platform and seat rails. I picked up 6.5m of the 20mm and 1m of the 25mm from the local steel merchant and then headed off to the hardware store to get the bulk of the other components (Cable, cable lugs, bolts, nuts, washers and steel mesh).
Building the Seat
With all the materials together it was time to start the build. After printing out the design and sticking it on the shed wall it was time to get cutting. While getting the cold saw ready I found an old battery tray that I had knocked up a few years ago to mount a 2nd battery on the Navara. “This would be perfect as a seat frame”, I thought, and as it turned out it was. I cut out a couple of seat rails and welded them to the frame. I then cut up a couple of pieces (50mm long) of 30mm x 3mm flat bar to use as anchor points for the seat frame to the seat tube. Before welding the flat bar onto the seat rails I pre-drilled each piece in the drill press to make things easier later on.
Epiphany - Seat Angle Adjuster
After finishing the basic frame and attaching it to the seat post, I thought it would be wise to add a piece of tube as a stopper. After thinking a little more about this I got to thinking - “what if the tree isn’t at a 90 degree angle to the ground and on a different angle?” A beer or two later I thought I would add a bolt to the stopper which would allow me to adjust the angle of the seat. This way if the tree was on an angle I could adjust the seat to compensate for this and be more comfortable. I drilled a hole into the centre of the stopper and then welded 2 nuts onto each side of the hole. I felt this would add more strength, as a huge amount of pressure would be placed in this area. I was now happy with the frame so I moved onto cutting out a piece of timber to use as the seat base. This was pretty straight forward and after fitting the timber into the frame I screwed it into place.
With the seat completed it was time to move on to the standing platform and the cable supports. Before pulling the ol' pipe bender out of the shed and bending some pipe, I drew out a 1:1 scaled version of the platform on the shed floor with chalk. With the platform drawn on the floor this allowed me get the angles I needed to bend the steel and work out the length needed for each side. With the tube cut to length I plugged one end up with a plastic end cap and filled each piece of steel with joint sand before plugging the other end. Doing this allowed me to bend the tube on a tighter angle and reduced how much the pipe kinks during the process. After several minor adjustments to each bend I lined them up on the chalk outline to confirm they would fit. Happy with the bends (I know they are different from the design) I drilled 3 angle adjuster holes into each side to replicate the seat angle adjuster, and welded up the frame.
With the amount of weight that is displaced on the platform when standing to shoot, support cables to handle some of the weight were imperative. Before measuring up the cables I balled up the end of the cable roll and placed it inside the cable lugs (which happen to be battery terminal cable lugs) before crimping the lug closed and tack welding it closed for good. I set the stand up as if it was hanging from a 90 degree angle to measure the cable lengths from the seat post to the platform angle adjuster holes. After attaching the first lug to the platform I measured the cable length to the seat post and cut it to length. I then repeated the balling, crimping and tacking process to the other end and attached it to the seat post. The process was repeated again for the other side.
I disassembled the stand and placed the mesh on top of the platform to get it centered correctly and tacked it into place. Once happy with the position I tacked around the entire outside of the platform and down the supports. It was then time to spark up the grinder and cut off the over hanging mesh to neaten up the stand.
You Need a Good Anchor
I welded 2 x 5/16 ball head bolts on to the seat post as anchor points for the ratchet cables to attach too. I also drilled 2 additional holes into the front face of the seat tube so I could screw in 2 wood screws. I thought this would help reduce the chances of the stand slipping down the tree and provide protection if one of the straps broke. I bought a screw in hanging hook from the hardware store and welded on a 5mm Allen key cut off to the end. This will allow me to pack the hanger and use it not only as a bow hanger, but as a tool to screw the tree anchor screws into the tree.
“Time to test out my stand” I said, so I hung it on one of the palm trees in the backyard about a foot off the ground and prepared to give it a go. I added a little bit of weight to it at first to see if there was any movement, none, awesome, so I got up on it and sat there inspecting it for any flex or creaks. With nothing to note, my testing moved onto the standing side of things. I stood up and everything went to plan, again no creaks and very minimal flex with all my 90kgs standing out on the platform.
A Coat of Paint
I painted the entire stand in Colorbond Bushland using my High Volume Low Pressure spray gun. I’m pretty happy with the results as this is the first time I’ve used a spray gun. I built a mini spray booth in the garage out of our pop-up gazebo and lined it with plastic drop sheets. If you watch the TV show Dexter it was pretty much like his kill rooms :)
With the weather we have had up here in QLD, it has been a slow drying process with the paint. I’ve had them hanging in the garage for 2 weeks now and the paint is still a little soft. The seat, seat post, bolts and cables where all popped into the oven (much to my wifes surprise) and baked for 30mins. I basically set the oven to 110 degrees and left it on for 4 minutes, then turned the heat off and left them to bake undisturbed. This allowed the paint to harden and I’m very impressed on how well this worked being the first attempt.
Using foam camping mats from BCF, I cut 3 equal sections out of one of the mats and glued the 3 pieces onto the seat. I’m planning to cover it shortly with some old BDU’s. It should be pretty straight forward with the cloth being cut to size and stapled to the seat base. Once this is done I’ll screw the seat into place which will re-enforce the staples and finish the stand.
My parents-in-law have a few acres down the Gold Coast with plenty of tall trees. For the test I used 2 sections of the ladder ( I made that too and used the bottom and top pieces) to make a 4m ladder and strapped it to the tree. Two ratchet straps were used to hold the ladder and did an extremely good job with zero movement. Each rung on the ladder is 490mm apart and makes climbing the ladder easy for my 6 foot frame.
Once the ladder was secure, I attached a rope to the tree stand and started ascended the tree. Once at the desired height, I tightened my lineman’s belt and began hoisting up the tree stand. After hoisting the stand, I tied off the hoist line and began attaching the first of 2 ratchet straps to hold the stand to the tree. At first I tried to attach the bottom strap but soon realised it was much easy to attach the top strap first. Once tight it was onto the bottom one.
After checking and double checking the strapping, I secured my safety tether into position and stood off the ladder and onto the stand. It was absolutely rock solid, with little to no movement at all from either side to side or any flex movement. This was much to the disgrace of the onlookers (my extended family) who had pulled up deck chairs and cameras to capture any material for funniest home videos. Once on the stand I did some sitting, standing and rocking to make sure the stand was up to my 86 kilos and it performed flawlessly. It offered plenty of room to stand and shoot and allowed me a 180+ degree firing arc.
In the Field
I finally got the stand into the field in April 2013 and I must say it performed flawlessly. I sat in it for a total of 12 hours on a whirl wind hunt I organised before the birth of our first child West in late May 2013. It ended up a little heavier than I wanted but I know it is as solid as a rock which is what you want in a tree stand. I hope to get it out this May-June to give it another solid sit test.
I spent around $85 in materials and paint and I’m happy with the the finished product. You could obviously make this cheaper using 2nd hand steel but I was a little impatient and wanted something before the April Fallow deer rut. It’s probably one of the best projects I’ve made and I’d like to make another one but out of aluminium next time.
- Total Cost (so far) = $85
- Total Weight = 6.3kgs
- Total Mishaps = 0
Until next time, happy hunting.