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Tools for treehouse construction

Treehouses involve lots of parts that need to be shaped and fixed together. Certain tools are essential, such as a saw, but due to the number of cuts involved some jobs are better done with powered tools. You don't need to have a fully equipped workshop to build a treehouse because they are usually not very complicated to construct. The key is to save time on repetitive tasks and ensure your measurements and angles stay accurate. You should be able to get all the tools you need to build for under $300. Cutting wood materials to size with a circular saw saves huge amounts of time and effort.

As well as time, accuracy is an important part of a successful treehouse. You need to be able to cut beams, joists and studs at a consistent 90° so they can join tightly together, so a speed square is better and faster than guessing by eye.

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Hitachi cordless drill

Hitachi 18V Li-ion cordless drill

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An ideal drill for the majority of treehouse tasks, this is a great improvement over NiCd alternatives. It is compact, but still has plenty of torque for driving 4" screws and drilling ¾" bolt holes. The weight saving over a larger, NiCd-powered drill is worth it alone. It also comes with two batteries so you don't have to stop work when a battery needs to be recharged. For drilling larger holes into the tree for support bolts you will still need to use a corded drill, or heavy duty cordless drill.

Bosch cordless drill

Bosch 18V Li-ion cordless drill

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A similar drill to the Hitachi above, this is another compact Li-ion design from a reliable manufacturer.

Hitachi circular saw

Hitachi 7¼" circular saw

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Accurate and robust saws that will find many uses preparing materials. If you currently use a hand saw you will make huge time savings using a circular saw. Easy square cuts for supports and fast trimming of sheet materials for cladding the walls and roof. I don't recommend using a battery powered circular saw if you have a power supply, as they limited battery capacity to make a lot of heavy duty cuts, and are very expensive. They work well for light sheet materials, but that limits the overall usefulness of the tool. However, if you're working in a remote location without power, I'd recommend the DeWalt 20V li-ion saw, with at least two large (6Ah) batteries.

Irwin Quick-Grip clamps
These clamps have a lot of uses when preparing different materials for cutting or assembly. They can very quickly secure a piece to a work surface for cutting, or hold together two parts to screw or bolt together. I also use the screw version of these, mainly for gluing parts where a higher clamp force is needed. They are slower to use, so the quick action clamps get used more. 6" capacity will cover most cutting or clamping needs, and 12" or larger is best for gluing tasks.

Spax screws, Torx screws, decking bolts, lag bolts

Pair of saw horses

Folding sawhorses
$60 for two

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Lightweight and folds flat for storage, but with plenty of stability to support beams when making cuts. Can also be used to support a table to keep tools and parts off the ground.

Speed square

Swanson 7" speed square

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Important for marking straight end cuts on joists, beams, studs, etc. This square is marked with angle points so you can easily mark a 60° cut, for example.

Laser level
A combination tool that includes a general purpose level (horizontal and vertical), a rangefinder for distance measurements, and most usefully for treehouse building, a laser level. This can be used when setting out your main support beams between trees, and makes sure that all trees are marked at the same height. You can also use a water level for this, which can be made from clear flexible pipe filled with water. The water height will be exactly the same at each end of the tube.

Auger wood drill bit
You will need long drill bits to prepare bolt holes through beams, and pilot holes in the tree for lag bolts. These auger bits are available in a range of large sizes suited for typical treehouse bolts. For general use, 1/2" and 3/8" are common sizes, and for lag bolts you may need to try a selection to get the best fit - 1/2" will usually work for 3/4" lag bolts, but you may have to go up to 9/16".