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DIY Cat Tree Made From Dead Branches

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This instructable shares my DIY cat tree using a real tree! Learn how to make a cat tree from a natural branch…yes, that I dug out from the woods.

I have wanted to make a cat tree with real branches for a long time. It’s one of those projects that’s been bubbling up on my dream project wish list for a while. I am amazed with my finished tree!

What you need:

Step 1: Scrape, Sand, and Finish the Branches

The first step for my DIY cat tree using a real tree was to find a real tree and prep the branches! Once my branches were sufficiently dry, I stripped the bark off and then finished and sealed them.

This is actually a lot of work, so I broke those steps about how I stripped, stained, and sealed my branches!

After about 2 months of drying the wood, it started to crack:( see photos so I started scraping the bark off. This is a very important step that a lot of people skip when bringing tree parts indoors. You need to scrape the bark off because there could be bugs living under it!

In fact, I found guide a few little guys while I was scraping. Bugs have a purpose, but I don’t want them living in my home. The bark will eventually fall off anyway, so it’s best to take it off at the start of your project. There are lots of ways to de-bark trees. The ease with which you can remove bark depends on many factors, including what type of tree it is, how dry the wood is, and even what time of year it is. Unfortunately for me, my bark was not easy to remove But don’t worry, the results are totally worth the time and frustration!

After we stripped the bark off, we leveled the branches as best we could. Some people recommend a laser level, and while I’m sure that would have been 100% easier, we leveled the tops and bottoms of the branches by eyeballing and then sawing off very small portions at a time.

After I’d scraped all of the bark off, I cried of happiness that the miserable process was over and grabbed some sandpaper. I used 100-grit sandpaper on some of the rougher spots.
Then I gave the entire piece a good, thorough sand with 150-grit sandpaper. I was truly amazed at how well sanding polished the piece. I did all sanding by hand since the branch was a bit curvy and bumpy—just seemed easier.

After cleaning off my work space and wiping down the branch with a dry paper towel, I used a chip brush to apply a generous coat of stain. Minwax Stain in Natural really helped to bring out the wood’s character.

I didn’t even wipe off the excess stain—I just left it to soak into the wood for about 24 hours. Like I said, my pieces were pretty dry, so the stain soaked right in.

At this point I was giddy with excitement about how good the branches looked. I finished them off with two coats of Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin because I wanted to bring in a bit of sheen while providing further protection for the branches.
This is a water-based polyurethane that dries much faster than an oil-based one. I also really love Varathane water-based polyurethane in matte. You can see it’s a beautiful, understated finish.

Really cool !
Nice work, voted!
NancyK636 days ago
This is really nice. We have a small tree that is going to be cut down, and I am going to try to make it into a cat tree for our screened porch. Where is your detailed post about how you prepared the branches?
lukehayes (author)  NancyK636 days ago
Hello,
If you look at step one this tells you all that you need to know about preping the branches
lukehayes (author)  lukehayes4 days ago
Hi now added that on.
Look at step one
Thanks Luke. I was wondering about bugs.
lukehayes (author)  NancyK636 days ago
Hello,
If you look at step one this tells you all that you need to know about preping the branches
JustineM323 days ago
Nice work!
Cat trees are SO overpriced these days, so DIY-ing it is a great idea!
Finally, a cat tree that doesn't look like an ugly cardboard house! =D
lukehayes (author)  JustineM323 days ago
I hope your cat likes it as much as mine
misterxp5 days ago
Beautiful! makes me ant to go out and get a cat!
lukehayes (author)  misterxp5 days ago
Purrrr scratch off the plants??
lukehayes (author)  misterxp5 days ago
I wonder what it would do...!!!
PaulM6816 days ago
I'd swear that tall branch looks taller than 13.97 cm... ;-)
lukehayes (author)  PaulM6815 days ago
sorry- my mistake- il change it-139.7cm
It's all good. I was just having a little fun with you.

Very cool looking tree nonetheless.
hey bro u shld rly credit the dude who took the pics ;D
lukehayes (author) 5 days ago
This is awesome! I voted for you, and plan to make one once our current one dies. Thank you for posting :)
That's so awesome! You should switch out the main photo with a finished photo of the tree - I bet you'll get tons of clicks that way :D
lukehayes (author)  jessyratfink9 days ago
I have done that now- Thanks
If you like this, PLease vote for me in the Pet challenge 2019
This looks amazing! I really love that rock base :D