About Jason Patz

I'm trained as an industrial designer, but I like doing lots of different things. I use my blog to discuss stuff I've made and stuff I like.

Tree Tower Tree House

TREETOWER3My brother bought a farm a year or so ago.  He’s been adding fruit trees, chickens, fences, and all sorts of other improvements.  He has five kids so I’ve been pushing for the addition of a tree house.  They want to use the property as a retreat for people (they actually already are), so I’m hoping to convince him to save his money and then build the tree house as an actual living space.

I had all of the kids draw up what they wanted in a tree house and I tried to incorporate as many of their ideas into my plan as I could.  Below is my first pass at what this thing might look like.

1.  For safety, maintenance, expandability, livability, and durability, the tree house was designed instead as a free-standing tree tower to be located among the trees rather than in it.
2.  This design is based off a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood.  The tower is made up of three 8′ squares.  Walls are 8′ tall per floor.
3.  The tower is located in a wooded area with tall mature oak trees and almost no ground foliage.  The area is in a slight depression that can get a little muddy when it rains a lot.  The bottom of the tower should be elevated above driveway height by about a foot.  This will put it one to three feet off the ground.
4.  Walls to be made of 2″x6″ lumber, insulated.  Outside would be cedar shakes or Hardiboard painted about the color of the tree bark.  Inside would be Sheetrock painted white.
5.  Roofs to be standing seam metal construction.
6. Built-in furniture and floors would be semigloss polyurethaned oak.
7.  Windows to be painted rust red or orange.
8.  Lower deck could be made into a screened porch with permanent, removable, or retractable screens.
9.  Second and third floors are accessed via split-rung ladder recessed into wall.
10.  Second and third floors have trap door to cover ladder access hole to reduce the chance of people fall through that hole.
11. “Bedroom” areas can accommodate a queen-size bed and may be used for sleeping, or putting in a table for eating and board games.
12.  Areas above windows in “bedrooms” contain storage shelves.  These shelves could have LED lighting installed underneath to light the space.
13.  Concrete footings need to be engineered to support this tall narrow structure and keep it stable under max wind loads for that region of the country.  A soil survey may be necessary to ensure the design provides the necessary stability.
14.  Upper deck has access to a tree stand/platform (more like a traditional tree house) via suspension bridge that is not attached directly to the tree tower (in case the tree falls over, we don’t want it pulling on the tree tower).  The tree platform has a rope ladder for second means of access.
15.  Install two-piece A/C system for comfort and to avoid musty, moldy camp bunkhouse situation.  A/C system includes a wall mounted blower, a single wall penetration for coolant lines, and a ground-based compressor located outside.  No ductwork needed.
16.  The railing around the second story deck would probably be open wood (standard looking railing) or painted metal to give it a more open airy feel, but I was too lazy to model that for this concept.

What do you think of this design?  What should be changed?  What have I forgotten?


Mount Davis


The high point is the marker cemented to the top of the rock on the right.

This past weekend we were happy to have the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh for the wedding of my old friend Bill and my new friend Tricia.  After the wedding we wanted to do a little tourism before we headed home.  You’ll be getting a few little articles on those various things over the next few days.

Today we take you to the highest point in Pennsylvania – Mount Davis.  For those that don’t know, Melanie and I like to hike the US state high points.  Almost every time it a surprisingly similar experience.  You travel up a 1-1/2 lane two-way road through beautiful landscape, you see practically no one else, and it is very peaceful and relaxing.  We have found it a great way to see places that we would have never visited otherwise.  Mount Davis was par for the course.  Even though the day was very overcast and hazy, it was a beautiful drive.  On the approach, you’ll pass a mountain lake that I could definitely vacation on.  I think we saw about five other people on the road once we were within 30 minutes of the summit.  There was absolutely no one else in the park itself.  We didn’t even see a car as we drove in or left.

We had limited time since there were a few other things we wanted to do before our flight home that night.  This meant as soon as we got to the summit, we took a few pictures and got back in the car.  It would have been really nice to hang out there for 30 minutes or so enjoying the solitude and stillness.

Getting there is simple.  Just type “Mount Davis” into Google Maps and you’ll get a paved road route right to the gravel parking lot.  From there you probably walk 100 feet to the “summit.”  It is a weird high point.  Sure, you definitely notice you are driving uphill but it doesn’t seem that much higher than all the area surrounding it.  At the top it is relatively flat and the actual highpoint is a boulder sitting on top of this mostly flat area.


This tower is very close to the parking lot and the high point (it's that big rock in the background).

This tower is very close to the parking lot and the high point (it’s that big rock in the background).

You can see some turds tried to remove the marker.

You can see some turds tried to remove the marker.

Creature from the Black Lagoon

JPatz_20140810_creaturefromtheblacklagoon_WebToday I had the pleasure of meeting Ricou Browning, the man who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon in all of the underwater scenes (which were filmed not all that far from where I live).  He wore a diving belt to help him stay underwater and had to hold his breath for long periods of time because scuba equipment could not fit in the suit.  He is the only actor to play one of the Universal movie monsters that is still alive and I noticed that he enjoys egg salad sandwiches.

Thanks for the heads up Cindy!

Nice Niece

JPatz_20140717_3J8A3937-Edit_WebMy niece came to visit for her Golden Ticket trip a few weeks ago.  We did a photo shoot that I’m turning into a composite image.  I still need to shoot the background and the effects so that one will be seen in a while.

In the meantime I tried out the ring reflector again.  I liked this picture because I think it captures a lot of true things about her but am really sad that I missed the focus.  My finger must have slipped and the camera must have refocused on the closest object which was her fingers.

King of Vanilla Creams

JPatz_20140711_3J8A3827-Edit_WebI heard on Clark Howard a few weeks ago that Consumer Reports claimed that Costco has the best widely available vanilla ice cream.  That seemed like a worthwhile thing to test, especially with another niece coming to visit for her Golden Ticket trip.  So we collected several big brands and the three of us tried them (several times).

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High Key Grunge

JPatz_20140524_3J8A3553-extracrunch-Edit_WebWhen we had friends over for dinner and games, we ran out of time taking pictures to do both high key and low key photos of everyone.  I thought it would be neat to process a couple of the high key images with a grungy/sports style.  It was hit and miss but worked out really well for a couple.  I still like the low key combo better but this reminds me of stuff I’ve seen on movie posters or promo material for Game of Thrones.

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1st Low Key and Grunge Photos

JPatz_20140601_3J8A3677-sq-Edit_WebFlip-flopping from the lighting and processing style shown in this article, I wanted to try a very dark low key look where the faces appear to just be emerging from blackness.  The catchlights are intended to look otherworldly and dangerous.  The processing emphasizes a toughness found in sports photos.  I’m very happy with the results.

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How to Display and Store One Sheet Movie Posters


In the days of my youth I collected movie posters.  Not to the same extent as comic books but when I saw a really cool image or I really loved the movie, I’d try my best to track down a copy.  Since it was pre-internet, finding the things could be a real challenge.  It helped that I had friends who were really interested in this stuff.  In fact, one was a movie poster designer for many years.

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