The Strawbridges/Creative

How to Make Your Own Helter-Skelter

The helter-skelter that sits proudly in Arthur and Dorothy’s playroom was initially an idea from Angel that Dick impressively brought to life. Read Dick’s step-by-step guide below and have a go at making your own.

The Challenge

Our starting point was a sketch Angel knocked up in moments and this is what I had to work with…

I can almost hear every engineer shouting "it's a cone", "it's got complex angles", "the slide goes down and around and gets bigger", quickly followed by "how do the children get up there?" and "are you kidding?" Angel was not joking and Johnny said "it's got to be easy!" So off we went.

My Approach

To be honest, the build started with a couple of quick decisions and we jumped into it.

  • First decision was to say we were not building a true cone
  • Our structure was to be 8 sided
  • We were limited by the size of a piece of 15mm plywood and to make it as economical as possible we'd get 2 sides out of each 1.25 x 2.5m sheet
  • Fine adjustment with a hammer would be acceptable and any complaints from the children playing on it would be considered if submitted in writing, in both English and French!

The Plans

“Obviously we had a plan, which you can see here. You will note it is a bit lacking in detail but at least the concept was easy.”

- Dick Strawbridge

1

Start by fabricating 2 octagons, as shown, out of your framework wood.

Mark out 2 sides on a sheet of ply. Measure the length of the long edges, lets call them x (stay with me this will work!)

2

Cut out 8 lengths of the framework wood that are x minus 2 times the depth of the wood. Screw the top and bottom to the end of uprights to form a very wobbly frame (without teaching you to suck eggs its easier laying everything on its side).

3

We found it best to not go directly under the joints of the top and bottom but to place all the 'verticals' on the left hand edge short lengths (this may not make sense to you, it didn't really to us) but I'm sure you can get one octagon above the other using the 8 uprights).

4

Once you have the wobbly frame you have to decide how high, how steep and how to stick the bloody slide on.

5

I have marked on the diagram my first 'support' for the slide. We started at about chest height and were just about ready to screw on the first support. This is where it got properly complicated and though drinking made it funny, it didn't actually help!

6

Make this first support 450mm longer and make it stick out to the right as we look at it. Call the left-hand upright of the first support 1 and number clockwise the remainder. If the upright that is attached to the right-hand side of the first support is not '4' you are screwed! try again...

7

Put a second support at the same level as the first support BUT attach it parallel and onto the inside of uprights 5 & 8, again sticking out to the right 450mm as we look at it. As they are parallel and at the same height they will allow you to have a platform at the start of your slide which will go down after this second support.

8

Now it gets interesting, you want to go around and down. Attach your first descending support to 2 & 6 sticking out 450mm, it has to be horizontal. The height you put it at is important as the drop between it and the second support will determine the steepness of your slide, it really depends on the age of your children. Once you have that in place its all down hill from there (boom boom!).

Next support goes between 3&7, keep a uniform slope by making the same vertical drop between each support. Next its 4&8 then 5&1, etc.

Getting this far is a major achievement but that's only the frame! I decided that, at the same level as the first and second support (the launching platform), I'd put a ring of framework wood around and a sheet of plywood (attached at this stage). When we then attached the sides I cut a hole that made a 'den' at the top of the slide which has proved very popular.

The Slide

You still don't have a sliding helter-skelter. Next cut 200mm strips of 8mm ply and, starting at the launching support (i.e. the top of the slide), attach the ply to the end of the support and bend down and around attaching to consecutive supports, this is best done with two people but Johnny went to Paris.

When you have the guard on, go back to the platform on the top and cut a rectangle of ply, then by cutting templates in cardboard, cut and attach the 8mm ply that forms the slide.

You are not finished, as you need a guard rail around your launch platform (our helter-skelter is near the wall so we only need to guard on one side). This version is a walk up the slide and slide down the slide. We were going to put a ladder up to the launch platform but Arthur and Dorothy weren't old enough and were also a tad accident prone.

Conclusion

Just to be completely honest, I made the latter stages of this sound easy, they are not, actually they are a pain in the arse. I have to say it took me weeks of the children having fun before I could come around to thinking it was a good idea, but then again I'm a grumpy old sod!

Don’t forget, you can also join the Escape to The Chateau Fan Club on Facebook and join a community of like-minded creative people who love to share their craft and DIY projects. So, if you’ve completed your own helter-skelter, the team and I would love to see it! Make sure you tag us on Instagram @the_chateau_tv or post your project in the Escape to The Chateau Fan Club on Facebook.