The Tree Table Workstation
In my previous article titled “The Outdoor Office” I described how I used Roll-a-Table to take my work outdoors. That table allows me to set up virtually anywhere, but it weighs more than 10 lb.. Half of that weight comes from sturdy legs, the other from the body of the table.
As I walked around the parks looking for the perfect spot to set up, I looked at trees. I thought to myself that a tree’s trunk is like a leg of a roundtable. If I could get a table mounted off of this “leg”, the table could be made light and portable. Furthermore, the table could attached higher for working in a standing position, which I prefer.
Achieving a standing working position with existing camping tables is hard. It requires putting one table on top of another, and using bungee chords to make sure that the construction doesn’t tip over. It also requires carrying around two tables. A tree table would elegantly solve the problem of height.
I prefer working standing, in general, to stay alert, but working outdoors in a spring or autumn weather (circa 15 degrees Celcius) is too cold when sitting. The trick to keep the body warm, is to work standing because it increases blood circulation.
I couldn’t find a table on the market that mounts on a tree’s trunk. But I did find an expired patent that does specify such a table. Since I wanted the table for myself, I thought that the design of it is simple enough to reproduce. After tinkering for about two weeks, I made the first prototype and over the next two months I have improved it.
People stopped to ask me about the table, and liked the idea. It must be that because of COVID and the lockdowns, people are ready to experiment. We have all seen how people take their gym routine to the parks, looking out-of-place jumping up and down in the midst of serene park strollers. And so, people look favorably to the idea of working outdoors.
This is understandable, since it’s better to separate work from home. Most apartments in downtowns of the world are tiny, and were used just to sleep, with most of the time spent in spacious offices. The lockdowns changed all that.
In consequence, since there is an indication of demand for such a table, I thought that it would be lazy of me not to try selling it via a crowdfunding platform. And so I made an IndieGogo campaign:
(Why didn’t I use Kickstarter? I spent the time setting it up, only to find out that Kickstarter links to a BlackLivesMatter website, particularly to the Defund Police page. I don’t want to bring people to my project and have them go to that link. Police is needed. Who will protect the banks that Kickstarter uses to collect the funds? Kickstarter is the proof of the efficacy of the free market, in that it allows anyone with a good idea to start a business. But it seems that KickStarter’s management doesn’t understands that Free Market can exist only when it is safe to trade. Instead, KickStarter’s management advertises anarchism.)
After I posted about the TreeTable on Facebook, an immediate reaction was a concern whether the table damages the tree. It doesn’t. The mount bar has wooden pads at the tips of bolts to create friction with the tree. They lie flat and tight against the bark, and cause no damage.
Those bolts have a locking nut that allows to adjust the angle of the bar, to make it vertical, no matter what’s the angle of the trunks surface.
You can use the table as is, but I like to add a few accessories in order to make it a full workstation. These are the same accessories that I described in the previous article about the Roll-a-Table. This is what my workstation looks like:
The screen hood is Pixel Sunscreen V2 by Think Tank, that you can get on Amazon. The laptop stand is IKEA Brada, but this model was discontinued by IKEA. What can you use instead? You need an ergonomic laptop raiser, that would let you to put the keyboard under the laptop, and so that the laptop remains close to you. Try the Urmust laptop stand with the Glare Stomper sun shade that mounts on the laptop. If it’s windy, your laptop on a raiser may tip, so as a preventative measure use bungee chords or twine to tie things down.
Remember that the Tree Table gets free shade from the tree itself, so even without any sun shade, you can work fine. An additional sun shade will make it just a little better. I also bought anti-glare sunglasses by Gunnar. They do help to relax the eyes, but I rarely use them.
Next comes the question about the internet. For the Internet I use my mobile phone hotspot. Because I stay within city parks, I always get a good LTE connection. I was told that if I went out of the city (e.g. camping), the signal would be much weaker and I would need to use a cell signal booster.
What about portable power? I use an older MacBook Pro, and even after battery replacement it doesn’t hold longer than about two hours. Furthermore, using mobile phone LTE actively discharges the phone battery quickly. So what did I do? I found a lithium batter AC generator on Amazon, that gives 250 Wh of power. It’s the Rockpals 250W and it lasts me the full day.
What about rain? You get some protection from rain by the virtue of being under a tree. There are portable umbrellas that can mount on a table leg, and you can attach such an umbrella to the vertical mounting bar that is along the tree’s trunk. You can also carry a rain poncho, and quickly throw it over your setup, if the rain is intermittent.
Another factor is staying warm in the cooler Spring or Fall weather. Here is where the Tree Table beats a regular table, because you can work standing. Working this way keeps the blood circulation at the right level to keep you warm. You don’t notice, but when working standing you always move about a little bit. The outdoor setting encourages it more than it would happen at home. Sometimes when I need to ponder a problem, I go for a little stroll beside the table. When I’m tired, I sit or lie on the grass and read a book or play with my phone.
Another important factor is the toilet. After a few hours, one just needs “to go.” Here is where it is advantageous to come not alone, but with a co-working friend, who also has a Tree Table, and who is working on a nearby tree. He can watch your things while you run for the toilet. However, in my experience, my things were safe even when I left them alone for five minutes. At most, I took the laptop and the phone with me, but left the rest. But proximity to a place with a nearby toilet does put a constraint on which tree to use.
What about lunch? Again, if you have a co-working buddy, he can watch your things if you wish to buy lunch nearby. I like to bring mine own. There is usually a park table around, within line of sight of my Tree Table workstation, so I eat there and relax. Or, I find a log, a bench, sit on the grass, or in rare cases, eat on my Tree Table. I enjoy the cognitive separation of work and play.
How long does it take to mount the table? It takes me about about 10 minutes to get it on the tree, the right way. First I adjust the top and bottom bolts of the mounting bar, so that the bar is vertical against the trunk. Then, I hold the mounting bar and the belt with the right hand, and tighten the belt with the left hand. I rotate the wooden pads so that they lie flat against the tree, and maximize the friction. I leave the table loose enough to adjust the table to the right height. I tighten it to place after I hang off the table, and aligned it to be horizontal. When all is set, I take a wrench and tighten the belt “real tight” by screwing the two bolts (see below). At this point the table is still not perfectly horizontal, so I apply a little force on the mounting bar to rotate it a little.
I leave it loose enough to adjust the table to the right height. I tighten it to place after I hang off the table, and aligned it to be horizontal. When all is set, I take a wrench and tighten the belt by screwing in the two bolts (see below). At this point the table is still not perfectly horizantal, so I apply a little force on the mounting bar to rotate it a little.
Stay tuned to the next article in this series, in which I will show how I have added a keyboard shelf.