DIY swing set

Updated: April 10, 2019

Photo by Daniel Ehrenworth

By the time of Jamie’s third summer at the cottage, it had become clear my first grandchild would need a swing in the yard.

At his home in central Toronto, he liked nothing so well as playground time. How would we meet his swinging enthusiasms on a cedar-covered island in northern Lake Huron remote from any municipal park?

It’s an isolated, water-access-only location where we’ve learned over two generations to live without modern amenities. A swing is no modern amenity.

When I began looking for a convenient tree limb to carry a rope and a dangling tire, however, the perfect location seemed elusive. It turns out that the right, stout, horizontal branch for safe swinging doesn’t always grow on a conveniently-located, structurally-sound tree over soft, level ground within view of the cottage.

I began considering the potential of island cedar to create a swing in the yard using a length of oiled, ¾ inch, manila rope I found in the tool shed. The improvisation resulted eventually in a pair of cedar-pole tripods jammed into the soil to support a firm, six-inch-thick, horizontal pole at just over six ft. in height. I bound the poles firmly with carriage bolts, washers and nuts through holes drilled strategically in the wood. I covered the joints with rope lashings adapted from an old Boy Scout manual.

The swing seat itself required adjustment once Jamie arrived. Yes, he used it happily enough; but my original, seat design was tippy. It relied on a section of 2 x 8 lumber supported by a pair of ropes. I also changed the swing rope from scratchy manila to smoother polypropylene and threaded each rope through a single, drilled hole centrally located near the ends of the seat board, securing them with figure-eight knots beneath.

My improved design relied instead on a short, rope harness tied to each of the vertical, swing lines with a bowline. Each harness attached to the seat in two locations aligned near the board’s edge. Each of the harness-rope ends fastened to the seat with figure eight knots through drilled holes about four inches apart. The result: a big improvement in stability.

The rig worked well in Jamie’s third summer. It may need some adjustment— concrete footings, perhaps, for the tripod-end supports as he grows in size and daring.

Photos by Daniel Ehrenworth

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