If you have kids and you have a tree, then you most certainly need a simple wooden swing! In fact, almost everyone, adults included, can enjoy a tree swing.
It’s perfect for sitting on and idly kicking your legs. For sunny days that inspire a brief return to childhood with vigorous, full-body pumping. And if you’re as adventurous as Max, then you may even be tempted to get high enough to do a somersault off of the swing, even if it does scare your mother every time.
We built this simple wooden swing for Max when he was 3 years old. We were renting a house with a lovely heritage orchard, with an apple tree that perfect for swinging.
- Cedar: The swing is made from a 1″ x 6″ x 3′ piece of cedar. Other wood is fine as well, but cedar is naturally rot-resistant. I would not recommend using pressure-treated lumber as that stuff is toxic.
- Screws: 4 galvanized outdoor screws 1 1/4″ long.
- Outdoor Varnish: Varnish is a natural finish that is easy to apply and gives the wood a beautiful warm tone. I like this varnish because the clean up is easy.
- Rope: The amount of rope will depend on how high the branch is. You will need double the height of the branch, plus 8 extra feet. Buy a static rope, one that won’t stretch. The rope will be exposed to the elements, so if possible, choose a rope with UV protection.
- Tree: Obviously this project requires a tall, strong tree with a nice branch at least 6 feet above the ground. If you don’t have a tree, then you will need to build a different type of swing. We built this one at our Coop, and it’s stood the test of time and the vigorous swinging of many kids.
Wooden swing base
All you really need for a swing is a piece of wood with four holes drilled into it. Brad added the bottom runners to this swing to add some style. They don’t officially serve a purpose.
- Cut two 1″ strips of wood from the ends of the cedar board for the runners.
- The rest of the board can be used for the swing. Depending on how wide you want your swing cut to 18″ or 24″ wide. We made our swing for adult use as well, so it was 24″ wide.
- Using a 1/4″ drill bit, drill two holes on either end of the swing. The holes should be about 1/2″ away from the front and side edges to prevent splitting.
- Attach the two runners 1/8″ away from the drilled holes. Line them up nice and square to the front and back edges of the swing. Pre-drill the holes to prevent splitting, then screw the runners down to the swing, sinking the screw head slightly.
- Sand everything until it is nice and smooth.
- Finish the simple wooden swing with 3 layers of varnish to protect it from weathering. No one likes getting slivers from their swing!
Attaching the Rope to the Tree
Naturally, it’s important to choose a good strong tree branch from which to hang your swing. It’s equally important to tie the swing to the branch in a manner that won’t choke off the growth of the tree. We did this with a sliding knot.
- Cut the rope into 2 equal lengths.
- Tie a bowline knot on one end of the rope. A good animation of the running bowline can be viewed here.
- Loop the rope around the tree branch and thread the unknotted end through the eyelet of the bowline to form a running bowline.
- Do the same thing with the second length of rope, separating the two lengths by roughly the same width as your swing.
Tying the swing to the Rope
As former rock climbers, the figure 8 climbing knot was a logical choice for attaching the wooden swing to the rope. It is a static knot that allowed us to easily make adjustments as we worked at getting the swing level.
To ensure that the swing would be stable enough for our energetic three-year-old, we used a total of four anchor points. Here’s how to tie the swing to the rope:
- Start by tying a figure 8 knot on the line that comes down from the tree branch. The figure 8 knot should be about a foot up from where you want the swing to hang. An animation of the figure 8 knot can be viewed here.
- Tie a simple overhand knot at the desired height of the swing seat.
- Threat the rope down through the first hole. The knot should act as a stop point.
- Bring the rope back up through the second hole and secure it in place with another simple overhand knot. If you’re not sure what I mean, check the picture above. Each of the overhand knots will prevent the swing from sliding around on the rope.
- Feed the end of the rope back through the figure 8 knot.
- Make sure the swing is level front-to-back and side-to-side before tightening the figure 8 knot. It’s easy to make small adjustments by sliding the figure 8 knot up and down on the rope. When everything is good and square, tighten the two figure 8 knots and try out your new swing!