Nothing beats memories of the back-and-forth motion of a tree swing, with a breeze on your face as you swing higher and higher. Tree swings don’t have to remain a memory from your childhood or youth. You can still build and hang a tree swing as an adult. Whether it’s for your children or grandchildren or yourself, it’s possible to build and hang your own tree swing in a single afternoon. Assuming you have the right materials, a sturdy and reliable tree, and the will to see the project through, you could be swinging your way into next week with a renewed appreciation for some of the little joys in life.
Mr. Tree is your local expert in all things trees. We have our own tree swing experiences and want to share the building process with you. You can build something you can use to enjoy your yard and get outside.
Swings are a fun and timeless way for kids and adults alike to get outside and play. There are numerous plastic or metal swings available commercially, but the traditional wooden swing is the go-to for do-it-yourself projects and those who, perhaps, had their own wooden swings in their front yards 30, 40, or 50 years ago.
If you have a sturdy tree branch, you’re already on your way. Making and hanging your own tree swing depends on durability. That is, finding a branch wide enough to manage a person’s weight pulling and swinging on it is going to be the first task. Collecting your materials will be secondary. A quality hardware store and good lumberyard will have the items you need. Because of the Pacific Northwest weather, be on the lookout for materials that are as weather-resistant as possible.
Locate the Perfect Branch on the Perfect Tree
Start by really looking at the trees on your property. If they don’t and cannot meet these requirements, perhaps it is advisable to find a different project.
An oak tree is ideal, but any hardwood big and sturdy enough can be used. It’s best to avoid fruit trees and evergreens.
The branch should be both healthy and have a diameter of at least eight inches. Do an initial inspection where you look for any signs of splitting, potential diseases, bug infestation, or inhibiting factors. A branch that isn’t doing well is more likely to break off and fall, posing a serious threat to anyone below it or swinging from it. Keep looking for a suitable branch.
The swing should be about three to five feet from the trunk of the tree. Test the durability of the branch with a simple physics test. If you push down on the branch where you’re hoping to have the swing hang and it bounces, opt for a sturdier branch.
Make sure the branch isn’t too high off the ground. A good maximum is a branch no more than 20 feet high. If the swing is for a child, however, select a lower branch. It’s important to consider that the higher you attach the tree swing, the greater the drop should anyone fall.
Purchase the Materials
With weather-resistance as a theme during your shop for the materials, you’ll need wood, rope, wood glue, clamps, a drill, and a drill bit wide enough for the rope, plus eight wood screws, sandpaper, and if you’re planning to paint, some paint.
Wood: One 2x4x8 piece for building the seat and one extra 1x2x8 piece for hanging.
Rope: A twisted poly rope will be your best bet. Although it gives a good grip, avoid a natural fiber rope, as it’s prone to rotting over time and can break when you least expect it. Clothesline is never suitable for a tree swing.
Two clamps. Alternatively, you can trade these out for some heavy objects.
Drill and drill bit. The drill bit should be wide enough for the rope to pass through the hole.
Wood screws. Eight 1 1/2” screws and two 3/8” screws.
2 chain “quick” links.
How to Build the Tree Swing
Cut the 2x4x8 piece of wood into two parts measuring 2.5 feet long. Then cut two more pieces, these measuring 8 inches long. Put the two longer pieces next to each other and glue the long sides with the wood glue. The two shorter pieces will support the longer ones, so glue them to the ends so they’re placed perpendicularly to the long ones. The edges should line up and not overlap.
Take the clamps and secure these glued pieces together right away. Verify that everything is in place. Review the recommended wait time on the wood glue bottle and wait.
When they’re dry, you can pre-drill the holes where you’ll put the screws. Avoid drilling too close to the edges. Add screws.
You then drill two holes in the outer corners. Be mindful of placement so you don’t get too close to the edge or split the wood. After this step, now you can sand it, then paint or stain it.
The rope length will depend on the height of the branch you’ve selected. For the seat, cut two lengths of rope so that they’re 5 feet long. To secure the seat rope, tie a double overhand knot starting on one end, pass it up through the hole from underneath and then go back down through the hole on the corresponding side and tie the same knot again. Do this for the other side too.
Measure the remaining rope and cut it in two. Hold the rope with one hand at the end and about four feet up on the working end. Bring the rope together and tie a knot so that there’s a resulting loop. Connect that end to the loop on the swing with the chain link. Do the same thing on the other side.
Now, using the 1x2x8 piece, cut it so that it’s 2.5 feet long (or as long as your swing seat). Drill a hole into each of the ends so that it’s about 1 inch away from the edge and is centered.
Find the point above the seat where it measures about 5 feet above your seat. Then tie a knot in each rope. Take the loose end and slip it through the centered hole of the 1x2x8 board. Now tie the rope ends to your tree branch using a taut line knot. Be sure to double- and triple-check the knots with an adult’s weight to make sure they’re secured.
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