The smooth, gentle glide of this porch swing will keep you daydreaming
for hours. In fact, you may lose your ambition for good!
The swing's simple cuts and no-hassle glue and screw assembly techniques
make it a great first-time woodworking project. You can build
it in a weekend for a few hundred dollars.
We designed the swing with a unique suspension system made from ordinary
1/2-in. black steel pipe (commonly used for gas piping) slipped through the swing
frame to act as a cradle and eliminate stress on wood joints. Eye bolts are then fastened through the steel pipe and covered by soft rubber caps to prevent scrapes. The swing assembly is then supported with welded steel chain, securely fastened to solid framing in the porch roof.
While your work ethic is still intact, round up the following tools: a circular
saw, drill with bits and screwdriver attachment, jigsaw, tape measure, square,
pencil, power sander, hacksaw and an adjustable wrench. You'll also need
access to a table saw.
If you're a first-timer, be aware that you'll need to predrill holes for every
screw so you won't split the wood or bust the screw shaft. To make this
process easier, buy a special countersink bit that can do both in one operation
and has a driver on the opposite end.
inherently dangerous for
small children. This
swing moves slowly, but
it has hard edges that
can give a nasty bump.
Kids will love this swing,
but never let small
children play around it
Pick knot free boards and measure carefully
Knots can weaken a board and spell disaster, especially on furniture. Also,
stay away from cedar, redwood and soft pine for this project. They'll mar
easily and won't hold screws as well as other, denser woods. Excellent
choices are fir, Southern yellow pine, cypress, poplar, white oak and
maple. Oak and maple are harder to cut, sand, drill and screw, so if you're
a first-timer, avoid them. We chose poplar because it's strong, readily available,
easy to work and takes paint well.
Cut all the parts to the dimensions in the Cutting List (see Additional Information, below). Using a table saw,
make 1x3s from your 1x6s (see Cutting List). Then notch the front arm
supports as shown in Fig. A. Draw the curved shapes (parts A and P) onto
hardboard as shown in Photo 2 and trace them onto boards, or simply draw the 1-in. square grids directly
onto the pieces. Cut them out with
your jigsaw and sand the curves
smooth with 100-grit sandpaper.
Drill 7/8-in. diameter holes with a
sharp spade bit into parts A for the
front pipe hanger.
Cut the center and top horizontal
back braces (parts F and G)
from 1x4s as shown in Photo 1. A
table saw works best, but if you're
an ace with a circular saw, you can
set your saw bevel, tack the 1x4 to
the tops of your sawhorses to keep
the board from moving, and then
saw along a line right down the
length of the board. Next, mark a
diagonal taper onto a 1x3 as shown
in Fig. A to make the two outer
slats (K) from this single piece. Cut
along the line with your jigsaw,
then use a block plane to smooth
the cut edge. Set the seat assembly
Figure A: Porch swing details
Figure A: Porch Swing Details
This cutaway drawing shows the construction details for the porch swing. To download a larger PDF version, see Additional Information. The complete Cutting List and Shopping List are also in Additional Information.
Assemble the swing on a temporary workbench
Create a large work surface by laying
a sheet of plywood across
sawhorses (Photo 7). Glue and
screw the front stringer (C) to the
front arm braces (B). Next, fasten
this assembly to the seat braces
(A1 and A2) and rear stringer (D)
to complete the seat frame assembly
(Photo 4). Drill through the
front arm braces (B) with your
7/8-in. drill bit after you've glued
and screwed the side seat braces to
them (Photo 4). These two holes
will complete the pathway for the
front pipe support (Q).
After you assemble the arm
braces, stringers and seat braces,
glue and screw the curved front
arm supports (L) to the sides of B
as shown in Fig. A.
Assemble the back as shown in
Fig. A and Photo 5. Cut 1/4-in. spacers from scrap wood (1/4-in.
plywood pieces are perfect) to help
maintain consistent spacing.
Start at the center and work out
to the sides. When you get to the
fourth slat on each side, check your
spacing; you may need to adjust it
so the outer edge of the tapered slat
(K) is flush with the end of the lower
back brace (E).
Now it's time to cut the curves
on the back assembly. Make a simple
beam compass from a scrap of
wood as shown in Photo 6. Flip the
backrest assembly over, use your
beam compass to mark the curves
and cut along the mark with a jigsaw.
With the backrest assembly in
this position, measure and mark a
2-1/2 in. line parallel to the bottom
edge (Photo 7).
Grab the seat frame assembly
you built earlier and finesse it onto
the backrest assembly (Photo 7). It's crucial to align the rear seat
frame stringer (D) to the 2-1/2 in.
line on the backrest so the rest of
the assembly will fit together.
Drill 7/8-in. holes in the horizontal
arm supports (M) to the
exact dimensions shown in Fig. A.
Then glue and screw these pieces
to the front arm braces (B) and the
center back brace (F; Photo 8).
Next, glue and screw the seat slats
to the seat braces. Start in the back
and leave approximately a 3/16-in.
space between each piece. Trim the
last slat to overhang the front
stringer 1/2 in. Plane the transition
piece on the curve of the seat
(Photo 10) and at the leading edge
of the front seat slat for maximum
Why Construction Adhesive?
Buy a small tube of construction
adhesive for this outdoor
project. Be sure to buy the heavy-duty type for exterior use.
Construction adhesive will
help your porch swing stand
up to both weather and stress.
The small tube shown is the
same stuff as in the larger
“caulk-gun” sized tubes but is
less cumbersome for a smaller
project like the swing. Apply a
small bead at every joint. If
the glue oozes slightly, let
the excess harden and then
scrape it off with a sharp
putty knife or wood chisel.
Don't skimp on the hardware
Buy oversize (3/16-in. or 1/4-in.
thick) chain with welded links for
good looks and safety. Also buy
1/4-in. threaded eyebolts along
with thread-locking compound to
keep the nuts from working loose.
The quick-link eyes (Photo 11) are
indispensable for linking chain
quickly. Buy your black pipe at a
hardware store and have it cut to
exact lengths without threaded
Now, test-fit the pipe, chain and
connecting links to the wooden
assembly (Fig. A). It's a good time
to discover any glitches and correct
them before you paint. Slide
the pipes through the holes in the
seat frame and along the back,
leaving an equal amount exposed
on each side. Mark the hole locations
in the pipes to lock them to
the swing (Photo 9 and Fig. A).
Drill 3/16-in. diameter holes for
the sheet metal lockscrews and
9/32-in. diameter screws for the eye bolts. Angle the eye bolts
slightly toward the center of the
swing to minimize the torque on
the pipe and prevent the lockscrews
Remember, this swing could be
holding 400 lbs. or more, so you
must anchor the swing's chain
with 1/2-in.-shaft screw eyes
screwed at least 2 in. into solid
framing as shown in Fig. C. Also,
distribute the weight to more
than one ceiling joist by screwing
a pair of 2x4s 54 in. apart and
then inserting the screw eyes into
Figure B: Porch swing end view
Figure B: Porch Swing End View
To download a larger PDF version of Figure B see Additional Information, below. The complete Cutting List and Shopping List are also in Additional Information.
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Ease the wood edges before you paint
Remove the chains and pipes to
paint the wood assembly. Sand
the pipes with 100-grit sandpaper,
then wipe them down with a rag
dampened with mineral spirits.
Let the mineral spirits evaporate
off the surfaces, then spray-paint
the pipes with exterior primer
followed by an exterior enamel.
Sand the wood parts with 100-grit sandpaper, paying particular
attention to the arms and the edges of the seat and back. Softer
edges will be safer and more comfortable
and hold paint better.
Wipe off the dust and vacuum the
swing. You'll make better time if
you roll (use a small 4-in. roller) on
a good-quality primer and follow it
up with a brush to even the coat.
Use the brush to paint between the
slats and then look for runs and
drips coming through the other
side. Use oil-based primer (or waterbased
if you prefer), then lightly
sand the swing the next day with
150-grit sandpaper. Choose the best
polyurethane exterior paint you can
find and apply it using the same
roller and brush technique. Let the
paint cure for a couple of days
before you rehang the swing.
Note: During the final assembly,
squirt thread-locking compound on
the eye bolt threads. Be sure to cut
the eye bolts flush with the nuts for
Figure C: Hanging Detail
Screw a length of 2x4 into solid framing to support
each chain. Be sure to use 4-in. long lag
screws and span at least three ceiling joists. (See Additional Information for a printable PDF version of Figure C.)