How to Make a Wooden Disc Swing

Updated: May 16, 2024

Here are two ways to make a disc swing for a tree. Both are sure to bring your family tons of summer fun!

Next Project

A half day




$10 - $40


Here's how to make a disc swing in two different ways. An elaborate version using a woodturning lathe and a simpler version using a router.

Tools Required

  • 5/8" Forstner bit
  • acid free permanent markers
  • angled skew
  • chuck with cole jaws
  • Four jaw chuck
  • Jacob's chuck
  • Miter saw
  • Paint brush
  • parting tool
  • spindle gouge
  • spur drive
  • tail stock drive
  • Wire
  • wood mallet
  • Woodturning lathe

Materials Required

  • 2” X 13” X 13” slab of Maple wood
  • Assortment of sandpaper grits
  • Clean cotton rags
  • Exterior grade Spar varnish
  • Gulf or candle wax
  • Paper towels
  • Walnut oil

Building a disc swing using a woodturning lathe is probably one of my favorite projects. Truth be told, anything made on a lathe will be among my favorites because it is my all-time favorite tool! Once you know the woodturning basics, making a disc swing on a lathe is woodturning 101.

A woodturning lathe is statistically the last tool a carpenter sets out to use.  It does have a steep learning curve, and the initial investment to get started can be pricey. However, there are ways to get your hands on a lathe without purchasing one.  Some woodworking stores give lessons and have open studio time, and many woodturning clubs have lathes available to their members. I promise: once you try woodturning, you’ll want to do more.

Here I share the steps to making a disc swing on a lathe, a very easy woodturning project once you have mastered the basics. Alternatively, you may choose to use a router to construct the swing, which I also discuss below.

Project step-by-step (20)

Step 1

Prep wood for turning

Regardless of the size of the wood you will mount, find the center and pencil out your circle. Use a miter saw to cut 45-degree cuts close to your line on your circle to eliminate as much of the wood outside the circle as possible. You will end up with an octagon. This will help you reach a balanced circle faster once you start cutting with the chisels on the lathe.

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Step 2

Seed spur drive

Using a wood mallet, hammer the spur drive into your center point, ensuring all four teeth of the spur drive have seeded and made full contact with the wood.

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Step 3

Mount on the lathe

Secure your wood on the lathe by pinching between centers with spur drive and tail drive. Ensure the disc is perpendicular to the lathe for optimal balance, then lock the tail drive into place.

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Step 4

Round edges and balance

Starting at a lower speed (800 RPM), use a bowl gouge or a spindle gouge to round out and balance the disc from side to side, front to back.

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Step 5

Cut a foot

Using a parting tool and spindle gouge from your woodturning tools, create a foot (tenon) to transfer the disc into a four-jaw chuck. Be aware of what kind of chuck you have and double-check whether you are creating a foot/tenon with or without a dovetail (the latter is based on the chuck design and brand).

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Step 6

Mount the disc in the chuck

Secure the chuck on the lathe and mount the disc in it, ensuring a snug fit between the chuck and the foot (tenon) created. Start up the lathe and balance the wood again.

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Step 7

Re-balance and center

Now that you have transitioned the wood to the chuck, you will have to re-balance the sides, front and back again to ensure the disc is balanced and running true.

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Step 8

Wire burn

Using a wire, burn three lines along the outer rim of the disc. To help seed the wire in place, cut a small groove where you want to burn with wire.  This will prevent the wire from slipping out of place when burning.

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Step 9

Create front face details

Once the disc is balanced in the chuck on the wood lathe, retract the tail drive and create design details with a spindle gouge and parting tool — these details can be any combination of beads and coves.

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Step 10

Drill rope hole

Drill a hole for the rope. Using a 5/8-in. Forstner bit in a Jacobs chuck inserted in the tail drive, lower the speed and drill a center hole through the disc. Use the tail drive like a horizontal drill press. Lubricate the Forstner bit with Gulf wax or an old candle to prevent it from overheating and getting caught in the wood.

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Step 11

Sand the front face

Start with 120-grit sandpaper, sand the front and work your way up through 180, 220, 320 and 400.  Sanding in reverse will help get a better finish on your disc.

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Step 12

Color details

Using acid-free markers, fill in the coves with color. Use the tool rest as a guide to place color with markers.

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Step 13

Oil front face

With a clean cotton cloth, generously apply walnut oil to the finished front face.

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Step 14

Mount disc in the chuck with Cole jaws

Using the tail drive to recenter, mount the disc into the cole jaw chuck with the disc’s front face facing into the chuck. Use the center of your foot to center the piece with the tail drive. You may place a layer of paper towel between the front face and the metal face of the Cole jaws to prevent metal marks from transferring onto the piece of wood.

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Step 15

Remove the foot

With the tail drive in place, use a spindle gauge to remove the foot (tenon) and make a flat, smooth bottom. Once most of the foot is gone, remove the tail drive to clean up and access the area around the center hole.

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Step 16

Sand the back side

Sand the back face of the disc. Start with 120-grit sandpaper and work your way up through 180, 220, 320 and 400. Be aware of the bungs in the Cole jaws and chuck, as they can hurt your fingers if you run up against them.

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Step 17

Oil back side

With a clean cotton cloth, generously apply walnut oil to the finished back face of the disc. Once done, loosen the cole jaw chuck and remove the disc from the lathe.

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Step 18

Apply spar varnish

Once the oil has dried, seal it with exterior-grade Spar varnish. You may brush on or use the same product in a spray can. Apply on one side first and let it dry, then apply on the other side.  Once the varnish has dried, you may notice the grain is raised.  If so, feel free to hit it with 320 sandpaper or steel wool to knock down the grain and apply a second coat on both sides, allowing each side to dry before installing the rope and hanging your new swing from a tree or swing set.

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Step 19

How to make a disc swing using a router

No lathe? No problem! Here is how to make a disc swing using a router.

Tools: Miter saw, Clamps, Router w/bits, Trammel arm or circle cutting jig, 5/8-in. Forstner bit, Drill, Paint brush

Materials: 1×12 board, Wood glue, 1/2-in. rope, 150-and 220-grit sandpaper, Spar varnish

  • Cut and glue the boards: Using a miter saw, cut three 11-1/4-in. square boards from 1×12 stock. Laminate the three boards using exterior-grade wood glue, alternating the orientation of the wood grain to ensure strength. Clamp the boards tightly and let dry for 24 hours.
  • Cut the circle: With a router attached to a trammel arm or circle-cutting jig, locate the center of the glued boards and cut a circle. The depth capacity of your router and the length of the router bit may require you to use a regular straight router bit to cut from both the top and bottom of the boards, followed by a straight bit with a bearing to continue the same circle and remove the wood from the middle. Finding the exact center when working from the top and bottom of the laminated boards is critical so that the trammel arm lines up.
  • Round over the edges: Using a router equipped with a round-over bit, round over the top and bottom edges of the disc.
  • Drill the center hole: Drill a 5/8-in. hole in the center of the seat. This hole is an appropriate size for a 1/2-in. rope. If the hole is too small, the rope may fray with use.
  • Sand and seal: Sand all surfaces to clean up any tear-out in the wood. Start with 150-grit sandpaper and then proceed to 220-grit. Finish with a couple of coats of spar varnish.

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Step 20


Can I make a disc swing out of any species of wood?
Technically, yes, any species of wood will work for a swing if you seal it properly with an exterior-grade Spar Varnish. To help the swing last a long time, you may have to sand and apply a few more coats every couple of years. However, some species, such as cedar, are better for exterior uses because they repel insects and have less tendency to mold.

Will any rope work to hang a swing?
No!  You must ensure the rope selected to hang a swing is tested and certified for the weight you anticipate swinging on it. A rope for an adult must have a higher Tinsel strength than a rope for a child.  Ropes are rated for weight, so be sure to make the right choice. This also applies to carabiners and hanging hooks, too.

Can I just hang a rope from a tree to install a swing?
No, you can damage a tree by hanging a rope over it without protecting the branch.  Purchasing a hanging strap system will make hanging a swing easy and won’t damage the tree. You also won’t have to deal with screwing anything into the tree, which could also harm the tree and quickly become unsafe. Purchasing a proper hanging system for your tree swing is a small investment to ensure everyone is safe. You, your children, and the tree.