How to Build a Garden Arbor

Elegant and surprisingly easy to build

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Multiple Days






You can build this stylish, arched garden arbor with a swing in only a couple of days—it’s way easier than it looks.

Tools Required

  • Belt sander
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Combination square
  • Corded drill
  • Countersink drill bit
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Dust mask
  • Extension cord
  • Framing square
  • Hammer
  • Hearing protection
  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Posthole digger
  • Safety glasses
  • Sawhorses
  • Screw gun

This combination arbor and swing may look like a challenging, weeks-long project, but it’s not. If you can drive screws and handle a saw, you can build it in a weekend. The swing itself is store-bought, and the arbor that supports it requires only basic skills. Don’t be afraid of those curves and coves; we’ll show you a goof-proof way to cut them.

Building and installing the arbor are about two days of work, but you’re best off spreading it over a three-day weekend. You can build it in a day, add a coat of finish the next morning, let it dry overnight and set up the arbor the following day.

Project step-by-step (10)

Step 1

Position the Saw

  • Align the blade’s arbor at the end of the beam and mark at the front of the saw’s shoe.
    • Note: This mark tells you where to place the stop block.

Step 2

Cut Beams and Make Plunge Cuts

  • Cut the beams to length and cove the ends with a 7-1/4-in. circular saw.
  • Pivot the saw downward while holding the shoe against the stop block.
    • Pro tip: A support block behind the saw prevents you from plunging too deep.

Step 3

Bust Out the Cove

  • Break away the flakes, then sand the cove smooth.
    • Note: The more cuts you made, the easier this will be.

Step 4

Assemble the Sides

  • Screw the slats between the rungs, then drive screws at an angle through the rungs and into the posts.
    • Pro tip: Driving screws at an angle is a lot easier if you drill pilot holes first to guide the screws.
  • Fasten the beam to the posts with long construction screws.
    • Pro tip: When you screw the beams to the posts, make sure the screw heads sink in flush with the surface so they’re not in the way when you set the arches on them. Bore countersink holes if you have to.

Step 5

Mark the Arches

  • Cut the arch material to length and screw oversize blocks to the ends.
  • Screw on end blocks and bend a spring stick between them.
  • Trace an arch along the stick, move the stick up 6 in., then trace again.
  • Mark the bird’s-mouths and coves before cutting out the arch.
  • Use the first arch as a pattern for the other two.
    • Pro tip: The bottom of a 5-gallon bucket is perfect for marking the cove.

Step 6

Cut the Arches with a Circular Saw

  • When all your marks are made, set your circular saw blade depth to 1-3/4 in. and cut the curves.
  • Then cut the coves and bird’s-mouths with a jigsaw.
    • Pro tip: On a gentle curve like this one, a circular saw is faster and easier to control than a jigsaw. Take your time and cut along the outer edge of the mark.
  • Clean up the cuts with a sander.

Step 7

Screw Slats to the Arches

  • Check and double-check to make sure you have the arches spaced correctly.
  • Make sure the center slat and arches are perpendicular to each other using a square.
    • Pro tip: You may have to nudge the whole assembly to adjust it for squareness. To position the slats quickly—and prevent mistakes—make a 4-1/4-in.-wide spacer from scrap plywood.

Step 8

Assemble It, Square It, Brace It

  • Screw braces to the posts to hold them the correct distance apart.
  • Screw the arches to the beams.
  • Take diagonal measurements to square up the arbor and add a diagonal brace to hold it square.

Step 9

Level the Arch

  • Stand up the arbor exactly where you want it and mark the locations of the postholes.
  • Dig postholes and set the arbor into them.
  • Level the posts by stacking blocks and shims under the braces.
  • When the arbor is perfectly positioned, fill the postholes with concrete.

Step 10

Project PDF Files

Click the links below to download the construction drawings, materials list and cutting list for this project.

Cutting and Materials Lists and Construction drawings

Additional Information