How to Build Your Own Porch Swing
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How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Get yourself the best seat not in the house, and enjoy it all summer long

Nobody says you have to build your own porch swing. You could buy one, as easy as icebox pie.

But wait.

Why not make it yourself? Because if ever a task offered its own reward, this one does, implying libertine leisure even as it demands intense rigor. Were you crafty enough, you could start from scratch—the dimensions measured twice and cut once, the mortise made just so, the tenon to match, the flathead brass screws micrometrically countersunk, the curve of a seat rail defined by pencil, formed by saw, and completed with drawknife and plane.

Let's say you're insufficiently crafty. But let's also say you're willing to hit the halfway mark between scratch-built and store-bought. Do an online search for "porch swing" and "kit," and marvel at the results: big, little, medium, freestanding, chain-mounted, oak, cedar, redwood, teak, Arts and Crafts, Mission, Adirondack, plantation.

The box arrives, and with it so does a bout of jitters. But keep at it. You'll get your groove, tools, and user melding in an almost musical pattern, a melody of accomplishment riding the rhythm of repetition—screwgun whir, mallet strike, sandpaper scritch, clamp creak—and finally silence, settling over what began as a notion and now has three dimensions.


Steps // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing
1 ×

Ready, Set, Swing

 
Step One // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Ready, Set, Swing

overview of how to build a porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

For this building project, we selected a 5-foot-long swing made from stout planks of solid teak, milled into elegant, comfortable curves as lovely to admire as they are inviting to the touch. No cutting is needed, so assembly takes only a few hours. And the effort is doubly repaid: in savings (this swing costs hundreds of dollars less than one put together in a factory) and in satisfaction. You've created an heirloom you can proudly say you built yourself.

Before tackling final assembly, first "dry-fit" all of the pieces without glue. This will be time well spent. You'll know in advance if the kit has all of its parts; you can sand down any tenon that isn't sliding into its mortise; and you'll lessen the chance of making a mistake that's harder to correct later.

 
2 ×

Apply Glue to the Tenons

 
Step Two // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Apply Glue to the Tenons

apply glue to the end of a tenon to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

This project relies almost exclusively on mortise-and-tenon joinery, one of the oldest and strongest methods for joining wood. The tenon (the tongue) fits into the mortise (the slot). There are 15 such joints on this swing, and each one follows the same three-step procedure.

A waterproof polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue is recommended; we used Titebond III. Also swab glue on the inside of the mortise.

 
3 ×

Slide the Tenon Into the Mortise

 
Step Three // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Slide the Tenon Into the Mortise

slide the tenon into the mortis to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

The tenon's "shoulders"—the shelf of exposed end grain at the tenon's base—automatically bring the pieces into proper alignment.

 
4 ×

Fasten the Tenon

 
Step Four // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Fasten the Tenon

Fasten the Tenon to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Drive the screws into the screw holes and through the tenon. This eliminates the need for clamps or any waiting for the glue to dry. For maximum durability, use stainless steel screws.

Tip: Clean up. Take a damp rag and immediately wipe away any glue that squeezes out of the joint. If glue dries on the wood, it will leave a film that will resist any protective oil treatments and weather to a different color from the surrounding surfaces.

 
5 ×

Assemble the Back

 
Step Five // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Assemble the Back

assembling the back to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

First, glue and insert the ends of the seat-back slats into the mortises in the curved top rail. Then glue the other ends of the slats into the mortises in the bottom rails.

Tip: Fit each slat into the bottom rail a little at a time. To help push them in all the way, gradually tighten a bar clamp or two positioned on the rails.

 
6 ×

Order of Assembly: Sides

 
Step Six // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Order of Assembly: Sides

assembling the sides to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Glue and screw together each of the side pieces, minus the arms, so they don't interfere with the installation of the seat slats. Then attach each of the assembled side pieces to the tenons on the back's rails. ttom rail a little at a time. To help push them in all the way, gradually tighten a bar clamp or two positioned on the rails.

 
7 ×

Order of Assembly: Seat

 
Step Seven // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Order of Assembly: Seat

assembling the seat to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Glue and screw the rest of the framework that supports the seat slats: the center-seat support and the apron that connects the two side pieces in front. Apply a bead of glue on the underside of the first slat at each screw hole, then lay the slat against the side pieces; align the slat's ends flush with the side pieces. Screw the slat down. For all of the remaining slats, use spacer blocks to set an even gap between each slat and a scrap piece to align the end of each new slat with the one before it.

 
8 ×

Order of Assembly: Arm Rest

 
Step Eight // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Order of Assembly: Arm Rest

assembling the arm rest to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Glue and screw each arm onto the side pieces. The swing is now ready for a few finishing touches, shown on the next page.

 
9 ×

Attach support bolts and fill screw holes

 
Step Nine // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Attach support bolts and fill screw holes

attach bolts and fill holes to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Insert a brass bolt, the head facing inward, through each of the four holes in the side pieces. Apply a thread-locking glue such as Loctite to the bolts and twist on the brass rope nuts. Tighten until the head of the bolt sinks flush with the wood. A screwdriver stuck through the rope hole can provide the necessary leverage. Leave each rope hole facing up. Next, fill each screw hole with a teak plug dabbed with glue. Set the plug with a rawhide mallet, wipe up the glue, then sand it flush with 80-grit sandpaper.

 
10 ×

Apply Finish

 
Step Ten // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Apply Finish

Apply Finish to build your own porch swing
Photo by Jim Franco

Hand-sand the entire swing with 120-grit paper, paying particular attention to the curved top rail and the arms. In time, teak will weather to a silvery gray. To keep a rich, natural wood look, wipe a teak oil with UV protection (and without linseed oil) onto every surface, wait 15 minutes for it to soak in, then wipe again with a clean rag to remove any buildup. Repeat at the beginning and end of each porch-swing season. Teak can also be painted, but then you run the risk of chips, scrapes, and peeling.

 
11 ×

The Right Way to Hang It: Rope or Chain?

 
Step Eleven // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

The Right Way to Hang It: Rope or Chain?

choosing between rope or chain to hang your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

Steel chain is easy to adjust and lasts a long time, as long as it's galvanized. Rope is warm to the touch and won't rust or react with wood. A good nylon rope won't deteriorate and even has some "give" for added comfort. To make sure your rope is strong enough, add the weight of the swing to the maximum weight you expect it to hold at one time (600 pounds is a reasonable estimate). That total should be less than or equal to the rope's safe working load printed on the package.

Swing room
While most porch swingers are relatively sedate, you should allow at least 2 feet of clearance at the ends and 30 inches front and back to avoid colliding with the house, the porch railings, or people.

 
12 ×

Anchoring Hardware

 
Step Twelve // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Anchoring Hardware

Anchoring Hardware to hang your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

On porches without ceilings, just bore a hole all the way through the joist and insert a ½-inch galvanized eyebolt with a locknut. Put washers at both ends and tighten down the locknut completely.

On porches with ceilings, use a ½-inch by 5½-inch-long galvanized lag eyescrew with a shoulder. Embed each bolt's threads completely into solid wood. (Drill a pilot hole first to prevent splitting.)

Swinging hardware
Connect the rope or chain to the eyebolts with S-hooks, which minimize squeaks and reduce chafing or wear.

 
13 ×

Height

 
Step Thirteen // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Height

choosing the right height  to hang your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

Treat the swing like a chair so that a seated adult's feet won't hang in the air. For maximum comfort, tilt the swing slightly so that the back of the seat is about an inch lower than the front.

 
14 ×

Rope Knots: Upper End

 
Step Fourteen // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Rope Knots: Upper End

tie the right upper knot to hang your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

Loop Knot

 
15 ×

Rope Knot: Lower End

 
Step Fifteen // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Rope Knot: Lower End

tie the right lower knot to hang your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

Stopper Knot

 
16 ×

Fine Tuning

 
Step Sixteen // How to Build and Hang a Porch Swing

Fine Tuning

fine tuning your own porch swing
Illustration by Arthur Mount

A swing that's hanging askew can easily be set right by snugging up the slack ropes. Pull up on each one in turn, then tighten the rope that straightens the swing with the least amount of effort.

 
 
 

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