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Properly secured tire swing provides hours of safe fun

SHARE Properly secured tire swing provides hours of safe fun

When was the last time you soared through the air on an old-fashioned swing? Children aren't the only ones who can enjoy this summertime pleasure. Following are instructions for three swings that can be made with a few supplies and an obliging tree.

The basics

When choosing the location for a swing, select a tall shade tree with a high canopy of branches. Make sure the entire tree is leafy and free of dead wood that might shake loose. Hardwoods such as oak, maple and ash are best; you'll need a limb that's 4 inches in diameter. If you want to hang your swing from a softer wood, such as apple or cherry, the branch needs to be 6 to 7 inches in diameter.

Look for a limb that's close to horizontal. You can compensate for a slightly nonlevel branch by adding extra rope or chain to the higher side.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when you're hanging a swing. First, do not loop a rope over a tree branch; it will choke off nutrients. Instead, anchor the rope or chains from eyebolts inserted directly into the wood. The tree will grow scar tissue around the eyebolts, causing little harm and actually securing the bolts. And for your own safety, make sure you tie the swing's knots securely if using rope.

The tire swing and plank swing described below call for a nautical knot called a three-strand eye-splice. You'll find illustrations on how to tie it on my Web site. Or consult a book such as "Chapman's Nautical Guides: Knots" by Brion Toss (Hearst Marine, 1990).

In addition to the eyebolts, you'll need a few other materials from the hardware store. One worth mentioning is a quick link, a useful chain attachment that works like the clasp on a necklace, connecting two lengths of chain, or a chain to another piece of hardware. Quick links enable you to take down the swing without removing the nuts and bolts that anchor it to the tree.

Tire swing

Many tire shops will donate an old tire that you can use to make this classic swing. A steel-belted tire holds up well, but make sure there's enough tread so the steel won't poke through the rubber.

Drill holes through the tread every 4 inches so rainwater will drain out. Tie 1/2-inch nylon rope to a quick link with a three-strand eye-splice knot. Loop the other end of the rope through the tire; tie with another eye-splice knot.

Drill a 3/8-inch hole vertically through a strong limb at least 6 feet out from the tree trunk. Insert a 3/8-inch eyebolt from the underside of the branch and fasten with a washer and locknut on top. (The washer provides a flat surface for the nut to be tightened against; the nut literally locks in place, so it withstands repeated vibration and stress.)

Join the quick link to the eyebolt, hanging the tire.

Plank swing

A plank swing is simply a piece of wood suspended from two chains that allow you to move back and forth like a pendulum. To make it, cut a 12-by-24-inch seat from 1 1/4-inch stock, as well as two 4-by-10-inch cross braces from 3/4-inch stock. The braces will strengthen the seat and prevent warping or cracking.

Using a hand plane, remove sharp edges from the boards. Place a brace at each end on what will be the bottom of the swing, 1 inch in from the front, back and sides. Fasten braces with four stainless-steel screws in predrilled, countersunk holes.

Sand, prime and paint the seat using exterior paint. The seat hardware consists of U-bolts that pass from top to bottom through the seat and cross braces. Drill holes for the U-bolts so they'll be centered over each brace. Link 3/8-inch chains to the U-bolts before inserting the ends of the bolts through the holes in the seat; then secure them under the seat with a screw plate and acorn nuts. All metal parts should be stainless or galvanized steel.

Starting at least 2 1/2 feet from the trunk of the tree, insert and secure eyebolts as described for the tire swing above, making sure the bolts are the same distance apart as the U-bolts in the seat. Use quick links to join the other ends of the chains to the eyebolts.

Pancake swing

This round swing is a wooden disc with a rope running through the center of it. To make a 16-inch wide "pancake," cut two 18-inch lengths from a 1 1/4-by-10-inch poplar plank. You'll also need a 4-by-12-inch cross brace from 3/4-inch stock.

Brush one long edge of each of the pancake pieces with waterproof glue, and clamp them together side by side until dry. Draw a 16-inch circle using a pencil, string and tack as a "compass." Cut out disk with a jigsaw, and soften the edges with a hand plane. Sand, prime and paint the disk with exterior paint.

Glue on the cross brace (painted the same color) so it's perpendicular to the middle seam in the seat. From the bottom of the seat, fasten the brace with four stainless-steel screws in predrilled, countersunk holes (use screws that are just shorter than the thickness of the two pieces of wood so the ends don't pierce the top of the seat).

Drill a 1/2-inch hole through the disk and cross brace; run 1/2-inch rope through the hole. Tie a few simple knots under the seat to support it. Hang the rope from a branch as described for the tire swing above.


Questions should be addressed to Martha Stewart, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10168. For more information on the topics covered in the ask Martha column, visit her Web site. Web site: www.marthastewart.com