Introduction: Building a Monster Play Slide

Picture of Building a Monster Play Slide

Building things is fun ...BUT... Building fun things is a freakin' blast!

I think my favorite fun thing to build would be slides!

I work at a place where everyday we build things geared toward having fun. It's an imaginative mix of playground, funhouse, living sculpture and architectural museum all made out of unique, found, reclaimed and recycled items.
Nearly everything we construct has an element of exploration - we've build all kinds of tunnels,hideouts, caves and climbers, but the one thing that is always a hit are the slides!

I mean, once you've clawed and climbed your way to the top, don't  you want to get to the bottom as fast as you can to do it all over again? 

I'd been toying with the notion of writing something to answer all the crazy questions I get and then I saw this post: Has-anyone-built-a-playground-slide
i guess it helped spur me into the notion that others might find a primer on slide building useful.

Step 1: Things You May or May Not Need

This project is more conceptual in nature, by that i mean your interpretation and implementation can be pretty darn flexible. 

I build crazy things for a living, and that said I may have tools and or skills that you don't...

This doesn't mean you can't build a really cool slide and have an awesome time doing it. The materials you use will greatly affect how you construct it and what sort of tools you'll need to do it and of course the skills you'll need to do it.

I'll try to spark your imagination and set you up with the goods you need to get the mission accomplished and help you make it safe to boot.


Step 2: What Is a Slide?

Picture of What Is a Slide?

In it's most basic form, a slide is just a smooth sloping chute which things or you can descend.
When you come right down to it, a slide is an awesome people mover and is enjoyed by most everyone at any age.  

While there are all types of slides I'm going to really focus on the straight type but much of the basics still hold true.

Step 3: The Platform

Picture of The Platform

This is sort of the transitional part of a slide. Users need to be able to safely move from a standing or climbing position into one where they can go down in a feet first seated position.

The platform area needs to be horizontal, sorta comfy and very functional. It should have well placed hand holds and adequate space to facilitate the transition.

Handles need to work for everyone that will be using the slide.  Are they as low as a climbing toddler needs them or as tall as a large adult requires?  Most of the world isn't made with the littlest people in mind, and oddly enough toddlers need MORE space than slightly older folk as they are more than likely to traverse obstacles on their knees. Your platform is best when it is the full width of the slide and nearly 20 inches deep.

If your platform has a sort of cage around it, this is a reminder that you should follow general principals for hand rails and not allow a 4 inch sphere to pass between them. A kid getting its head caught between the bars would not be cool.

Step 4: The Chute

Picture of The Chute

This part right here this, is the part that we are all building for right? I mean, what good is a slide without the part that gets your blood pumping?

Chute inclination is the part that does just that. Naturally the steeper the slide, the faster and further you'll go. This is all well and good, but there are limits. It is suggested that Toddler slides should be no steeper than about 24 degrees and for school kids no steeper than 30 degrees on average. While slides can have steeper sections as a general rule, your slide should not exceed a 50 degree angle.

Regardless of whether you have a flat bottom run or a circular one slide, guidelines suggest that your chute needs a minimum usable width of 8 inches for a toddler and as much as 16 inches for a school age child. If you have the material 18-20 inches should do for most of the people.

Beyond that your slide should have at least a 4 inch side wall to keep a body going in its intended direction and be attached to the chute bottom without any gaps between them.

*** Hey wait a minute! Based on these dimensions, cutting a 55 gallon drum in half you'd have a suitable tube section for making a slide.

Step 5: The Exit

Picture of The Exit

Whatever monstrous thing you decide to build, your beast needs a place to belch forth its passengers. Preferably this expulsion will be a smooth one...

It is good practice to have this area be horizontal to the ground plane or at a slightly lower tipped down angle. Getting out of a slide that kicks up at the end can be rather problematic as your feet can end up higher than the bits that your sliding on.

Exit areas should also be clear and open nearly as far as a user can reach, which keeps flailing limbs from getting banged up or bruised. Exit length is a huge factor when building a large slide. Remember, to leave enough room for a rider to come to a full stop in a safe place. This Honestly is hard thing to gauge. Climate greatly affects the speed and distance you travel. on a humid day you may barely make it down but a dry one in slick clothing  can make you feel like your in the luge.

Step 6: Special Considerations

Picture of Special Considerations

Your speed may not kill you, but it could maim you.

There are several things you should look out for when building a slide.
It's important that the platform, slide surface, landing and quite frankly ANYTHING you can reach be free of bumps, protrusions and small gaps.

Though it may seem like nothing at first glance a tiny burr, exposed edge or grit in a paint job can lead to road rash or a gaping wound.
In addition, fasteners and small gaps can also catch things like tiny fingers, zippers and shoe strings, causing a rider to spin around or worse yet flip.

Also be aware of the area around the slide.

If possible its not a bad idea to try to exclude bystanders from the run so the don't get hit. For some reason many people don't use their head and actually get in the way to "watch" the person coming down.

You should also bear in mind that the sun can ruin even the most awesome slide for the rider. If you plan on building a metal slide please think about trying to shade it or coat in some fashion. Nobody likes to get burned and it can happen faster than you think.


Step 7: Choosing Your Materials

Picture of Choosing Your Materials

A slide can be made of most anything that has a degree of "slickness" if you will.

Our slides largely use heavy steel pipe, but really you can get pretty creative with materials.

Sure a person could run down to the store and buy a pre-made slide, but where is the adventure in that?

Think of things like sheet metal, Masonite or Plexiglas. In a similar vein think about melamine or a section of old kitchen counter top. Sheet goods are nice in many ways because they diminish the fastener problem as they can be glued down.

Other things can be used as well... we've made simple slides out of tons of recycled steel rods all set next to each other.
The surface does not always need to be made of long linear materials.
Think about a snake...
They are pretty slick, but made of tiny little plates all layered together. Things like bent wood chair backs or sections of a 55 gallon drum could also be utilized like scales provided you have enough of them.

Depending on your application a slide can be fabricated out of other materials like concrete or plaster too. Contrary to what you might think both can be worked very smooth and have a really nice organic quality (Sorry I'll get pictures of this soon).

Step 8: Fasteners and Connections

Picture of Fasteners and Connections

Here is the part where we discuss the nuts and bolts of putting it together. Remember what I said about tiny burrs being a heinous thing?

While really the best means of slide surface connection and attachment are ones NOT in the slide itself we all know this is not always possible. Once we've decided on a material, we need to find the magic to bring it all together.

At work more often then not we weld all our joints. It's great because it fills gaps, provides a good strong joint and can be ground down and polished smooth within the slide surface.

Industrial adhesive can work in a similar manner on non weldable type materials, this works pretty well if you are just layering it in the slick material and not actually building with it.

Cold connections such as screws or bolts can work well provided you use the right type and don't put them right in the middle of the run. There will be less contact and wear on fasteners located out of the 8 to 12 inch center area.

Step 9: Slide!

Picture of Slide!
So you've thought about all the design points thoroughly, found your materials and fasteners put the whole contraption together and now what?

If your sure its ready, then its time to test that sucker out! 


ScruffyPunkmonkey (author)2017-10-12

LOVE the City Museum! so much fun!

hansomehazel (author)2014-07-30

I and my family were blessed with the most amazing day at the City Museum in Saint Louis. I'm 42 and ran all over that place just like my 5 and 11 year old! Kudos to the late Robert J. Cassilly Jr. for having the imagination, vision, gumption, knowledge and connections to make that wonderment of a playland happen! My wife is tired of me talking about it and my plans of returning. I'm from South Dakota, so that will have to wait a couple years, I guess. Oh, and the mosaic tile work throughout the place is spectacular!

nfarrow (author)2014-02-08
nfarrow (author)2014-02-07

City Museum in Saint Louis, MO is a great place. If you have kids or kid at heart you must go. way better than disneyland.

ariley5 (author)2011-07-19

Whoa! You have to tell me where this slide is and how big is it?! Is it as big as it looks?

incendiac (author)ariley52011-07-20

all of the slides shown are where I work:The City Museum in Saint Louis, MO. yes yes this slide is quite large but by no means the largest!

pgd5000 (author)incendiac2012-02-20

You work at the City Museum? Lucky! I went to Saint Louis a few years back, and I loved that place, it's amazing there. We were there all day and i still didn't get to see all of its nooks and crannies. I remember that my sister and I wanted to go outside, but we couldn't find the exit, so we went up to, I think it was the fourth floor, the gift shop, and asked the man working there. He gave us a riddle that we had to solve to get the floor number of the door to get outside. I loved it there and the whole vacation I was asking to go back to the Museum every day, but we never did.

MistaStokes (author)2012-02-20

I love the city museum! Great fun for all ages! Two questions:
1. How many people actually design this stuff? There are so many different looking things there.
2. How is this stuff safety-rated? Like when you are using "legit" (for lack of a better word) building materials, there are limits on the weight and other building code stuff, but how does the stuff at the city museum get approved (or does it?). There isn't a single structure there I feel is at risk of collapsing, but isn't it a paperwork nightmare to get it inspected?

gtamburello mcclaine (author)2011-12-08

Do you do side jobs? I live in St. Charles County. How feasible would it be to to have you guys come out to build a slide inside a new construction home? We're working on house plans now. Shoot! I might wait to build and save up for something like they have in the City Museum. A slide would uplift people's spirits and make life that much sweeter. I'd sacrifice to make that happen, but I don't have the skills to build it myself. Is there any chance you could take on a side project next year?

mredman (author)2011-03-22

CITY MUSEUM! We love this place! We swung through on a Utah to Tennessee trip and were blown away! Pay for the roof! It's so worth it!

1997589 (author)2011-03-17

i went to that museum in st.louis i had a blast though its been a long time since my last vist

elyador (author)2011-02-12

Awesome slide.

pinky252525 (author)2011-02-08

pretty neat

hamburgler_chomp (author)2011-02-01

you work at the st louis museum?! holy shittake! i love that place! two years ago i went there with my grandparents and it was a blast!please let me follow you in the art of silliness,fun,architecture,and creativity!im just asking if ican follow you on instructables and possibly meet you in person.chow! xD

Pe-ads (author)2011-01-29

Lovin' the chair back one.

Though to anyone making slides out of scales: make sure the scales are the right way round! :D

incendiac (author)Pe-ads2011-01-29

totally... it's hard to tell by that photo, but they are actually going the right way. it's a cool slide actually it's short and steep but it in a climber made from salvaged drift / river wood.

Pe-ads (author)incendiac2011-01-30

Nah, there's a definite slant so it's easy to tell.

Are you doing to do publish some more 'ibles, or do some slideshows of slides you've made? That would be awesome...

MerleCorey (author)2011-01-26

I don't see people here appreciating the amount of work and mastery goes into these projects. You sir are an artist. There should be a documentary film about you. Thank you for posting this i truly enjoyed reading your descriptions, and viewing your work.

incendiac (author)MerleCorey2011-01-29

We are a crew, the main group is about twelve people but we have support from many many others. By in large the projects are led by the Museum's Mastermind Bob Cassilly, all this comes from his brain and we are the tools by which things happen. This job is a dream job for those that dream of creatively building big and hard.

lisalash (author)2011-01-20

We are trying to build a tall slide for a swimming pool could you offer any ideas?

incendiac (author)lisalash2011-01-20

How tall are you talking?

To be honest most of the slides we build are modified embankment type slides, meaning they go from the floor to the floor.

I'd guess that your wanting to build one you climb a ladder to get in... just off the top of my head i'd think a structure of 1" iron pipe and a chute made of 55 gallon drums would work out pretty nice.

lisalash (author)incendiac2011-01-21


incendiac (author)lisalash2011-01-29

If you'd like some help just let me know. I'm always up for that sort of thing.

mooseo (author)2011-01-25

This is a great ible... I thought about building a slide for my kids, but eventually decided to buy one when I realized how much research it would take to figure out things like the correct width for different ages and the right sidewall height. Thanks for laying out the details. If I ever find myself in St. Louis, I know where I'm heading.

munser (author)2011-01-24

The City Museum in St. Louis is the best museum EVER. My kids love to play and climb, I love to see how the creative people who work there have created from junk!

briankangaroo (author)2011-01-21

lightened image....

incendiac (author)briankangaroo2011-01-22

it does show the details better, if you look closely the slides are a sort of paired in a double helix. the far one is the one modified for people. The near ones you can see stair treads have been added and they have become the way up.

briankangaroo (author)2011-01-20

Great shots and ideas! The last photo is almost completely dark on my. I saved it and fixed it to view. Wow. email me if you'd like me to send the corrected image.

incendiac (author)briankangaroo2011-01-20

i'd love to see it, all these are taken and edited using my phone... the natural light in the slide shaft is dim but the view is pretty amazing.

briankangaroo (author)incendiac2011-01-20

Thanks again for the ible. I have hosted a 100' slip and slide for a few years each Summer here in Oregon and would love to create a slide and/or water slide on the property.

RobHopeless (author)2011-01-03

You could have given credit to the City Museum in St. Louis where most of the pictures are from.

incendiac (author)RobHopeless2011-01-20

I would have added information about the museum but was afraid someone would say something about this being an ad. I also initially didn't ask work if it was ok to use the museums name.

I appreciate you looking out for us, but in a sense i was doing then same.

(incidentally i'm fairly certain we know each other... through Arch Reactor and Gateway Burners folk)

HM-Innovations (author)2011-01-08

this is a HOW to make something to win a price kind of contest... not a "Lets go to St. Louis and take pictures of our vacation Contest"

Just an FYI

incendiac (author)HM-Innovations2011-01-20

What is vacation for other people turns out is my 8-5.

quite frankly, had i perfectly documented us building the monster slide it wouldn't have helped much of anyone build a slide.

i could have shown pictures at the scrap yard buying a 35' pipe, showed us moving is with our high-lift bulldozer or one of our fork lifts, or even one of the three cranes we have.

I fully understand this community is to show HOW to build something, at times I feel considerations are more helpful than obscure tools or materials.

please understand that this is my first instructable, I've noted suggestions made by others and am working to restructure this and add a bit more.

chrwei (author)HM-Innovations2011-01-20

While I somewhat agree, i do believe the author does work at the City Museum since the don't let visitors anywhere near active welding.

More construction methods and tips and less "anatomy of a slide" would be nice

D00M99 (author)2011-01-18

Out of curiosity where is the third picture taken?

incendiac (author)D00M992011-01-20

i'm not sure which picture you mean...
the playground slide and the construction slide are the ONLY photos not taken at the City Museum in St Louis.

legomum (author)incendiac2011-01-20

It says it's taken at what was a shoe factory, but has since been converted to a people-slide taking one down into a cave. This is a photo of something as it was in the past, so is not a current part of the museum, right? Or were you taking a photo of a photo at the museum?

I was wondering about this too. Where can we go to slide down 10 storeys into a cave? Really at the St. Louis museum? Must plan a trip!

incendiac (author)legomum2011-01-20

That was a current photo.
The slides were there as the shoe company, (think gravity powered conveyer)
and still are, we put bars over the top to contain the rider and polished and debured the whole thing.

yes, it decends into man-made cave made of blown cement, the large thing at the left bottom is a refurbished church organ which plays into the slide shaft and the caves. I can pretty much assure you, you have never see anything like the museum.

cad97 (author)2011-01-20

Trogdor! :D

theandrewmillett (author)2011-01-20

Yeah, City Museum! I love going there!!

Pull and Twist (author)2011-01-17

The basics of building a slide are there. Would be nice if you could include detailed procedures and pictures of the slides you've built yourself... it would vastly improve the instructable.

incendiac (author)Pull and Twist2011-01-20

Noted. I've got some ideas on restructuring it a bit and i'll include the few photos i have of the process. It is difficult and dangerous at times to take photos but i'm working on trying to document how we do things.

Calorie (author)incendiac2011-01-20

First of all, that's amazing.

It's also neat that the tunnel looks like you are launching towards space in the Battlestar Galactica. Except in Technicolor.

Calorie (author)2011-01-20

First of all, that's amazing.

It's also neat that the tunnel looks like you are launching towards space in the Battlestar Galactica. Except in Technicolor.

St Jimmy (author)2011-01-18

What if it had foam teeth that you had to push through to get down?

Pull and Twist (author)St Jimmy2011-01-18

Well you'd have to figure in that the slide will be used over and over for a lengthy period of time... so foam teeth will probably not survive that kind of torture. Plus... he can't add it to the dragon slide in the pic as the author did not actually create that slide.

You could make the teeth out of foam rubber, it is soft enough for a small child, but it is extremely resistant, and could last for years

10s of thousands of visitors annually mean the materials and construction have to be rather robust, we've tried things in the past but for the most part things not made of metal or wood deteriorate pretty quickly.

The Sensei (author)2011-01-19

I love the St. Louis City Museum, its a perfect kid-at-heart's playground. Good 'ible too, its good to note the different materials and ideas used to make the many slides. =:^b

About This Instructable




Add instructable to: