Introduction: Rope Swing With Monkey's Fist

So you're not satisfied with a skinny rope, a granny-knot, and a branch that wouldn't hold a squirrel? Learn to do it the right way.

An eye bolt will keep your rope from rubbing the bark off of the tree and/or wearing through. It'll also make the swing much smoother.

A monkey's fist will give you a place to sit (or stand) while your swing. And, let's face it, it will look awesome.

Step 1: Step 1: Get Your Hardware

For about $15 at Home Depot or Lowes, you can get:
  • 1x clevis shackle (a nice big one; mine was rated for something like 2000 lb)
  • 1x eye bolt (long enough to go through the branch you've chosen)
  • 1x regular nut
  • 1x lock nut
  • 2x washers
If you don't already have a rope, get one while you're at the hardware store.
  • My rope is nylon, about 30 feet long and about 1.5 inches thick. It cost me somewhere around $20. 
  • You need 10-15 feet of rope for the monkey's fist knot
  • Thicker is better: no one wants to cut their hands on a thin rope, even if it's strong enough.

Step 2: Tie the Monkey's Fist

Do this first.

You can't judge exactly how long the rope will be once this knot is tied. If the rope is already hung, you'll probably end up with a knot that is too high or dragging the ground.

The concept is pretty simple.  This link shows all you really need to know. 

The execution is more difficult, especially with a big rope. The images above show my method.

Step 3: Get Ready to Attach to the Tree

Assemble your hardware:
  • washers and nuts on the eye bolt threads
  • clevis shackle on the eye of the eye bolt
  • rope looped through clevis shackle and tied in a knot (an overhand loop is easy and strong)
If you're working alone (like me), put tools in a bag that you can hoist up into the tree.

Step 4: Attach the Rope

  1. Climb the tree (or use a ladder, if you have one)
  2. Drill a hole in the branch (yes, this is better for the tree than having a rope wear away it's bark)
  3. Put your eye bolt through and tighten the regular nut over the washers
  4. REALLY tighten the lock nut against the regular nut

Step 5: Enjoy

You now have a safe swing that should last you about a bazillion years (if not more).

Step 6: A Note on Tree Health

I'm not an expert on trees, but I've done some research on the best way to hang a rope swing without damaging the tree, and this is what I've concluded:
  • Protecting the tree's bark is important.  If a tree or branch is girdled, any tissue above the damaged bark will die.
  • Looping a rope over a tree branch is likely to damage the bark. This is mentioned in many of the articles I found, and I witnessed it happen in my first attempt at a rope swing (see photo above).
  • Carpet or a garden hose can be used to reduce the friction of a rope loop, but it can be tricky to absolutely eliminate the friction and avoid damaging the bark as the tree grows.
  • A better solution is to use an eye bolt. This is the technique used by arborists to support branches, the technique used by this famous tree-swing hanger, and the technique recommended by almost every result of a google search for "rope swing and tree health".  A small, clean hole is unlikely to damage the tree, and according to several sources the tree will tend to grow over the bolt completely after a few years.
I'll include several links below that helped my understanding of the topic. 

Landscape Contractor Recommendation: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/asktoh/question/0,,1212571,00.html
Swing Company Hanging Instructions: http://www.breezyswings.com/hanging-instructions
Another Swing Company's Hanging Instructions: http://www.vintageswings.com/hang.html
Discussion on an Arborist forum: http://www.arboristsite.com/homeowner-helper-forum/81910.htm
Chapter from "Backyard Recreation" book: http://goo.gl/yI1kNY

Comments

author
Di Immortales (author)2016-03-16

*sigh*. Guys, its just a tree! Also, it doesnt damage the tree. If you had just tied it the tree would have grown around the rope. Trees don't have a nervous system or a brain. So they cant feel pain

author

There is no excuse to show such disrespect for a living thing, even if "it's just a tree."

....and even less excuse to disrespect something that help make the very thing that you need to live.

As I said, a good Instructable on how to make a thing...not so good as to how to put it to use, there are better ways.

author
Vannion (author)your_dragon1132016-07-09

Again someone who knows more than professional arborist. You going to troll the brain surgeon they're wrong too?

author
your_dragon113 (author)Vannion2016-07-09

.....and they use to try curing a migraine by drilling a hole through your skull. Hmmm, last I saw they had found much less aggressive ways to deal with the problem.

As I had stated; A good instructable on how to make a thing...not so good as to how to put it to use.

.....there is always a better way. Just ask your brain surgeon.

author
NZarcher (author)Di Immortales2016-03-16

Stop trying to justify a dumb approach You can attach to the tree with an expandable system which makes little if any imposition on the tree. You stuff up own up and fix up

author
Vannion (author)2016-07-09

For anyone who is not an arborisrt that says it's horrible to drill into a tree, stop eating anything with maple syrup..... Also do not use anything made out of wood hypocritical uneducated murders. For example there is tree at my office that has three bolts through it to fix splitting, they are almost grown over. But something causing repative friction will damage the tree each time.

author
JeanYves2 (author)2016-04-11

How can you drill a hole in a living tree? There are so many ways to do otherwise without damaging the tree! Unconscious and ridiculous !

author
Vannion (author)JeanYves22016-07-09

Wow, You know better than the arborist? Did you read nothing? The long term affects of something hanging on a branch are far worse than a bolt in the tree. And as he pointed out it will grow over the bolt, where as the friction will prevent it from growing.

author
justdavid (author)2016-04-08

A double figure 8 knot would be even more secure, easier on the rope and even easier to take apart should the need arise. Either way, it's awesome!

author
solobo (author)justdavid2016-04-08

thanks!

author
Drtim1 (author)2016-04-02

This tree in style with many of the tree huggers that have tatoos of piercings. Maybe this fellow in in tune with what his tree requested, get off the anthropomorphic idiocy and enjoy. How many trees and other plants had to die for each of you to have lived this long

author
rybitski (author)2016-03-23

Great job selecting a forged eye bolt instead of a bent one! One thing to consider is the addition of what we refer to in the theatrical industry as "mousing". Essentially running a zip tie or bailing wire through the shackle pin to prevent it from loosening over time.

Don't worry about all the complaints about the tree. You did nothing to harm it.

moused.png
author
solobo (author)rybitski2016-03-23

Thanks (and good suggestion on the "mousing")!

author
your_dragon113 (author)2016-03-15

Nice instructble on how to make a knot and an even one on how to damage a tree. If you think this doesn't damage the tree limb then spend the rest of your life with a thick steel rod sticking out either side of your leg.

author
solobo (author)your_dragon1132016-03-16

I think it would damage me to spend the rest of my life half buried in the ground, too. Fortunately, I'm not a tree :)

author
naviathan (author)2016-03-15

Galvanized metals are dangerous for plants. If you're going to do this, spend the money on stainless steel so you don't inadvertantly kill your tree or make it very sick.

author
solobo (author)naviathan2016-03-15

3 years later: so far so good. The tree and branch are both super healthy.

author
Mindmapper1 (author)2013-08-08

How dare you damage a tree in this way, that is really really unnecessary. I am, it would appear others are too, shocked by this vandalism.

author
2419 (author)Mindmapper12016-03-15

Ah'm shocked and I insist the EPA be brought into this...how dare a pvt citizen drill a hole through his own tree w/o gummint permit ?! Seriously, a good job and post.

author
solobo (author)24192016-03-15

Thanks!

author
zawy (author)Mindmapper12013-08-11

Bravo for scathing this unworthy scalawag. It's going to confuse all the poor squirrels too.

author
Mindmapper1 (author)zawy2013-08-12

Yes they will get confused about the nuts!

author
chr0001 (author)2016-03-15

geesh..... bravo to all who came to the rescue of Solobo.

I know it's 3 years old, but : Nice instructable! The monkey fist is a beautiful knot, the swing is awesome and well executed!

Anyone prone to a coronary about drilling a hole in a live tree should take a moment to just swing on your creation and lower their blood pressure. I 'fixed' a young Japanese Maple similarly after an overzealous 8 year old vigorously climbed it and split the narrow crotch almost 2 feet down to the root ball. I drilled the trunk, screwed it together with-3- 3 inch brass screws and never thought of it again. To this day the tree is healed, healthy, much larger, beautiful, and there is no sign of the repair visible. And oh.... almost forgot - the overzealous 8 year old is now working on his Master's degree.

author
solobo (author)chr00012016-03-15

Thanks!

author
YaënD (author)2016-03-15

hello,

heartbroken to see a such good idea hurting the tree. :(

author
antioch (author)2013-10-15

There are only a few cases where a tree is damaged to repair it. Drilling cables through a split branch to repair it is mostly used for aesthetic reasons and when you're on a tight budget. In a few exceptions it can help keep the branch alive for a little longer. Drilling through a branch is a serious injury and will weaken it.
The 'swallowing' or growing around a farmers fence is an entirely different thing. At least to the tree. Like growing skin over a wound, it takes ages. That's the speed of trees from ahuman perspective.

Old bike tires help prevent ropes wearing into a branch. You can either pull the rope through the tube or you can unfold the tire mantle and wrap it around the branch where you want to strap the rope over it.

author
partypanda2345 (author)2013-09-09

No matter how hard I try I can't do it right

author
Markdaman9 (author)2013-08-30

That was an amazingly written article! I am extremely excited to make this myself.
Thank you!
:D

author
fran=1 (author)2013-08-11

you did a good job the eye bolt is a excellent idea,that's the way the tree people cable branches that are weak till the tree grows more.it doesn't hurt the branch much less damage the tree.the one thing I would do is put a tie wire through the hole in the clevis pin to the u part they have a way of coming lose

author
solobo (author)fran=12013-08-12

good idea

author
Kdemon (author)2013-08-11

Well done sir, how did you get up into the tree... Climb or Ladder?

author
solobo (author)Kdemon2013-08-12

I climbed, just because I didn't have a ladder.

author
marhar (author)2013-08-11

I don't have a convenient tree, but was able to put the monkey knot to good use on a light fixture string. Thanks!!

author
perryb (author)2013-08-11

A tree will "skin" over a wound almost immediately. This bold will have no effect on it's health. Anyone who has seen an old farmer fence with a tree grown right over it knows this.

author
wabi_sabi (author)2013-08-07

I used to work for a tree company and the way they would reinforce two branches from splitting apart is by drilling through the branches and attaching cables to pull it together. Very similar to how it's done here. He would also cut the bark away under the washer so it would be directly on wood.. Anyways my point is they were certified arborists.

author
Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-08-07

I just love swings! You did an awesome job with yours! I love that you also did so much research before even attaching it to the tree. Nicely done :)

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