Introduction: 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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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! 

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