Introduction: All-Ages Backyard Play Structure
It is really hard to get children to play outside these days. With all these fancy electronic gadgets youngsters hardly spend any time under the sun. I decided to fix that and build my children a playground that they would really enjoy.
My playground consists of three parts : village swing, a four person carousel and a jousting platform. The aim was to create something hat would appeal to both old and young. I think I managed that – my sons can make massive jumps to the pond while my daughter can hang out on the smaller swings with her friends.
My older son started actively posting on instructables a few months ago and he is totally obsessed with it. As you can see he even managed to motivate me to try it out. So with no further ado here it is. I hope you enjoy it!
Interested in building the Village swing? I have added fotos and Sketchup files in the end of this instructable!
Step 1: Külakiik - Village Swing
Bit of background on this
The word “Külakiik” translates from Estonian to English as “Village Swing”, and means exactly that. It is a large, wooden, multi-person swing – fitting anywhere from two to eight (and often more) people at a time. This type of swing is a traditional Estonian structure and well-known pastime that harkens back to Estonian’s pagan roots and appreciation of communal outdoor activities. Due to the country’s far north location, the winters are cold and dark. This harsh environment has led Estonian’s to have a deep gratitude for summer, and the brief period of white nights it brings. The swing offers a platform for interaction as well as an opportunity to be outside together. While travelling through the Estonian countryside, it is not uncommon to regularly come across a Külakiik… and then stop to enjoy it. (source)
My idea always was to have this swing right by small lake so that after a sauna we could swing a little and make 10-15 meter jumps to refreshing water. Of course this meant that I had to alter the design a bit so that the swing would still be stable enough. Especially in harsh Estonian winters where ice on the pond would put a lot of pressure on the structure.
To begin with I had a big hole dug. Our neighbours who had the equipment gave us a hand. Next up we built the concrete base. Of course we needed a lot of concrete for that but we also added lots of stones which brought down the cost a fair bit. As you can see I also added a few I-beams to which I would later attach the wooden beams.
Rest was just woodworking. First we did two main beams followed by two side beams on both sides. Notice how the wooden parts are not touching the ground. Instead they are attached to the metal that was inserted to the base. This will insure that there is minimal chance of the wood rotting and thus increasing the lifetime of the swing.
I had the middle post where the swing attaches turned to a perfect cylinder and the metal used for attaching it welded. The rest I built all by myself (with little help from friends) and I also welded the rest of the metal parts myself. The timber that I used was leftover from the sauna house build. You can see the house in the background. So no need to mention that the build was cheap.
Unfortunately I do not have any photos from the swing platform build but I hope you understand how the structure works. It basically just a few boards connected to the middle post with bolts.
Later on I also added one beam to the side where the spider web and a normal swing would attach. To haul the logs high up I used the winch of our truck. This worked well!
When the main structure was ready I just added the smaller swings and the spiderweb. This consisted of a single rope and a bunch of metal rings. It took me quite some time to calculate the layout because the posts were not parallel in any direction. No need to mention that after heavy physical activity one needs to also lay down a bit. There is a comfortable hammock for that.
Step 2: The Carousel
This is a pretty simple structure. It consists of a concrete base, a log and the top cross where the ropes attach. We started again with digging a big hole for the base (this time with shovels). Then we found a straight long enough log. For the spinning top part we had two metal beams welded to a car´s bearing assembly.
Setting it all up was fun but really intense. Once again we set up our truck to haul the log to vertical position. Two guys tried to keep it balanced while I was guiding the log. It took us only two tries to get it up. Before the concrete dried I also added a few metal beams on the side which gave the structure more stability. The log actually sits inside the concrete which means that it will eventually rot. Before the carousel becomes unfit for use I will remove the ropes and fix the cross so that storks could build their nest up there.
Step 3: The Jousting Platform
I drew a little plan for the jousting platform. This project is probably the easiest one from three of them.
I built this so that people could challenge each other to a fun, no-harm fight. The structure itself is super simple. Just two legs and one thick horizontal log. Once again it started with a big hole with a concrete base. This could also be done without the concrete but it did not want to risk with the chance of getting wobble in the vertical posts. I carved a small recess in the main log and connected it to the legs with some bolts. Up to this day it has held up perfectly. The platform being near the pond makes it even more fun because quite a few guys have actually fallen in the water.
Little tip: staple thick tar paper on the parts that will be buried in concrete. This will decrease rotting. Also cover the logs with wood preserving chemicals and later paint it to desired colour with water-resistand paint!
Last week we managed to break one joust pole in half. I am going to build a new one from scratch and I plan on sharing my design here on Instructables.
Step 4: The End
I hope I have given you some inspiration. If you ever plan to build a village swing or something similar remember that these things are actually dangerous and should be handled with caution.
On some pictures you can see something that resembles wind generator on the left top side of the swing. This version is just decorative one but we plan on building a real functioning wind generator and attach a few lamps on the swingset.
Step 5: Photos and Plans for the Village Swing
So someone asked me in the comments if I could draw a little sketch with measurements of the "Külakiik"
I gave this task to my son who knows how to use Sketchup. He drew me three different designs.
First one is our Village swing with spider web add-on. You can see the main measurements in the pictures. I also added the Sketchup files so you could see the design closer. All the support posts are at 30 degree angle.
Second one is the one that you would most commonly see in Estonia.
Third one is an intresting one that I saw a few weeks ago. It is pretty much the same as the second one, but does not require the side posts to be buried in the ground. Instead the whole structure stands on two bottom posts. This also means that it could technically be moved - just with really heavy machinery.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find any other plans for this swing on the internet, but if you consider building one I suggest you also google it or see a few videos on YouTube.
Here are some examples:
- Google search
- Timelaps of building a village swing
- Good old Estonian Külakiik Note that this one also has two support posts on the sides. This gives more stability.
- You can even make a full circle with it!
- Nine full circles!
There is one swing also in the USA. Check out this Kickstarter campaing