Introduction: Portable Swing Set

About: Hey there! Ive got a BFA in designed objects from SAIC, i've worked in the high end fabrication shops, as an industrial designer, a shop manager, an assembler of hundreds of digital cameras, a cnc machinist, a…

The other day I was walking around, and was hit with a bolt of inspiration, what is something that everyone needs in their life, but nobody is thinking about?

Its obvious isnt it?

A portable swing set!

Ready to have your life changed?

Ok, so here's what you'll need!

8x 1inx3ft black pipe

8x 1inch couplers (i'd pick up one more just in case)

1x 1inx3ft angle iron (i'd also pick up a little more, because its ever so handy!)

4x 1in black pipe caps

1x 2inx7ft black pipe

Enough 1/8-1/4in plate to make two 4inch squares

7-9oz leather sheet

7/16in grade 8 bolts

7/16n nut (you could go grade 8 here if you want, but its not mandatory)

1/2in grommets

1/2in rope

Canvas tarp

1 1/2in black nylon strap (20feet? i'd also shoot for extra if possible)

Leather dye

Saddle Soap

Tan Kote

1in masking tape


4ft long zipper

Gum Tragonath

Scrap 2x4 and other wood

Wood screws


Drill press with step drill

Angle grinder with cutoff wheel





Center punch

Combo square

Metal ruler

Chop saw

Power drill

Sewing machine

Xacto knife


Sewing needles


Grommet setter



That should do it!

Step 1: Marking the Length of Your 2in Pipe

Find the halfway point for your 2in pipe and add a little mark.

In order to get a line that runs true around the circumference of your pipe, you can use a piece of paper to wrap around the pipe. Once the edges of the paper line up, mark along the edge of the paper, this will give a very accurate mark!

Step 2: Prep for Cutting

Alright, we are about to make some cuts with an angle grinder, and after working in a few metal shops, and having friends who have experienced some unfortunate things. Wear some safety gear!


This was something I took lightly, and now, after having done a lot of metal work in my day, my lungs are extra sensitive to particulates in the air, i'm pretty sure I have little tiny flecks of steel in my lungs, pretty sure I have scarring there too.

As for eye protection, at a minimum wear goggles, I personally wear glasses and find it a lot easier to see out of a full face shield, and I would argue its a touch safer to use.

Pop some ear plugs in too, or headphones, or ear muffs, this is loud.

Angle grinder holding position! Grab from under the angle grinder rather than over. Logic being, if you are cutting downward, and the rotation of the wheel is pulling the grinder down as well, if/when the angle grinder kicks, which it often will, this position will allow you to "catch" the grinder, rather than have it pop out of your hand and potentially into your leg/foot.


Step 3: Taking the Cut

Mount your pip ito a vice and take a cut along the line you marked.

PRO TIP: Leave a little tab (dont fully complete the cut) and twist the pipe off. This way you wont be surprised by a large pipe falling on the ground, and instead you can gracefully set it aside!

PRO TIP 2: Make sure to support the ends of your material as you cut! As you cut, the area that you are cutting will inevitably become weaker, and with the weight of the overhanging material pulling down your cutting tool may begin to bind towards the bottom of the cut. This is especially bad when using a disk that is spinning very fast and is also very fragile. Disk explosions can happen and they can leave you very badly injured, so just keep that in mind!

Step 4: Cutting Angle Iron

Alright folks one of my favorite tools of all time.

Bow to its glory!
Why you ask?

Lets say you want to make 30 pieces all the same length... but how?

Simply slide the ruler to the length you want, tighten it down, make a mark, cut at the mark, place the square at the end of your now slightly shorter stock, mark again, cut, and repeat. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!


Mount your angle iron like a mountain, cut from the peak downward, and bask in the glory that is wonderfully square cuts made with an angle grinder!

Step 5: Clean Up and Chamfer

Clean up those rough sharp edges so they are easier to touch without making the red water emerge from your hands.

Also, add a bit of a chamfer to the interior walls that were just cut, it'll help with welds!

Step 6: Making Some Squares

Alright, did you guys know they make "quick grip c clamps"? They are great! Go get a set!

Remember how i said the combo square is awesome? You can also use it here! Set your depth (4inch for this project) place the tip of the sharpie at the edge of the ruler, and slide both of them in unison down the plate. Ta Da! You now have have a line that is parallell to the edge, and 4 inches away.

Now that you have those lovely lines layed out, clamp the plate down, and score a line with your angle grinder, it will be a little easier to see. Take your time with these cuts, its better to take multiple light, controlled passes than to rush forward and make some giant gouges in your plate.

Step 7: Bonus Tip That I Didnt Know Where to Put In.

If you do metal work, get this stuff, or gojo, really anything with pumice in it. Good gravy it works wonders at making you not look like you walked out of an explosion.

Step 8: Finding Center of Your Squares!

Ok, I rushed, I wasn't thinking clearly, I rounded the edges because I didn't want to get cut up, not thinking that I needed to find center later. So I made educated guesses as to where the corners would be, and I got two straight lines that converge at the center, Good enough for me!

Take a center punch and make an indent at the center of the X

Step 9: Makeshift Compass

Well, my compass got angry with me, my roommate, and everyone else who tried to "fix it" It's a nonconformist compass, who is on its own journey through life trying to find who it really is. Gotta respect that.

I still need to make an accurate circle though, so I drilled a hole in a piece of wood at a small drill diameter ( doesn't really matter what size) as our center point and we will use the drill bit itself to fit in that hole, Then measured the radius of the outer diameter (OD) of our 2in pipe and added a little extra.

I marked out that distance, and drilled a 1/2in hole which oddly enough fits a sharpie really well, you may need to open the hole up a little bit to get it to fit even nicer tho.

Step 10: Using Our Compass

After marking where the OD of our pipe should approximately be, mark another hole 1/2in on the edge of the wood side of the drill bit (away from the sharpie) We will use this second circle to place bolt hole locations on the x we drew.

Step 11: Step Drills

Good gravy have you guys played with these? Easily one of the best drill bits you can have for metalworking, you can pop big holes with next to no fuss. Each of the 4 holes took exactly 28 seconds with minimal "OH GOD WHAT ARE THESE SCARY NOISES AND WHY IS EVERYTHING SHAKING"

Step 12: Transferring Holes

With the 4 holes drilled, pick a face you want as your top, make a dash there, and add a similar mark on the other square. Now taking a 1/2in transfer punch, or drill bit if you are a barbarian, use the pre drilled holes as guides to transfer the centers of each of those holes, this way, regardless of how precise we cut those squares, the holes will line up with no fuss.

Throw some bolts though after drilling the next set of holes to make sure everything looks skookum.

Step 13: Chamfers!

We are professionals here, chamfer your holes! They make things look nicer, they fit together easier, all around pretty great!

Step 14: Take Note of What Side Is the Welding Side

Remember how we transferred those holes, and how this is not high precision machining? Well, if you are like me, there may just be one orientation in which all those holes line up, so mark it! Mark where the weld is supposed to go and/or where it should not, just so long as you can glance at it and say "that's not right".

It would be a real bummer if you did all this work and had to cut off some pipe to reweld a new plate!


Ok I popped open my favorite 3d modeling program at the time* and made this triangle, using two lines at 6ft, (I know its in inches there, but the math is pretty much the same) and knew that i wanted the legs to be at a 36 degree angle because that sounded like a nice angle, and it would allow for a good sized footprint. Then I added a circle with the centerpoint at the apex of the triangle, and also the center of our large pipe. Then I added two lines tangent to the circle, and perpendicular to the 6in/ft lines, these lines will represent the angle iron we are using to mount the legs to the large pipe. Then I got the angle that those two lines make in relation to each other, and with that we now know we need a jig with a 36 degree angle!

*It was Solidworks, but i've recently discovered how crazy awesome Fusion is and have switched over *woo Autodesk ;D *

Step 16: Chop Saw!

36 degrees, 36 degrees, 36 degrees, remember its 36 degrees, lets just turn our chopsaw to the 36 mark!


Glad I caught you! The number on the chopsaw is in relation to 90 degrees! That means if we want a 36 degree angle, we subtract that from 90, getting us 54 degrees, lock it in, and make some cuts!

Step 17: You May Think Im Joking

Take another piece of wood, lay it on top of the cut wood pieces we just made being sure to not interfere with the angle.

Now take a hammer, and hammer in some screws, just once, medium tap, that will set the screws with pretty low effort, so you don't need to hold them as you use your power drill to finish them off.

Step 18: Beautiful!

Majestic, breath taking, spectacular, a gift to humanity!

All words which do not describe this mish mash of wood, but hey it should work!

(Added a little thin piece of wood to the top of one of the two pieces running perpendicular, for reasons that will be explained soon)

Step 19: Setting Up Our Weld!

Lay down your 2in pipe and one of the angle iron pieces that we had previously cut onto the jig like so, making sure that the pipe is level to ensure proper seating of the angle iron.

Step 20: Welding

Throw a ground clamp on your pipe, and add two tacks.

Then realize that there is an abundance of paint on your pipe, scrub it off and add more weld.

After adding a bunch of weld to the pipe, realize that heat travels, and you should have scrubbed down the whole end of the pipe so the paint wouldn't smoke and burn.

Realize that you may have lost some brain cells and move on with your life.

Step 21: Skooch

I wanted the two angle iron pieces to meet in the middle, but math, among other things can sometimes elude me. To avoid any unnecessary calculations, and grinding and more material purchases, we are going to just skooch the pipe forward a tad, while keeping the flat surface of the freshly welded angle iron touching the jig thus keeping our angle.

Slide the other piece of angle iron in place as we had before, clean as much of the paint off as possible, tack, and weld!

Step 22: Little Bit of Logic

Ok this is weird to explain, but if on the first 2in pipe part we welded a piece of angle iron, skooched forward and welded the 2nd angle iron piece to the left, then we should do the opposite on the next half. Weld first angle, skooch, weld second angle to the right.

It may not make sense right now, or maybe it won't ever make sense, but trust me it will be more betterer.

Step 23: Clean the Paint

Fortunately the brain cells I did burn through were not the ones that remembered that paint burns when you try to weld to it. With this in mind let's take care to clean the pipe like no tomorrow so we see bare shiny naked steel.

Step 24: Weld and Scrub

Get your angle situated on the end of the pipe, add some tacks in the corners to make sure that it stays in place, and that you are happy with its position. Clean off the area that you are going to be welding, then lay a bead of weld down!

Step 25: Moving Forward (literally)

Move the pipe up as before but as we discussed before weld the next piece of angle iron to the opposite side that it was welded on the first pipe!

Step 26: Prepping 1in Pipe Adapters

Goto your belt sander and grind any goobers off the face of each of the 4 adapters, also add a chamfer!

Step 27: Tack, Assess, Tack, Assess, Weld

For these, add a tack to one corner, and watch to make sure noting lifts or raises, if it does, either cut the weld with an angle grinder, or smack it with a hammer until it behaves. Add another tack on an opposite side and repeat. Get at least 4 tacks set up, and weld a bead from tack to tack.

NOTE: After completing the swing set it was a little tricky to get the threads started on some of these. My roomie and I had an idea to test out the next time we try something like this. Weld each fitting while something is threaded into them, as the piece fluctuates due to temperature changes, the threaded pipe should keep the fitting working well!

Step 28: Prepping for More Welding

Surprisingly here we are again, back over at the belt sander, adding a chamfer. Why do we do this? It allows for the weld to go deeper into the cross section of the metal, giving a stronger connection between parts. Why do we clean off the end of the pipe? Well I have a distaste for paint fumes as well as the fact that it will remove more contaminates from your welding area. Think about it this way, if you have a post it note (piece of paper with adhesive backing) and put it on a dog with a lot of fur, it wont stick very well, and will likely fall off since there is a lot of fur (contaminates) that are getting in the way of the thing you are adhering to (piece of metal)

Hairless dogs are better vehicles for post-its

Step 29: Marking "up"

This was just helpful for me to do so at a glance I knew if things were positioned correctly or not. I layed out both pipes on the ground, making sure that they were both equally level, and co-linear, then I made a line on the top of both of them which, when laying the components together for the final weld, would help in checking that everything was as true as possible.

Step 30: Magenets

Have you heard of these things called magnets? They are great, use a bunch and get the steel centered as much as you can on the circle we drew way way way back earlier in the tutorial. Add some tacks and make sure everything is lined up as best as you can. Also let the welds cool before taking off the magnets, its possible for things to shift as the metal cools, so holding the parts as it cools will help keep everything where you want it.

Step 31: The Mating Weld

This is the big one, probably the most tricky part of the whole tutorial, there's no going back (without a lot of work) take your time, breathe, stare at this and make sure everything lines up as nice as possible, make sure everything is level, bolt the plates together to be sure that you have no issues at all with alignment. Then look outside, up at the stars, make sure that the cosmos are one with you, and you are one with it. Then... add your tacks, clean them, weld a bead, wipe the sweat off your brow and the tear from your eye, the hardest part is over, the rest is easy.

Step 32: Not Mandatory, But Mandatory

Screw everything together! If you have a hammock, the swing set doubles as an a-frame! I was able to have two people sit on the hammock together and it seemed surprisingly sturdy, but it could use a modification for the feet so they don't ever lift off on you!

Step 33: Get Some 1in Pipe Caps and Prep Them for Welds

Oh, you thought we were done with the belt sander? Psh, no way, I love that thing!

Step 34: Angle Iron Layout!

take some angle iron, cut to 1ft lengths
Mark a line halfway down (6inch)

Step 35: Makin Spikes!

Mark a 40 degree line off the center point so as to leave you with a big ole spike.
Cut out your spikes, go to the belt sander and soften the edges so as not to cut yourself, maybe add a chamfer so it sticks into the ground better, up to you!

Step 36: Last Bit of Welding for This Tutorial!

Plop the cap on your table, and rest your spike on top, this doesn't need to be super accurate of a weld, but more centered is more better. Add some tacks, add a bead, that spike should be pretty beefy after all is done and said!

Step 37: Cake Break! (Plus Planning)

Have some cake, you've been working hard, you've earned it! Oh its not a cheat day? We'll still please have some! I don't want to be the only one eating dino and unicorn covered glitter cake over here!

It's good right?

Awesome now that we have cake in our bellies its safe to disclose that this is my first real in depth sewing project I get the concept of sewing, so we will be learning together and modeling this swing case off the pencil case pictured here!

Step 38: Cutting the Main Body of Our Bag

Get some canvas throw it on the ground, using a straight edge mark off a rectangle about 52 inches long by 30 inches and use that bowl that I found laying around as a template, mark off a circle with circumference of about 34 inch.

Step 39: Ironing!

Take an iron and flatten out your canvas, giving this old piece of fabric a fresh and lively new look! Fold over the longer edge and iron it, then fold it over again, and iron again. This will make the edge a lot more durable, and it will look much nicer!

Step 40: Adding a Zipper

Take out the length of zipper you had laying around since the beginning of this novel, and on one of the longer sides of the canvas sheet, grab some pins, proceed to gracefully stab them through the canvas and zipper.

Nip the ends of the zipper off as well!

Step 41: More Pins!

Line the other half of the canvas up with the side that was just sewn, add some pins, and do the unthinkable, unzip the Tube that you have just formed! Having never worked with sewing a zipper before this was completely nerve wracking for me!

Sew the freshly pinned zipper!

Step 42: Fumbling With Your Fingers and Hoping You Can Get a Zipper to Work

As the title of this step states, its time for fumble town! Try your best to shimmy the zipper onto its track, and don't worry if the end lines up perfectly, thats why we added a little extra zipper at the ends!

Step 43: Marking With Masking Tape!

Lets start laying out where the handles are going! Find the center of the bag, and lay down a piece of 1in wide masking tape from zipper to zipper.

Lay a 2x4 down along the edge of the centered tape and add another piece of tape along the side of it.

Find the center of the tape, mark it, add one mark 1/2in above and below the line.

Lay down one more piece of tape across all three of the previously laid down pieces of tape.

Step 44: Rough Sizing Test

Lay out a piece of 1in nylon webbing material along the blue lines you taped down with skill and precision to see what looks right in terms of handle length. For me 48in was about the right amount.

Cut to length, and burn the edges, not only because its fun to play with fire, but also to avoid the ends from fraying over time.

Step 45: Pin and Stitch!

While pinning the webbing in place be sure to leave a pin about an inch away from the zipper edge to act as a sewing stop.

Step 46: Reference Line for Second Half of Handle

After stitching the first half of the handle, run the edge of a piece of tape across the uppermost stitched part of the handle, then tear off the tape from the nylon to be stitched to avoid some really annoying cleanup afterwords. Use the line the tape makes as a general reference for where to end your stitch.

Step 47: Repeat on the Opposite Side!

Now on the opposite side repeat what you just did, just make sure to have the nylon overlap a little bit at the centermost portion of the bag.

Step 48: Making Sling Loops!

Again, cut about 49in of webbing, this will give you enough material to make two loops at the ends of the bag (4 total) which we will use to add a sling! Using masking tape along the edges of the canvas pin down your nylon, then rev your sewing machine, and make some lines!

Step 49: Finishing Off Your Zipper

To avoid your zipper from coming undone we are going to stitch it shut by hand. Double up a piece of thread, and run that through a needle, making sure to have a good bit extra (you can always remove material, its a lot harder to add)

Make a couple loops through the end of the zipper, and tie a square knot at the end.

Step 50: The Good Ole, Inside Out Trick

Zip up your tube of a bag now, and flip it inside out!

Step 51: Closing Off the Ends!

Take the disk of canvas you cut before and start stitching them to the ends. This part is kind of weird and annoying to get right, but you should have plenty of room for error, so just go slow and steady, and play around!

Step 52: Flipparoo Part Two

After the ends have been sewn on, flip your bag inside out!

Personally I used some extra nylon webbing I had laying around to make the sling. Fish some cordage through the tabs at the end, and tie a knot, adjust the length to you liking! I found its best to aim for having the bag rest just above your hips, like an inch or so above, but experiment around with this!

NOTE:I should say that I have yet to add a cushioned component to the sling, but it is very very needed. I am currently using a piece of cardboard wrapped around and taped, for my needs it works great, and I may do something a little nicer in the future.

Step 53: Making Seats

Using a straight edge cut a rectangle of leather measuring about 24x8in

Step 54: Setting Up Some Tapered Ends

Since I don't really like the look of an entirely rectangular seat lets taper the ends.

To do this, make a mark the center of both 8in sides and mark 1in to both sides of the center mark

Next mark 4in in from the 24in sides.

Now just connect the dots, and using a straight edge cut a line from mark to mark, giving you some super sweet looking angles!

Step 55: Fillets for Days!

I'm also not such a big fan of hard angles, so lets filet them!
Simply trace and cut around a suitably sized arc/circle (mine was the edge of my combo square)

Still looks a little choppy, but a lot better, and with some of the finishing stuff coming up, it won't be very noticeable.

That handmade look is pretty trendy right now though isn't it?

Step 56: Time for Grommets

Using that center mark on what was the 8in side, place a mark on inch inward from the edge.

Take a half inch grommet punch and center it on the mark, and punch a hole in the leather.

PRO TIP: While using a hole punch make sure you use a piece of scrap wood as a backing, this will prevent you from making a lovely circular gash in the table you are working on, unless of course you like that look!

Step 57: Chamfer Tool

Oh lord do I love the chamfer tool! It will break your edges making them less prone to fatigue over time, it will allow them to be more durable, and much comfier depending on what you are making!

Step 58: DYE!

We start with a simple application of an alcohol based leather dye in the color of brandy, applied uniformly which results in an even pattern across the whole seat. Even if its not a perfectly even application, having a uniform direction to your strokes prevents the seat from looking messy.


Step 59: Tan Kote

Apply a coat of Tan Kote, buff it with a clean rag, and slick it with a slicker! Make sure you slick the edges too!

Step 60: Gum Tragacanto

Using a paint brush add some gum tragacanto to the edges, and slick some more!

Step 61: Saddle Soap

Finally add some Saddle Soap and buff like no tommorow!

All this should result in a resilient and luscious looking seat that will hold up well against the elements!

Step 62: Setting Grommets!

Take your anvil and place the lower half of the grommet on top of it.
Place that setup under the seat (furry side down) you should see the shaft of the grommet poking through the leather.

Place the upper half on top, and the striking post on top of the entire assembly.

Now pick up your hammer, focus your chi, look at the top of the striking post, mumble some words under your breath, and smack the post forcefully, but not too hard, and not too lite. Just enough to make everything set and not spin, but not to hard as to leave a mark.

Step 63: Making Straps!

So this is almost identical to the swing seat, just itty bitty.

Cut two rectangles at 9in x 1.5in

Create a mark for punching grommet holes at 1 inch in on the 9in side, and .75in on the 1.5in side

Pop a 1/2in hole just as we had done before.

Trim the corners at a similar angle, chamfer the edges, dye, tan kote, gum, saddle soap

Step 64: Add Some Grommets!

Not pictured but add some grommets!

Step 65: Get Yourself Some Rope

Get some of this rope, its nice looking, great for all weather, and super strong!

Take out your axe and cut off two lengths at about 7ft each.

Burn the ends because to prevent fraying.

Step 66: Carabener Knot

Tie double half hitch around a carabiner rated for climbing.

This style of knot will tighten around the carabiner as weight is put on the seat making it a fairly secure knot to use.

Step 67: A Simple Overhand Knot

Underneath the seat tie an overhand knot to act as a stop for the seat!

Step 68: Final Setup

It takes just a few minutes to setup, unfortunately the ground was incredibly hard so I was unable to use the spikes that we made, that said they are more on the optional side of things!

Step 69: Enjoy!

This was easily one of my more favorite projects I've worked on in a while and even though this is a huge instructable, it's a fairly easy project to complete and I really recommend giving it a shot!

Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments!

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