Rope Swing With Monkey's Fist

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About: I love writing, leather working, cooking, and playing board games. My short stories have been appeared in Spark, Abyss and Apex, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Stupefying Stories, Punchnel's, Kids 'Magination, a...

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

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    38 Discussions

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    Neva73850884

    4 months ago

    Oh
    we have some discussion here. Well, I'm fascinated with swings too. And this http://treeswingstore.com is using swing
    hanging strap to protect the tree from damage. Is that a better option? Coz I'm
    still skeptical on what kind to use on my swing. I want it to be the best tree
    swing ever for my kids and protect the tree at the same time.

    1 reply
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    soloboNeva73850884

    Reply 4 months ago

    I really do think a bolt will be the safest for the tree in the end - I had the rope tied over the branch (similar to that strap) and it took less than a year to rub almost all the way through the tree bark.

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    Di Immortales

    2 years ago

    *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

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    your_dragon113Di Immortales

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    Vannionyour_dragon113

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    your_dragon113Vannion

    Reply 2 years ago

    .....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.

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    NZarcherDi Immortales

    Reply 2 years ago

    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

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    Vannion

    2 years ago

    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.

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    JeanYves2

    2 years ago

    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 !

    1 reply
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    VannionJeanYves2

    Reply 2 years ago

    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.

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    justdavid

    2 years ago

    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!

    1 reply
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    Drtim1

    2 years ago

    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

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    rybitski

    2 years ago

    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
    1 reply
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    soloborybitski

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    your_dragon113

    2 years ago

    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.

    1 reply
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    soloboyour_dragon113

    Reply 2 years ago

    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 :)

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    naviathan

    2 years ago

    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.

    1 reply
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    solobonaviathan

    Reply 2 years ago

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

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    Mindmapper1

    5 years ago on Introduction

    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.