If you're like me, you love a good project, especially one that can be done with your kids. I've got a 2 and 4 year old that are always eager to help with a project, though as you can imagine, their capabilities sometimes limit what we can do together.
I wanted to make a giant swing that could have different swings attached that could work well now, but also grow with them to be fun throughout their whole childhood. The key to a good swing is setting the anchor up high in the tree, so let's get started.
Step 1: Get Your Supplies Together
First things first, you'll need some large trees to suspend your cables from. Ideally, you would have a tree with a nice overhanging branch, sufficiently far away from the trunk that you won't be running into the trunk all the time. This wasn't the case for me, I have several very tall trees, but they're all pretty vertical. I decided that I would suspend a cable between two trees, but you'll have to figure out what works best for you.
You'll need a few things for your anchor high up in your favorite tree.
- Braided Steel Cable (ideally vinyl coated) - I used 3/16th cable, with a 1/4" vinyl sheath, about 100 feet all told
- Cable eye clamp sets (to keep your cable from kinking)
- Cable Clamps
- Quick Links
- Spring Links
You'll also need some equipment to get high up in the tree, a bolder person may climb the tree directly, but I love life and don't want to die. So I broke out my rock climbing equipment, but you could also rent a cherry picker. Figure out what works best to safely hang your cables, but if you don't hang them high, it won't be as much fun as the kids get older.
Step 2: Hang the Cables
I'll describe the way to set your anchors if you're cheap (and didn't want to rent a cherry picker) and have a climbing background. Keep in mind, climbing this high can be dangerous, if you don't know what you're doing with climbing equipment and safety critical ropes/harnessing, don't try this.
First you'll need to get a small rope (non load bearing) up in the tree in a secure place. I keep some 3 mm utility cord (paracord works well too) around for just this reason. First tie a rock to the small rope, then tape it up so you don't end up losing the rock and knocking out a window. Then throw it up and over a secure branch, tie your load rated rope to one end and pull it up and over. For no apparent reason my son was wearing his pajamas.
Once you have both ends of your climbing rope on the ground, you can tie into the rope an ascend the rope. I use two Prusik knots, tied into 5 mm load rated rope loop to climb straight up the rope. You can see more info in the pictures as well as here: http://www.animatedknots.com/prusik/. The beauty of the Prusik knot is that it will clamp when a force is applied on the looped end, but will loosen up and slide up the rope when there is no load. Create two loops, one short (that will be attached to your harness) and one longer one that will be your foot loop. You'll also want to attach some utility rope to a bag that has all your cable, clamps, and tools in it. That way when you climb you won't be lifting the bag as you go, you can get to the top of your rope, then pull it up. Measure out all your cable and mark your clamp locations before getting up there. Also, you can put in a eye loop in the center of the cable that will be suspended between trees before you climb.
Prior to climbing the rope, make sure you have a way to get back down (ATC/Figure 8), then carabiner into your Prusik and start climbing. You'll start by standing up on your foot loop, sliding your harness loop up, then sitting back on your harness, and finally sliding your foot loop up. Then repeat, over and over until you reach the the top of your rope. It takes a little while, but since your legs are doing all the lifting you can have the body of an engineer (I've heard of working out before...it's not for me) and still get up the rope. I usually tie off again to the tree with a secondary anchor when I get up there, just for safety.
Now you can attach your cable to the tree, making sure you have a branch that will keep the cable from slipping down the tree. Use at least 3 clamps to make a good connection. Once you're all set on the cable, descend and repeat on the second tree.
Step 3: Make a Tire Swing
This a great part to have some helpers with. Find a tire, in my case I had a low profile one off of a Mazda 3 we no longer owned, so I used that. Ideally you'd want a truck tire or something with some sidewalls, but my truck hasn't worn through it's tires yet... better do some burnouts. In the mean time this will do. You should be able to pick up a used one at a tire shop if you don't have one around.
For this, you'll need:
3 x 1/2 " Eye bolts (long enough to go all the way through your tire)
6 x 1/2" fender washers
6 " 1/2"-13 Nuts
15' - 20' of 1/4" or thicker chain (don't use something wimpy) - You'll need to cut it into 5 to 7 foot lengths, so if you don't have a way to cut it yourself, have them do it at the store.
A little Locktite
3 x 1/4" + quick links
3 x 1/4"+ Spring Link
Now that you have the right stuff, you can get started drilling some holes in your tire. I drilled three holes roughly equally spaced, you could get really accurate, but I just kinda vaguely made sure they were about 120 degrees apart and equal radius. Insert the eye bolts, and mark for your next holes (again, not super critical to have perfect alignment). Flip it over and drill the new holes. Now thread three of the nuts partially down the threaded eye bolt, put a washer on, then insert the eye bolt through the bottom layer. Add a washer and a nut, locktite all around. Tighten the two nuts against each other sandwiching one tire wall in between. This will give a good solid connection to your new anchor.
Now get three equal lengths of chain, anywhere from 5 feet to 7 feet. I bought one length and cut them equal with a bolt cutter, be careful, the links tend to shoot out when they do cut. Connect the chains to the eye bolts with the three quick links, then connect the three chains to your spring link (which will make it easy to take on and off your anchor).
Probably good to have your helpers give it sit test on the ground before it's maiden voyage.
Then hook it up and give it a shot.
Step 4: Add a Sweet Hammock Swing
I've always loved me a good hammock, so I had several around. This particular one was just a simple piece of canvas that I cut to 8' x 3', sewed a loop into both ends, and fed a rope through.
It looks like this setup should have too many degrees of freedom, but it's actually very stable so long as you have a fixed eye in the center of your upper cable.
You'll need a 2" x 4" x 5', a hammock, and some length of rope, webbing, or steel cables.
First, cut your 2"x4" to length, then about 6" in on both sides I drilled a 1" hole about 5/8" from the edge all the way through both ends and top and bottom of the 2x4 (see picture). This gives good support for your cable an ropes to sit without sliding towards the center.
I had a section of steel cable let over from my tree anchor, so I used an 8' section to create the upper support. Secure two loops around your previously drilled holes, and then create an eye loop in the center of it. Then attach your hammock with two loops of rope.
It works great for little kids, cause they can really sit quite securely in the bottom of the hammock without as much risk of falling out as with the tire swing, also it's way more comfortable for adults to sit in with the kids.
Step 5: Add Something New!
Now that you have a great anchor high up in the tree, you can add any type of swing you want! As your kids get older, you'll be able to push them higher without changing the setup.
Add a pully and make a flying squirrel:
This is a completely random video, since I didn't have a good one from the last time I did it.
Add a simple flat seat on a rope, or whatever floats your boat, the sky is the limit.
Hope you enjoyed this instructable!