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How to Build an Outdoor Swing Seat

The popularity of do-it-yourself projects has greatly increased in recent years. The internet provides so much useful information in the shape of how-to guides, video tutorials and advice from experts, that even the most inexperienced of beginners can read up on DIY techniques and gain competency. With the summer months approaching, many of us are looking forward to spending time in the garden, relaxing with friends or playing with children. An outdoor swing seat is the perfect summer addition to any garden. This swing seat is an intermediate DIY project and can be finished in an afternoon, although it’s advised that you allow yourself slightly longer the first time you attempt it. The dimensions shown here are for a seat that will fit three 24 x 24 inch cushions or one cushion that is 24 x 72 inch.

Tools and Materials

You will need:

  • 6 pieces of 1×6 off-the-shelf dimensional lumber at 6 ft long
  • 5 pieces of 2×4 off-the-shelf dimensional lumber at 8 ft long
  • 4 eye bolts with nuts, 3 inches long
  • Chains or rope (recommended four ropes, capacity of 800 lbs)
  • Hardware to attach to tree or porch rafters
  • 2 ½ inch screws
  • 2 inch finish nails
  • 2 ½ inch pocket hole screws
  • Wood glue and filler
  • Primer
  • Sandpaper
  • Measuring tape and square
  • Hammer
  • Mitre saw
  • Electrical drill and countersink drill bit

Cut List

When cutting the wood for this project, make sure you’re using a mitre saw like those available from the Anglia Tool Centre. You should always wear goggles when cutting wood to protect your eyes from dust and splinters.

  • 5 support joists – cut from the 2×4 at 21 inches
  • 2 front/back aprons – cut from the 2×4 at 72 inches
  • 2 arm fronts – cut from the 2×4 at 11 ¼ inches
  • 2 arm rests – cut from 2×4 at 25 ½ inches
  • 5 back supports – cut from the 2×4 at 18 ¼ inches
  • 6 slats – cut from the 1×6 at 72 inches

Step One

Always start with a clean, clutter free surface. Create the frame using the 5 support joists and the 2 front/back aprons. Use pocket holes set for a 1 ½ inch stock and 2 ½ inch screws, predrilled and countersunk.

Step Two

To build the back of the seat frame, attach the back supports using the 2 ½ inch screws and wood glue. Remember that when you’re using finish nails, you should add wood glue for a stronger hold. Don’t forget to wipe off excess wood glue. The back supports should be positioned at the same intervals as the 5 support joists.

Step Three

Attach the arm rest supports on the opposite side of the frame to the back supports, using the 2 ½ inch screws and wood glue. You should be able to see the outline of the swing seat taking shape now.

Step Four

Again, using the 2 ½ inch screws and wood glue, attach the armrests on top of the armrest supports. Use your measuring square to make sure they are positioned correctly. The back supports should rise up higher than the armrests if you’ve measured correctly. Now, nail the seat backs on. Make sure they are flush to the top and flush to the underside of the armrests. Add wood glue for a stronger hold.

Step Five

You’re nearly finished! Nail down the seat slats with 2 inch finish nails and wood glue. You should start at the front and use ½ inch gaps between each slat. Now it’s time to hang the swing seat. You can use a sturdy tree branch, an existing playground swing set, or a porch rafter. It’s a good idea to hang from the side aprons of the seat frame because that’s where the majority of the sitter’s weight will be distributed. You can also hang at a slight angle to increase comfort levels.

Finishing Up

You should patch up any holes with wood filler and let them dry before sanding. Sanding should always be done in the direction of the wood grain and this project requires 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum the seat and your work surfaces to remove all sanding residue and wipe the swing seat clean with a damp cloth. Some people like to use primers or wood conditioners before they start staining or painting their projects, but this is a matter of personal taste. It’s a good idea to apply a test coat of paint or stain on a scrap piece of wood or in a hidden spot on the seat, so you’ll have an idea of the colour before you commit fully. Don’t hesitate to get the kids involved in the final stages of the project, as you can all paint and decorate the swing seat together.

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