Few things beat the relaxation of sitting back in the shade passing a cool spring evening in a porch swing. A swing you’ve made yourself. For those who have some basic power tools and skills to use them, this is a fun project that looks beautiful on nearly any kind of porch. This swing can also be mounted to a free-standing support frame instead a porch if desired.
Measure the space where you want to install your swing.
This area will determine how long your porch swing will be. If the ceiling above your porch has joists, exposed beams, or any other structural elements with cracks running between them, you may want to make the bench a length that will allow you to center the anchors for hanging the swingbetween the cracks.
- Consider how deep the seat and how tall the back will be. Measure the seat and back of a similar chair that you feel comfortable in (e.g. a dining chair). The swing built over the course of these instructions is 20 in. (508 mm) deep in the seat and 18 in. (457 mm) tall in the backrest, which is comfortable for a fairly tall individual but may not be as comfortable for a person with shorter legs.
Choose the materials you will use for building your swing.
This article describes building with treated southern yellow pine, but cedar, fir, cypress, juniper, or even birch will work equally well as long as the components are thick and strong enough to support the weight they will carry.
Gather all the tools, fasteners, and lumber you need for the project.
- Tools: Circular saw, jigsaw, hammer, tape measure, square, and drill with bits
- Fasteners: Wood screws, eye bolts
- Lumber: Fifteen 1×4 in. (25.4×102 mm) boards as long as the width of your swing; one 2×6 in (51×152 mm) board that is 8 feet (2.4 m). (2.44 m) long.
Set a table up to work on.
A pair of metal sawhorses with a sheet of plywood work great as a makeshift table, but any flat surface that provides a workspace at a comfortable working height will do.
Measuring and Cutting
Measure and cut seven 2×4 in. (50×100 mm) boards the length you want the finished swing to be.
The 2×4 used in this article is 5 feet (1.5 m). (152 cm) long. Cut these boards to length, being careful to make all cuts square (90 degrees).
Set blocks on the table to support the boards.
Next, attach a stop for keeping them from sliding while you rip them to width. If you have a table saw, you can use this for ripping the slats instead.
Rip the cut boards into slats for the seat and back.
The seat slats need to be 3/4 in. (19 mm) wide, while the back slats (which support less weight) only need to be 1/2 in. (12.7mm) wide. For a seat 20 inches (508 mm) deep, you will only need about seat 17 slats (to allow for gaps between slats); for a back 18 inches (457mm) tall, you will only need 15 back slats.
- If your seat or back will be a different size than the one in this example and you aren’t sure how many slats you’ll need, make several slats fewer than the total measurement of the space in inches. Aim on the low side for now; you can always rip more later.
Drill through each slat, 1 in. (25.4 mm) from both ends, with a 3/16 in. (4.76 mm) drill bit.
Later, when you attach the slats to the frame with wood screws, these pre-drilled holes will keep the slats from splitting.
- You may also want to drill a hole in the dead center of each slat depending on whether or not you think your bench needs a center support. If you’re making a short bench and/or working with hardwood, a center support may not be necessary. If in doubt, however, include one. The bench in this tutorial has a center support.
Cut either four or six 2×6 in. (51x152mm) back and bottom supports.
If your bench only needs outer supports, cut two back- and two bottom supports; if it also needs a center support, cut three of each. The length of the back pieces should equal the desired height of the bench; the length of the bottom pieces should equal the desired depth of the seat.
Draw and cut curves into the back and bottom supports (optional).
The bench in this example will have gentle curves cut into the bench supports to make the bench more comfortable, not to mention aesthetically pleasing. The amount of curvature depends on your preference, but the seat and back can actually be straight if you prefer.
Choose one back support piece, draw the curve freehand with a pencil, then go over it with a marker. Unless the back and bottom supports will be the same length, you will need to do this again with a bottom support piece.
Cut the marked back support piece with a jigsaw. Leave the narrow end a bit long for trimming to fit the joints together. Next, either trace it onto the other back supports or use it as a jig. Repeat with the bottom support pieces.
Cut a miter at the ends of the back and the seat board.
- The two angles in all likelihood won’t be the same, but it shouldn’t matter since they are on the bottom rear of the swing, out of sight.
Bringing the Swing Together
Attach the back supports to the bottom supports.
Drill pilot holes for the screws that will join each pair of supports together, then fasten them with 31/2 in. (89 mm), #12 gold-plated wood screws. This is a critical connection: since the screws are the only support for this joint, they will have a good bit of pressure in them.
- Depending on the length of the joint, you might want to insert the two screws at opposing angles.
Set the completed support-piece pairs on your table and lay the innermost slat of wood you ripped earlier across them.
Make sure you’ve spaced the supports evenly and oriented all the back supports in the same direction, then screw the central slat into place.
- Unless you don’t mind cutting into the overhang to accommodate the armrests, don’t situate your slates so that they overhang both side supports. The armrests will later attach to the side supports, meaning the overhang will just get in the way.
Attach the other slats.
First, use a framing square to make sure the support pieces are square with the preliminary slat, then screw on the other slats.
- Place the square along both the preliminary slat and one of the support pieces and measure whether or not they are square. Repeat with the other support pieces as necessary. If necessary, rack the supports (by shifting them sideways) to make a more perfect 90 degree angle.
- Space additional slats across the seat, leaving a 1/4 to 3/8 in (6.35 – 9.5mm) space between them. (If necessary, rip more slats to get the spacing the way you like it.) You can tack these temporarily or go ahead and fasten them securely, but you may find it necessary to adjust them to get your spacing to work out uniformly. Attaching the top-most back slat and front-most seat slat first before filling in the others might make it easier to keep your frame square. Take care to use the thicker (3/4 in.) strips for the seat, and the 1/2 in. (13 mm) strips for the back.
Make two armrest supports and armrests.
Generally, the armrest should be about 8in (20cm) high and 18-20in (~.5 m) long.
- Make the armrest supports. Cut two wedge-shaped 2×4 in. (50×100 mm) boards about 13 inches (33 cm) long, tapered from 2 3/4 inches (7mm) on one end to 3/4 inch (19mm) on the other.
- Make the actual armrests. Cut two more boards 22in (56cm) long, tapered on one end from 1 1/2 inches (3.8cm) to full width in 10 inches (25.4cm) for each armrest itself.
- Attach the armrests. Locate the height you want the armrest on the back frame, then locate the position you want the support on the seat portion of the frame. Attach these with 3 in. (7.5 cm) #12 wood screws. Fasten through the top of the armrest down into the support board with two more wood screws.
Drill a hole through the armrest support and the seat frame for the eyebolt.
The eyebolt will attach your swing chain to the swing. Then, drill through the back frame for another eyebolt for the back chain. Screw in the eyebolts, place washers over the backs (to keep the nuts from drawing into the wood frame), and tighten the nuts over the ends with a wrench.
Locate the position and height of your swing.
Install eyebolts or eye-screws for the overhead connection, and measure the length you will need your chains to hang your swing. You may find you need to adjust the chains to get the swing tilted back the proper amount to be comfortable for you.