Hanging Porch Swing

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HANGING PORCH SWING

As far back as I can remember our parents and grand parents had a porch swing hanging from their front porch or from a heavy timber support  frame in their yard.  I have certainly did my share of swinging back and forth in a porch swing as a youngster and into adulthood as well.  The closest thing to swinging (country style) not the modern day swinger would be a good hardwood rocking chair ergonomically designed to fit your lower posterior and back with a good seat cushion...grin if you must.   I believe former President John F. Kennedy made the Boston Rocker very popular while he was in the oval office.

Our Pop, William Allen Porter (deceased) made hanging porch swings for many decades that were of a simple design and construction with whatever scrap materials he scrounged up, yet they were very comfortable and that is the main element.  Pop later on refined his swing design and purchased treated 5/4 bull nose decking material but did not have a woodworking shop with an abundance of power tools but relied on hand tools.  He did have a powered circular saw and hand drills but that was about the extent of it.  He used an old fashioned drawknife to fabricate the curve in the seat and back frame members and used chisels and block planes at times as well.   He built us our first swing when we lived on White Store Road, now a vacant lot and another one a few years before his passing on August 10, 2007 of which I gave to our oldest daughter.   

Our current swing was custom made by one of my Brother-in-Laws, Haywood Newton of Lilesville, NC and was presented as a house gift when we purchased our home.  The outdoor elements finally took its toll on the swing and for the past two years was getting in very bad shape and a safety hazard.  I added a couple aluminum angle braces for additional support which kept it going but it was time to replace it which brings us now to this short story.  Pix below taken on 06-04-2001, both Mom and Pop (front row)  are deceased and certainly do miss them:

I did some internet research on swing designs and plans and decided on one that Norm Abram of the New Yankee Workshop did a few decades ago, however I could not afford to use the high dollar teak wood that he did or just couldn't rationally justify it......a little frugal I guess .  What impressed me about his design was the joinery was mainly mortise and tenon which is one of the oldest methods to attach things together for strength.  I used the back upper rail support design from another set of plans which had a decorate curve instead of just straight.  I elected to use treated wood and purchased enough 4 x 4 x 8 feet length timbers and 5/4 treated bull nose decking pine to construct the hanging porch swing and stacked the wood in my basement workshop on stickers for more than 6 months to let the excess moisture dry out.  Treated wood from the lumber yards and suppliers are soaking wet since they turn over such a large inventory the wood doesn't have enough time to dry out.  Deck builders will have the treated wood installed before it has a chance to move around much while it is still moisture laden.  Since I planned to ripsaw the 4 x 4s with a band saw, I wanted the timbers to dry out and get all their twisting, cracking, checking, etc. done of which I did loose at least one 4 x 4 x 8 due to such cracking and twisting.

After the wood was properly dried, I band sawed the 4 x 4s at least 2 inches in width to allow for a final surface planed thickness of 1 and 7/8 inches.  A pix of some re-sawing on the band saw sometime in January of 2013.  

  

The timber companies sure do harvest small trees as evidenced by the center growth rings of the above  4 x 4 which is more 3.5 x 3.5 inches.  That tree should have made pulpwood versus a post!

One thing I quickly found out about the New Yankee Workshop "measured drawings", they are that and not true to scale.  You have to get 1 inch grid paper and do all the curve plotting which is a pain and headache.  It would have been much easier to take the measured drawing to a place that has the capability to enlarge the drawings to actual scale instead of plotting the curves on the grid paper.  Click on thumbnail pixs for a larger screen view:

After getting full size paper patterns drawn out and the 4 x 4s cut and surface planed to thickness, it was time to layout the mortises for the swing end frames.  I needed a mortise layout tool which simplifies this job of which I didn't have and did it the hard way.

This swing required a total of 38 mortises to be plowed or excavated into the wood and the video that came with the "measured drawings" showed Norm Abram using a plunge router but I decided to use a dedicated mortise machine made by Shop Fox which worked out pretty well since I used all 1/2 inch width mortises instead of 3/8 inch width mortises that were used on the seat back slats and connecting rails to the end frame pieces per Norm's drawing and DVD.

Picture of the Shop Fox Mortise Machine set up to excavate the mortises into the two back rail members.  This machine is fairly rugged but it still takes some effort to get the end mortises started since the square chisel has to cut the end of the mortise square and that is by "brute force" for sure.  After all the mortises were hollowed out and touched up with a 1/2 inch width chisel, especially on the ends, it was time to start cutting the matching tenons.  I used a Delta Universal-Deluxe Tenoning Jig on the table saw to cut most of them but did use the band saw to cut a couple of the end cheek pieces.

It has been many decades since doing any mortise and tenon joinery and that was in the Industrial Arts Class at the ole Wadesboro High School back around 1962 or 1963 under the tutelage of David Kephart, therefore my learning curve had to get out of its dormancy and certainly did do several trial cuts to get the tenon jig properly set up.  Most of these type of fixtures and jigs have calibrated scales or dials,  whereas some will get you in the ball park but the final tuning is up to the individual user to get it adjusted and dialed in.  After the mortises and tenons were done for the end frames, it was trial fitting time before the curvatures were band sawed to their final shape. 

The armrests were rounded over with a 1/2 inch round over bit that had a pilot bearing on the end.  I failed to get a few pixs for that operation and the trial fitting of the rectangular armrest and support members.......my bad.  

Below is trial fitting the end frame pieces and the back rest mortises and tenons prior to gluing the end frames up.

Each armrest frame's mortises and tenons glued using pressure exerted between Bessey 3/4 inch pipe H style clamps.  You will need about 4 or 5 that are at least five (5) feet long to glue the entire swing frame together once the end pieces are glued, pinned and sanded.

After the Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue dried over night, it was time to drill a couple 3/8 inch diameter holes through each mortise and tenon and insert a 3/8 inch diameter red oak wooden dowel for extra strength even though the Titebond glue is actually stronger than the wood itself. 

NOTE:  The mortise and tenon is one of the oldest forms of joinery and dates back to around 3000 BC to 2000 BC  Stonehenge of which the top lintel stones had mortise and tenon fittings on them.  It is the strongest method to join end grain woods together.  Manufacturers elect to use screws, staples, nails and bolts which is less labor intensive which spells out more profits.

The bow eyes were installed into each front armrest upright support member and the rear back rest rail support and all were countersunk with wooden plugs covering the washer and nut installation.  The bow eyes were 3/8 inch diameter with a one (1) inch eye inside diameter with about three (3) inches of exposed threads and a flat plate/washer.  The screw length had to be shortened by over an inch for the back rail support but were fine for the front upright armrest support members.   The one (1) inch diameter tapered plug was formed with a plug cutter and the plugs were removed from the material by running over the table saw blade instead of trying to pop them out with a screw driver.  Loctite was applied to each nut threads to keep them from ever coming loose since they are hidden from view by the plug.

Once the glue dried from the 1 inch diameter tapered plugs installed that fit the 1 inch diameter countersunk hole, I used an ole Craftsman hand block plane to cut the exposed plug ends flush with the upright armrest post support and the back rail support member.  I could have used my belt sanding station or hand orbital sander but decided to do it with the hand block plane in memory of my Pop.  I sure do miss him but I have many, many wonderful memories locked in the ole brain of the good times we shared.

It is a tragedy that so many young kids today do not have the benefit of two loving parents to nurture and guide them along Life's journey at a time when they need it the most!  Young couples today, do not take the time or energy to make their marriage successful as evidenced by the growing number of divorces which are detrimental to the children along with the morbid and moral decay of same sex marriages and their "partners."  View this page

I changed the design on the back rest slats and used the 5/4 treated bull decking material planed down to 3/4 inch and cut a tenon on each end and a 1/4 inch radius on each side about 1 inch from each end.  The back slats free float in the back rail mortises and only the center back slat is glued in place.  Prior to test fitting the back rest slats, the center seat brace support was test fitted which also had a tenon on each end.  The center seat support has the same curvature as each end piece.  This pix was taken before the end pieces were glued up and the bow eyes installed.

 

With the end pieces and bow eyes installed, the back rails and back slats were fitted which one needs about two extra hands in order to do so.  This is the time for several five (5) feet length pipe clamps to get a good glue up.

Once the glue has dried, holes will be drilled through the back rest rails and red oak wooden dowels will be glued and driven in place, allowed to dry and flush cut off with the surface and sanded the same as with the armrest support frames. 

The next detail was cut the seat slats to width and length, route a 1/4 inch round over on the upper edges of each seat slat, drill a pilot hole and countersink for each screw (# 8 zinc plated 1 1/4 inch length) and install.  I reduced the width of the seat slats in order to better follow the curvature of the seat support frame members which increased the total number of slats from six (6) to eight (8).  I left a 1/4 inch space between each slat to allow rain to freely travel between them since this swing will be in the elements 24/7 unless I decide to place a permanent roof over the swing and steel pipe swing support structure, of which I might do even though the swing will be under the overhang of a large white oak tree. The front seat slat has a 3/8 inch round over routed on its leading edge to keep it from digging into your legs.  I then cut red oak 3/8 inch diameter wooden dowels to length, applied glue and drove them over the countersunk # 8 screws.  You need a right angle drill to sink the screws underneath the armrest or use a short handled screw driver, otherwise you will be driving them in at an angle which is not good and likely to distort the predrilled countersunk hole for the plug covering the countersunk screws and wallow out the screw head before fully seating the seat slat tightly against the end support frame members.

After a final sanding with 100 grit paper; grin, this is no musical instrument requiring a deep mirror finish, I applied a stain manufactured by Cabot; product Australian Timber Oil in a Mahogany Flame color # 3459.  I applied it with a natural China white soft bristle brush but the stuff was a "dawg" to penetrate into the treated wood, especially on the back rest rails and slats.

REMEMBERING POP

Below is a picture of Pop taken in the mid 1960s or maybe a little earlier with my dog Brownie.  I stretched this porch swing project out a couple months once I got the wood dried and the 4 x 4s band sawed to width.   This swing could easily be done in a few days with the majority of down time due to allowing the mortise and tenon joinery to dry.  I believe I was still in the US Navy at the time and took this pix while home on leave......a good guess at the best!  Throughout this porch swing project, I kept Pop on my mind regularly because I know how he loved to make his swings and received so much satisfaction of his finished product.   He gave many to family members and sold quite a few of them over the decades.

My sister Susan Pettigrew of Reidsville, NC took the pix below a few days ago of a swing that Pop made for her in 1988 as a birthday present, whereas this swing appears to be still going strong. Susan aka SusieQ said they treated it every few years with a coat of Cedar stain which helped prolong it's life span.  Pop's swings were very comfortable to sit and swing in and I hope the Norm Abram design will sit and swing that good too. 

Below Pop with one of his swings for sale.

After the porch swing stain dries and the tree arborist cut back the large White Oak tree in our front yard, I will hang the swing and take a picture and post it here.  Don't even think about asking what I would charge to make another swing with the Norm Abram mortise and tenon design.  I probably have over 70 dollars in stainless steel hardware alone; bow eyes, shackles, etc.  and haven't even purchased the heavy duty chain yet. This hanging porch swing was definitely a labor of love!  You can purchase a cheap made but functional hanging porch swing at many places including Wal-Mart and I certainly  would not begin to compete with a 75 or 100 dollar swing or desire to make one.  As I have said and eluded to many times throughout this website, "Most of the time, you get what you pay for." If I do build another hanging porch swing, it will probably be out of 10/4 Honduras Mahogany and finished with a clear oil based protective finish; very, very high dollar indeed!  My next woodworking project will be a pair of Adirondack chairs; hopefully I can locate some good cypress lumber reasonably priced.  On my bucket list is a special inlaid box for my bride.......haven't formulated or committed the design to paper yet but have a few ideas floating around.

Below a couple pixs of the finished swing hanging in the front yard.  My bride and myself have already "field tested" the swing and we are both very well pleased with the way it looks, sits and the most important part swings:

I will have to sit the tripod up and get a pix of us "swinging".....grin if you must!

This short story and swing is dedicated to the memory of my Pop, William Allen Porter, February 6, 1926 - August 10, 2007.

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 02-21-13. 

SWING MAINTENANCE

During the past year and a half, the above hanging porch swing has received a good amount of personal usage by my bride and I.  There is nothing as relaxing as sitting in a good designed swing early in the morning after day break enjoying a good fresh brewed cup of coffee taking in all the sights and sounds that Nature has to offer, especially if you leave far enough from the main roads or live at the end on a dead end street such as we do surrounded by woods.  As with most outdoor wooden things subject to the constantly changing conditions and UV, some type of routine maintenance is required to keep your wooden yard furniture, etc., in top shape.  Even with all the high tech finishing materials that are available, you still have to apply additional protective finish if you want the item to last a life time.  I placed the swing in my basement workshop for about a month to let it acclimate to less humid conditions and allow the wood to get to its normal state before applying a fresh coat of  stain and a couple coats of exterior finish.  Below is pix of the above swing air drying:

  

I placed the swing back into my basement workshop and will let it continue to stabilize/acclimate before placing back outside come spring of the year.  The swing looks brand new again!

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 11-02-14.

Got the swing hanging in the front yard again and my bride and I have enjoyed "Just A Swinging".

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 03-24-15.   

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