How can I make this swing go straight?
August 5, 2018 5:14 PM   Subscribe

We have a swing hanging from an uneven branch in our backyard. It swings crooked and I'd like to straighten it out, but before I get up on a ladder again I'd like to know what I should be doing.

Friends of ours made and hung this swing for my son for his birthday. He adores it, but it doesn't swing very straight. I've tried messing around with a few things but at this point I'm just guessing so I thought I'd ask here and see if I can come up with a concrete plan to make it go right.

The wooden bar that's near the branch was I think intended to act like a spreader but I don't think there's actually any tension on it. It's held in place by a couple of U-Bolts.

(Any tips on making the seat stay parallel to the ground would be appreciated, as well. The rope loops through two holes on each end of the swing.)
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this? It's about a twisting swing, but contains other tips that you might find useful.
posted by she's not there at 5:31 PM on August 5, 2018

You need to somehow even out the lengths of the ropes on either side. Think of a swing as two pendulums, joined together at their bottoms. The rate of oscillation of a pendulum is determined by its length, and your pendulums are different lengths so naturally they'll try to swing at different rates, which makes your swing go all crooked. You need to figure out a way to make them the same.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:50 PM on August 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

The only way to fix this would be to get the fulcrum of both ropes be at the same level. You could do this by nailing a couple of 2x4s where the left-hand rope is, coming to a point level with the right hand rope, with a hook or eyebolt at the bottom from which the left side rope is suspended. BUT, very important, that left-side rope should still be tied around the branch as it is now — don't depend on the 2x4s to hold it up. The downside of this strategy is that you're nailing into a nice tree, which ideally you would avoid. So the alternative is to invest in a standard swing set made of pressure-treated lumber.
posted by beagle at 6:02 PM on August 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

In line with beagle's advice, someone used pvc pipe to even things out.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:23 PM on August 5, 2018

If you’re good with lashing, you can follow beagle’s suggestion without nailing into the tree. But that should be re-done every 3-5 years to avoid minor girdling of the branch.

Nails don’t hurt trees much at all though - the main reason to avoid nailing is it creates a hazard for felling trees. Aluminum nails are safer.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:40 PM on August 5, 2018

I read the PVC pipe solution (and beagle's), but I am having trouble imagining what it looks like. Is there an illustration or anything to help me picture it?
posted by synecdoche at 6:46 PM on August 5, 2018

I read the PVC pipe solution and I interpret it something like this: (Apologies for the terrible scale and perspective!) beagle's plan would be similar, I think, just nailing 2x4s to the tree to create a rigid bar down from the higher end of the branch such that the hook or loop that the rope goes through is at the same height as the rope tied on the lower end of the branch.

(edited to make the link clickable)
posted by sigmagalator at 8:03 PM on August 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

swing.jpg - Google Drive

make sure to have 3 or 5 wraps on the top rope to keep it from twisting around the tree. Ubold the 2x4s to a middle wrap rope so that end can't move. Bolt the 2x4s together at the point. This will make a triangle that can't move forward/backward easily.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:12 PM on August 5, 2018

Go to one anchor, a burly lag or better yet a through eyebolt, then a screw lock link with your rope tied to that. Ropes around branches are bad anyway because they will girdle the limbs over time. You can go from the link to a span. It still is able to pivot but in general they'll swing perpendicular to the eye off the link. But it's safer to get an arborist to put it in for you than work off a ladder. You should probably have an arborist take a look at the tree anyway, if you haven't; the limb is very large in relation to the trunk and is more prone to failure because of that. Is that a honeylocust?
posted by Red Loop at 2:54 AM on August 6, 2018

The "PVC pipe solution" requires you to drill a hole through the whole tree limb large enough to accommodate the pipe. That seems somewhat, let's say, aggressive, and if i was going that far I'd use cast iron pipe because the PVC is just going to bend.

zengargoyle's drawing seems like a realistic solution; just remember if you're arcing very far there are going to be some pretty big stresses on the tree attach points on the 2x4s so anchor them accordingly.

And making the seat stay parallel to the ground, are you sure that's what you want? Regular swings don't work that way, and I bet it would be more uncomfortable than what you have now. I'd think you would feel like you're slipping at at the apexes. For a swing attached to a member (limb) that is horizontal to the ground it would take four ropes instead of two.
posted by achrise at 8:01 AM on August 6, 2018

the best swing of my childhood was a single rope with a 'bosun chair' at the end. It was attached to a sloping branch next tot he trunk, just like your picture tho higher up.
The action was like a 'human tether ball', where you would stand against the trunk, push off, and do a large looping arc around the trunk, landing on your feet to 'walk' around the trunk.
had to have some skill & timing or one could slam into it backwards, but oh so fun!
posted by TDIpod at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

If I were going to do this I'd do this, like the 2x4 solution but using rope inside rigid piping. Somewhat more tree-friendly (except for the girdling issue). I'd use cast-iron plumbing pipe, or you could maybe use electrical conduit. 3/4 PVC might be strong enough; if you go that route I'd use the gray stuff meant for electric. Make sure the edges of the pipe are smooth or they may eventually cut the rope.
posted by achrise at 8:19 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Before you try anything more complicated, first try getting rid of the spreader board and instead spreading the attachment points to the tree limb as far apart as possible. Even another foot apart should help. You don't want the two attachment ropes parallel and vertical because as others have pointed out, you have two vertical pendulums of different length.
posted by JackFlash at 12:22 PM on August 6, 2018

One other option is to keep the spreader bar, but connect the ropes above that so the whole thing hangs from a single fulcrum point. This will permit swinging in a straight arc, but won't prevent twisting. In this setup, most twisting can be avoided with some limiting lines (slightly slack) tied to the outside end of the spreader bar and up to the branch.

By the way the internet sells some good looking straps and hardware for hanging swings, which looks safer than the age-old method of just tying the rope around the branch.
posted by beagle at 7:48 AM on August 7, 2018

« Older How should I back up my data   |   How to be taken seriously as a professional while... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.