The Perfect Porch Swing
There is a magical quality to porch swings. In his summertime
classic Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury describes the "ritual of the front-porch
"In the garage they found, dusted, and carried forth
the howdah, as it were, for the quiet summer-night festivals, the swing chair
which Grandpa chained to the porch-ceiling eyelets…they sat, smiling at
each other, nodding, as they swung silently back and forth, back and forth."
Perhaps it is the soothing rhythm or the reassuring creak
of the porch swing that attracts us. Perhaps it is the companionable silence
or quiet conversation. Or maybe swings simply remind us of more genteel times.
Materials and Construction
Although porch swings can be purchased in a wide range
of materials, the most common are wicker and wood. You can also make your own
porch swing from one of the myriad of woodworking patterns available at garden
centers, hardware stores, or on the Internet. You can even improvise with a rope
chair or a wicker chair with the legs cut off and a support base added.
Whether you are buying or making, here are things to look
Seat depths vary from 18 to 36 inches (50-100 cm). There
is no one "correct" depth -- it's a matter of personal comfort.
Chair slats should have some curve or slant to them to
make a more comfortable seat, and there should be enough space between slats
to allow air to circulate.
Swings can hold one to three people depending on the length
of the seat. Of course, the bigger the swing, the heavier the load and the sturdier
the supports need to be.
Swings with additional length-wise supports under the chair
slats will be sturdier and will swing more evenly.
All joints should be bolted or screwed together, not nailed.
Pine, maple or oak swings will not weather as well as cedar
or teak, but can be painted with an exterior paint to extend their life. They
also suit a sheltered porch area.
Wooden bench backs come in a variety of styles. Back slats
can run horizontally, vertically with a topper or even vertically at differing
heights to form a "round" back. Some styles will suit certain homes
better than others.
Seat cushions, covered in durable outdoor fabrics, can
adapt a swing to just about any architectural or decorating style, and also make
the swing more comfortable for whiling away those summer evening.
Allow a 4 foot (1.2 m) arc for the swing to move freely.
Use galvanized or stainless steel chain or marine-grade
braided nylon or polyester rope, and eye-bolts or S-hooks with 4-6 inch (10 cm-15)
shafts. Using S-hooks allows easier removal of the swing for winter storage but
is not as secure as using eye-bolts.
ALWAYS hang the swing from a roof joist, not the roofing
material itself. If the joists on your porch roof are not exposed, cut away a
section of roofing to find them. Otherwise, don't hang the swing from the ceiling
-- use a frame instead.
Drill a pilot hole slightly smaller than the shaft of the
eye-ring or S-ring. This will ensure a snug fit to the shaft of the ring. Tighten
the ring securely, using pliers or a screw-driver for the last turn.
Measure the required chain. As an example, seven foot (2.1
m) chains hung from a beam 8 feet (2.4 m) above the floor will lift a swing about
18 inches (45 cm) off the ground. If you have a measurement, your hardware dealer
can cut the exact length of chain you need and you won't have to cut it with
Use four chains to hang your swing -- two chains from each
hook, one to the front of the swing and one to the back. It's easier to hang
swings with holes in the arms, but swings with chains attached to the seat or
to the bottom supports give a more comfortable ride without as much twisting
and wearing of the chains or the ropes.
Check your swing each spring and replace any rusted chain
or bolts. Also maintain the finish of the wood because weathered wood eventually
will loosen fasteners and produce splinters.
Don't despair if you don't have a covered porch.
Some swings come suspended in their own frames or can be
installed on decks on a wooden A-frame.
Put one in your garden, hanging from an arbor. Train vines
up the sides and soon you'll have a leafy hide-away nook.
Hang a board with rope from a sturdy, level tree branch
If you need something that takes up less space, consider
a glider -- a bench that gently moves forward and back on a mechanized base.
There are even kits available that will turn a wooden garden bench into a glider.
So don't just sit there this summer -- swing away and make
by Debbie Rodgers