This project was commissioned by my neighbor for their anniversary. It started with her asking if I could build a porch swing because her husband really wanted one and it would be a nice surprise for him. Of course the fact that I never built one before didn’t stop me from saying yes, I can build a porch swing.
First I did some research and looked at pictures of what different porch swings look like. It amazed me to see the variety of sizes and designs out there. I settled on a rather ordinary design that could be made in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable amount of money, but still looked nice and is comfortable to sit in. It began with me making paper patterns for the seat and back supports. They are contoured so a body fits into the swing when finished.
The patterns are transferred onto the wood to be cut out on the band saw. People use all sorts of wood to make a porch swing, but because the neighbor’s porch is out of the weather, I could just use some Southern Yellow Pine. Easy to work with and not too expensive. All the pieces could be made from standard 2 x 8 SYP available almost anywhere. You could probably buy a few more 2 x6’s rather than 2 x 8’s, but I find the wider boards are a bit better quality, fewer knots to work around. I did run the boards through the planer to get a good finish on the boards and to assure the size of all the parts were consistent for the major components.
After cutting the supports out on the band saw, the belt sander smooths all the edges. By clamping the three back and seat supports together while sanding they all end up having the same contour and the slats fit perfectly.
The armrests are made the same way, clamping them together when sanding so they are the exact same shape when done.
All the slats are 1-1/2″ wide, which means they can just be ripped off the 2 x 8’s by setting up the table saw to rip one inch pieces. I rough sized the length of the boards to 5’1″ so they can end up being 5′ long when finished. The slats are run through the planer on the flat sides to put a nice finish on them and make sure they are all the same thickness.
The final touch on all the pieces is to run them on the router table with a round over bit so as to soften all the square edges. It just makes all the edges “people friendly” and ready to finish.
Now we finally get to put some of the pieces together, beginning by matching up three sets of seat and back components. Drilled on the drill press so they line up just right and then assembled with carriage bolts, washers, and lock nuts.
The slats now have to be made exactly the same length, all of them! I set up the miter saw on the stand and set the one end so it cuts about 1/4″ off the first end to assure that end is square and finished, then the other end to cut the slats to the 5′ length they have to be for the swing.
Installing the slats is rather tedious. Starting with the front of the swing, at the bottom, each hole is drilled with the right size drill bit with a counter sink at the same time. Drilling first assures the wood doesn’t split when you run the screw through the slat. The slats are not all that thick and I used #8 deck screws to attach them. The finish on the deck screws assures they won’t rust out over time.
I used pieces of 1/4″ luan plywood for spacers between the slats. Three of them, one at each support to be sure the space between each slat is the same. By the way, the supports are spaced about an inch in from the sides and then to the center for the mid support. Whatever size you make the swing determines the measurement.
When you get most of the way to the back of the seat you start the slats for the back at the top and work your way down toward the seat. Why?? Because like everything else in this world, things aren’t always perfect. The last slat has to be sized to the opening between the seat and the back.
Attaching the last slat requires a bit of finesse. Being careful to drill very accurately and then run the screws in just right so the thin slat doesn’t split.
Note that even the smallest slat has been run on the router table to round over the sharp edges. When finished, you really don’t notice this smaller slat.
The arm rests and their supports are drilled and assembled before attaching any of the parts to the swing. Then you take apart some of the slats so you can fit the arm rests just right. It’s a shame to have to take the slats off at this point, but it’s the only way to make sure the arm rests fit just right.
The arm rest assemblies are bolted in place with carriage bolts, washers, and lock nuts just like the seat and back supports. A screw attaches the arm rest to the back support instead of a bolt.
Now you measure twice and cut once on each of the slats you removed to fit them around the arm rests. Some just need to be cut to length, some have to be notched to fit. Take your time or you have to make new slats. I had just enough slats at this point so I was VERY careful.
The color of the finish was chosen by our neighbor and I think she chose well. It is a beautiful color for such a project. I used an exterior water base stain, two coats, and then put two coats of spar urethane over that to get a nice, deep, gloss finish.
Ready to hang the swing, but that will be another post.