Build a Porch Swing
Relax in style with a classic bench swing.
By Monte Burch
Porches have become increasingly popular, and an old-fashioned porch swing is reminiscent of the romance of yesteryear. You can build your own “classic” porch swing and match it to your décor. Porch swings are often exposed to some weather and they must be sturdy. The swing shown was constructed of red oak, cut and dried from the author’s farm. Sikkens Cetol SRD in Cedar Tone was used to provide weather protection and also added a “golden glow” to the swing. Although the swing shown looks fairly easy, it requires some special tools and skill to build. The swing support pieces are all cut from 3/4-inch solid red oak, while the back slats and seat slats are of 1/2-inch red oak. You can purchase wood in these thicknesses or if you have a planer, you can plane materials down to the correct thicknesses. The swing is constructed in four steps: the seat assembly, the back assembly, the arms assemblies and then installing the support chains.
First step is to enlarge the squared drawings found throughout this article for the seat supports, back slats, top back support, arm supports and arms. Create patterns of cardboard from the enlarged drawings. Incidentally, you may get requests to make additional swings, so it’s a good idea to keep patterns of the various pieces. One-half inch wood or 1/4-inch hardboard can be used to create the patterns for future use.
Rip the pieces to the correct widths, plane both edges, then cut to shape using a bandsaw. Sand all rounded edges using a spindle sander, drum sander or the rounded edge of a combination belt and disc sander. Rip the rear and front seat support boards. Note the front seat support board has an angled edge. Rip this on a table saw to create the proper angle. Rip the 1/2-inch seat slats to correct width and then run their edges over a router table and round-over bit to lightly round the sharp edges.
Lay the seat supports on a smooth, flat surface in their correct locations. The entire assembly is fastened together with Kreg Stainless Steel Maxi Loc coarse washer-head, self-tapping screws in counterbored holes. Determine the location of the holes in the ends of the front and rear seat support boards. Counterbore the holes using a portable electric drill and counterbore bit, or a drill press and a 3/8-inch forstner bit, to create the hole for the screw head. Finish by boring through the boards and slightly into the seat supports with a 1/8-inch drill bit. All joints must be predrilled to prevent the oak from splitting.
Fasten the front and rear seat boards to the end and center seat supports through the pre-drilled and counterbored holes. Make sure the assembly is square. Counterbore and pre-drill the holes in the top of the slats and down into the seat boards. Anchor the slats in place with the screws, setting them slightly below the wood surface. When all slats are installed, lightly sand to remove any wood chips or roughness on the slats and the ends. At this point you may wish to finish the seat portion by applying the Sikkens with a soft-bristle brush, making sure to wipe away any runs.
While the seat assembly finish is drying, assemble the back. Cut the back slats from 1/2-inch oak and, using a bandsaw, cut their profiles. Sand the profiles using a belt sander, sanding drum or spindle sander.
The ends of the slats have tenons cut in them. This can be done using a table saw with a tenon cutter or dado head. You can also cut these quite simply with a radial arm saw and dado head, such as the Freud model. Simply position a 1/2-inch stop block to hold the slats against. Anchor the stop-block to the radial arm saw table with a clamp. Hold the slat in place and run the dado across each face on each end. Lightly sand the cut ends to remove any splinters. With 15 slats needed, it’s not a bad idea to do each step on each slat, and then move to the next step.