Living out where the pavement ends offers the simple pleasures of country life. Unadulterated stargazing, the sound of a rooster’s crow each morning, and weathered farm structures are just a few to mention. Rural folks use the front porch as a place to gather the family and take in their surroundings, and nothing encourages a relaxing get-together more than a classic porch swing.
Most porches have sturdy beams and rafters from which to hang a swing. For those looking to forgo the expense of purchasing a brand-new wooden swing and hiring someone to hang it, there are several economical options that will yield the same laid-back results. Using recycled pallets and my simple porch swing plans is one way to make your front-porch-swingin’ dreams a reality.
Porch swing plans
Living on an “off-grid” ranch, we save just about everything, so I built our swing for zero dollars. But even if a person can find a pallet, the cost of the hardware needed would be minimal. The size we built (4 feet long) required only one large pallet, and because of the ranch setting, we occasionally place orders that require a pallet for delivery, which we save. I picked one out that was in decent shape and dismantled it.
Sometimes pulling nails can be tough, so to make it easier, soak the pallet with a hose or work on it a couple days after a rainstorm. You just need to separate the 2-by-4s from the 1-inch-by-6-inch slats to make the simple swing shown in the Image Gallery. One large pallet was all the wood I needed to build ours. Basic tools required to construct the swing include a hammer and nail bar to dismantle the pallet. If the slat ends are split or the nails are just too hard to pull, use a saw to cut 1 1/2 inches off each end and shorten the swing’s width accordingly. On ours I was able to keep the full 4-foot width of the pallet.
After the pieces are cut to size (see Image Gallery), it’s time to drill the holes. Start with the 2-by-4 pieces. I used 5/16-inch all-thread that I found in my scrap pile to fasten the support pieces together. If you use bolts, choose carriage bolts the lengths shown in the Image Gallery. The hardware listed is just what I used and will hold the weight of two average-sized adults. Use your best judgment, but do not use smaller diameter hardware than that listed. Attach the shorter 2-by-4s to the larger ones as shown to create the supports. “Snug up” the nuts, but not too tight. Now it’s time to smooth up the1-inch-by-6-inch slats with a plane or sandpaper.
Arrange the outer 2-by-4 supports upright on a smooth, flat surface and cross-tape to make sure they are square. Attach the seat’s front slat flush with the edges and overhanging one inch past the ends of the 2-by-4s using 1 1/4-inch screws (predrill and countersink the holes to avoid splitting) and a generous bead of construction adhesive. Find the center point in the slat and position the center seat support beneath it, square it to the end supports, and screw and glue the slat to it. Make sure the whole project remains square as you glue and screw additional slats to the seat and back supports.
Note that the back slats will overlap their support ends by about 1 1/2 inches. I created a space between each slat with a nail. When you get close to the bolted joint, lift the back up to the approximate finished angle and snug up the bolts to hold them in place.
If needed, rip the last two slats to the proper width and install them. Now cap the end of the seat and the top of the seat back with the two remaining slats. I took a jigsaw and made ours curvy to class it up a little, but it’s not necessary.
Next install the arm rests. Remove two 3 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch pieces from the ends of one back slat at a height that makes sense for the 2-by-4 armrests. Install the armrests using bolts. Now it is ready to be painted. Being built from a pallet, it obviously has some rough areas. Two good, thick coats of paint covered a lot of the rough stuff. Remember, this is an old-fashioned swing here, not a piano!
I used 3/16-inch galvanized chain for hanging. I had only a limited amount of chain leftover from another project, so I used 5-foot-long pieces of pipe from my scrap pile on the sides, but it can all be done with chain. The length of the longer main chains will be determined by the height of your hanging point, but the short chains that attach from the main chain to the swing’s back should be 30 inches long, and I attached these chains to the main chain with a 5/16-inch bolt 48 inches up from the top of the seat. As you can see by this design, the back-to-seat angle can be adjusted. To attach the main chain to the seat bottom, first fashion a set of brackets using heavy-gauge flashing. Cut a strip of flashing, hammer it around the 2-by-4 so it will cradle the weight, drill a hole for attaching the chain, and repeat for the other side.
Now the swing needs to be hung at the desired height, keeping in mind the height of the cushion. With the swing hanging, push the back out to take the slack out of the smaller top chain and tighten the three bolts connecting the back to the seat. Make sure the arm rests are parallel with the seat, line up the chain, and drill a hole through a link and the arm rest; bolt those. Choose a sturdy beam or rafter to hang your swing. We circled pieces of chain around our beam. I would use parachute clips instead of s-hooks to secure the chain as they are safer. Just make sure you have a good solid mount so you can swing away your troubles like our grandparents used to do!
Read more: Step-by-step guide for making a chick brooder out of pallet wood: Baby Chick Pallet Pen
HM Ranch sells a DVD titled “Hoards Hillbilly Heaven,” a tour of HM Ranch. It is a poor man’s guide to low-cost, comfortable, off-grid living, featuring an educational workshop on using the scrap pile to build inexpensive utility-generating devices. For more information, visit HM Ranch.