How to Build a Rope Tree Swing – Part 2

How to Build a Rope Tree Swing – attach the seat and tie the specialized knots for the seat and steel quick links. This project is continued from Part 1.


Stopper Knots for the Rope Swing Seat

Measure a 10 feet length of rope and push each end through the top holes in the seat end. Tie an Ashley’s Stopper Knot in each end of the rope as shown here:

Ashley's Stopper Knots for the Rope Tree Swing Seat (Bottom View)

Ashley’s Stopper Knots for the Rope Tree Swing Seat (Bottom View)

With another 10 foot length of rope, do the same for the opposite end of the seat. Take care to adjust the position of the 2nd stopper knot to ensure the seat is level. Leave a short pigtail in the knots as shown for extra security.

Rope Tree Swing Final Assembly

Install a 5/16in stainless steel quick link (also known as a “chain link”) on each of the seat rope loops. This product has a working load of 1760 lbs – more than strong enough for this project. Do not use aluminum or cheap look alikes as commonly seen on school backpacks – those will break and get you hurt.

Stainless Steel Quick Link (Chain Link)

Stainless Steel Quick Link (Chain Link)

The red arrows point to the quick links:

Rope Tree Swing Chain Links

Hanging the Rope Tree Swing Seat

Adjust the slack so the swing seat is about 24 inches above the ground, and tie the rope hanging from the tree limb to the stainless steel quick link with a Buntline Hitch. Here’s a closeup of the steel quick link and knot:

Rope Tree Swing Buntline Hitch Knot

Before tying off the Buntlineknot at the opposite end, place the carpenter’s level on the swing seat and adjust the final knot position so both ends of the seat are even.

The steel quick link will bite into the hollow core braided rope (red arrow) as shown in the next photo making a flat spot in the rope. This is essential for stability such that the seat doesn’t spill over. Tipping has never had a problem on my swing.

If seat tipping becomes a problem, try looping the rope once around the steel quick link to increase friction.

Rope Swing: Chain Link and Braided Rope

Rope Swing: Chain Link and Braided Rope

Rope Tree Swing Construction Tips

  • Melt the synthetic rope ends with a butane lighter to seal the braids so it doesn’t unravel.
  • Check the tree limb every season to see that’s it’s healthy, strong and the rope is in good shape.

Update

These next photos were taken 3 years later to clarify how the swing is setup in response to several reader questions. The ropes are looped over an uneven branch, the two points maybe 14 or 18 inches difference in height. The ropes are very long about 15 feet from the swing seat to the branch. The swing moves straight because the difference between the two attachment points to the tree branch is small relative to the total length of the ropes.

Rope Tree Swing and High Branch

Rope Tree Swing and High Branch

Close up view from above:

Rope Tree Swing

What If You Don’t Have a Tree?

A reader asked me:

Hello Bob, I have wanted a tree swing in my back yard for EVER. Problem is, I don’t have a big tree. Darn it. I thought a great tree replacement would be a light pole that are used for traffic lights. I have tried to get information about the light poles and have found dead ends everywhere. I live in Minnesota. I think the light poles are aluminum? I think they could be very strong if they were secured to the ground with footings and decorative pillar looking bases. What do you think? am I nuttier than normal? Could you help me accomplish a dream so I don’t have to wait to grow a tree?

Thanks much,
Julie Schnell

Rope Swing Support Frame Design

I doubt the arm of a lamp post would be strong and durable enough to support a rope swing, but Julie’s thinking is in the right direction. If you don’t have a suitable tree to hang the swing from a branch, the following scale diagram for a rope swing supported by wood posts will work:

Rope Swing Support Frame Diagram

The key elements are:

  • 6in by 6in by 12 feet pressure treated wood posts. 6×6 posts are very strong.
    – Round off the corners of the posts to remove sharp edges that could cause injury.
  • A heavy galvanized Schedule 80 (.276″ thick) steel pipe set in the center of the posts to support the swing. The scale drawing shows 7’10” long, but you leave it at 8′ in length for simplicity.
    – The pipe wall thickness is extremely important for strength!
  • The galvanized support pipe is fixed in place by two 3/8″ diameter bolts (retaining pins) in each end.
  • Build the swing seat and tie the knots in the normal way as shown in this project.

The swing support frame can be built for about $250 in materials:

  • ~$66.00 for two 6x6x12 pressure treated #2 Southern Yellow Pine posts @ $33 each.
  • ~$125.00 estimate for an 8 foot long by 2.5″ diameter Schedule 80 (~1/4″ thick pipe wall) galvanized pipe.
  • ~50.00 for ten 50lb bags of Quikrete® Fast Setting Concrete Mix at $5/bag each.
  • Couple of dollars for 3.5″ x 3/8 dia. bolts, lock washers and nuts.

Rope Tree Swing Improvements

Steve Maier improved built the rope tree with several great improvements:

  • Steel seat washers for the Ashley’s Stopper Knot.
  • Quick release S hooks to remove the seat and attach a disc seat, tire or rope foot loop.
  • A knot or two above the steel quick links for handholds when using the foot loop.

See Steve’s comments below dated May 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm for a complete description. Steve was kind enough to send photos of his swing – very nice job! I like the stained wood seat.

Rope tree swing tied to a 34 feet high branch on a cottonwood tree:

Rope Tree Swing built by Steve Maier

Rope Tree Swing built by Steve Maier

Quick release S hook below the steel quick link:

Rope Tree Swing: Quick Release S Hook

Rope Tree Swing: Quick Release S Hook

Seat washer for the Ashley’s Stopper Knot:

Rope Tree Swing: Steel Seat Washer for Ashley's Stopper Knot

Rope Tree Swing: Steel Seat Washer for Ashley’s Stopper Knot

Have fun!

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2014 HandymanHowTo.com   Reproduction strictly prohibited.

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37 Responses to How to Build a Rope Tree Swing – Part 2

  1. Carlos April 18, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    I’m trying to build a tree swing for my daughter. I tried to make it simple as possible, but I can’t make the swing to go straight. As the tree branch is not totally horizontal, when it swings high, it starts to tilt and spin. I saw looking at your pictures that your branch is not 100% horizontal too. How did you solve the tilt/spin problem?
    BTW, I did not use any chain, just ropes and wood. Maybe the chain does the trick?

    • Bob Jackson April 18, 2010 at 7:36 am #

      How far apart are the ropes on the tree branch? The ropes should be parallel and tied at the branch no wider than the seat – this is more important with steep branches and significant differences in rope lengths. This will minimize the differences in the “arc length” on an uneven branch for a straight swing. Also check the seat is level so the rider’s weight is centered.

      Chain tends to be more stiff than rope, is rough on the tree branch and pinches children’s hands.

      Let us know how it turns out.

      Bob

  2. matt powers May 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Bob,

    I think the way you have your links (red arrows) at different heights changes the fulcrum point and allows your swing to swing straight. This may be why others are having problems with swinging straight. can you explain how you adjusted for the different levels of each link, ie. does the higher link closest to the trunk reflect the lower point where you tied at the branch.

    • Bob Jackson May 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

      I added two new pictures to the end of Part 2 which explains why difference in the height of the rope attachments to the tree branch relative to the overall length of the ropes doesn’t interfere with swinging straight. A more technical explanation is the difference in the arc length of each rope is small enough not to be noticed as the swing moves back and forth.

      The difference in height between the chain link attachments (red arrows in the photo) was an artifact of tying the Ashley Stopper Knots for the seat bottom – had I been more meticulous the seat ropes would’ve been exactly the same height above the seat where it meets the chain link. As it were, I adjusted the buntline knot to level the seat at the chain link:

      Before tying off the Buntline knot at the opposite end, place the carpenter’s level on the swing seat and adjust the final knot position so both ends of the seat are even.

      The total arc length of each rope from the tree branch to the swing seat is what really matters; that and keeping the two ropes reasonably parallel (i.e. not spaced too far apart) where it loops over the tree branch.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Jeb June 1, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    This looks great. Very easy to follow directions for tying the knots. I’m planning on trying this out on a big ‘ole shagbark hickory that we have. There’s an excellent limb I’ve been eyeing for a swing for several years now. I was planning on putting two eye-bolts through the limb and attaching the ropes to the eyes. Could I just use the buntline hitch knot to tie the ropes to the eye-bolts just below the limb? Thanks.

    • Bob Jackson June 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

      Why risk damaging the limb with eye-bolts? Too small an eye-bolt could pull loose and a large eye-bolt would require drilling a pilot hole to avoid splitting the limb. Moreover, large eye-bolts could weaken or kill the limb over time as the working loads are concentrated on the shank of the bolt. Compare this to a rope tied around the limb to distribute the load with minimal stress.

      If you can reach the limb consider a traditional Swing Hitch knot. The Swing Hitch is very secure and won’t work loose as the rope moves with the swing. You will have to loosen and retie the Swing Hitch each year to avoid strangling the limb as the tree grows. I used the Running Bowline because I couldn’t reach the limb and it automatically expands as the limb grows.

      Thanks for asking.

  4. Jeb June 2, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Well, I was thinking that the friction of the ropes on the bark of the limb would do greater damage than the eye-bolts (all the way through, secured with a washer and 2 nuts on top) – especially on this tree (a shag-bark hickory). Surfing around, I see that there are really 2 schools of thought on this – summed up nicely at http://www.treetopbuilders.net, quoted below. They agree with you by the way.

    “There are 2 schools of thought regarding the best way to attach rope swings to tree branches. We have asked many arborists about this. Some of them believe it is best to put an eye bolt or through-bolt (somewhere between 1/2″ and 3/4″ diameter) through the tree branch vertically. This leaves an eyelet at the bottom to tie rope swings to. The advantage is that there is no chance of a rope or chain girdling or rubbing a branch during use. The disadvantage is that drilling holes in trees damages them. Other arborists think it is better to tie a slip knot (our choice is the running bowline) around a branch that loosens when load is removed, allowing the tree to continue growing. The advantage is that it is easier to install and doesn’t initially put any holes in the branch. The disadvantage is that some people believe that the rope contacting the branch could do greater damage over time than the eyebolt. The jury is still out…”

  5. Laura October 6, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Hi Bob,
    thanks for your great instructions on the tree swing; I am hoping to get the OK from my husband to proceed with this project for our daughter. Our tree is a maple, however. The branch in auestion is appx 8-10′ in diam. and is alive. About 15′ up for one (side of the) rope and maybe 18-19′ for the other. Do you forsee any probs here?
    thanks much,
    ~Laura

    • Bob Jackson October 6, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Try to keep the ropes as parallel (like railroad tracks) as possible due to the height difference on the tree limb attachment points so the swing will swing straight. With ~15 to 19 feet of rope, I don’t think you’ll have any problem. – Thanks, Bob

  6. Prentice Knight November 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Hi Bob

    Excellent instructions – I am going to use them to build a tree swing. (1) What is the reason for using the steel chain link to connect the tree rope and seat rope, rather than directly knotting together the seat rope and the tree rope? Is there some advantage to the chain link? 2) Is it OK to use shorter ropes for each of the two seat ropes – say 4 feet each rather than 10 feet each?
    Thanks!

    • Bob Jackson November 22, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      1) The chain link allows for easier maintenance and leveling of the seat. An appropriate knot could be used here instead.

      2) You can use shorter seat ropes – remember the 10 foot lineal feet of rope becomes 5 feet when looped over the chain link. I wouldn’t make it very short – say 4 feet or less – because the steep triangle formed by the seat rope over the chain link provides stability such that the seat doesn’t tip over and spill the little ones on the ground. Here’s another thing for the big kids (like me): The triangle formed by longer seat ropes as I’ve shown make a nice back rest when sitting sideways in the swing while perusing my iPad (or reading a book).

  7. Prentice November 22, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Many thanks. I will give the book option a try (while sitting sideways) when the grandkids are not swinging.

  8. peggy March 7, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    When putting the ropes through the seat how did you get it the ropes the same length to have the seat level? I know to use a leveler but when you tie the knots underneath. Is there a trick or just keep making the knot until it is the same length on both side for the board to be level.
    Thanks Peggy

    • Bob Jackson March 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      It can be tricky to level to seat by adjusting the stopper knots. My seat ropes are not the same length as shown in the project photos. I leveled the seat by adjusting the buntline hitch at the steel link.

  9. Ed Scheuring March 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I put up and attached the swing to a branch at points that are about 2 to 3 feet different in rope length. Ropes are run parallel from branch to seat, yet swing still swings crooked. What did I do wrong?
    Thanks
    Ed

  10. Ed Scheuring March 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    RrOPE LENGTHS ARE DIFFERENT AND ARE 15 AND 18 FEET LONG. THEY ARE PARL. AND SEAT IS HORIZ STRAIGHT. HOWEVER, SWING IS SWINGING CROOKED….WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?
    THANKS
    ED

    • Bob Jackson March 25, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      The seat swings crooked because of the differences in the rope lengths. Picture each rope tracing out a partial arc on a circle as it moves. The shorter rope traces out a tighter arc causing the swing to pull to one side. Is it possible to relocate the ropes on the tree limb so their more or less the same length?

  11. Ken July 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Could I use a 4X4 with a pair of joist hangers instead of the steel pipe in the Rope Swing Support Frame Design?

    • Bob Jackson July 23, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Great suggestion! I believe that would work well, less expensive and easier to fabricate. Perhaps two 2x6s screwed together would make a stronger cross beam and be more compatible with joist hangers.

  12. Ken September 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I finished the swing. I used 2 2X6s and followed your directions. Thank you very much. My daughter loves the swing. Here are some pictures. You can copy them and use them if you want. I will leave them on dropbox for a few weeks.
    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hi24ofonsusuta2/sPZ-fAQGth

    • Bob Jackson September 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Wonderful job! Thank you so much for sharing the photos. I’ll update the project and post your photos with proper acknowledgements.

  13. Ken October 7, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    I found a problem with using the 2X6 instead of the pipe. The rope frayed very quickly where it rubbed againts the edge of the 2X6. I have ordered 2 Extra-Duty Swing Hangers and will mount them to the 2X6 and then attach the rope to the hangers. What do you think would be a good way to attach the rope to the hangers?

    • Bob Jackson October 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      Tie the rope with a Buntline Hitch to the Swing Hanger as was done for the steel chain link used to hang the seat.

  14. Tom May 25, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    My brother and I have unsuccessfully set up a rope swing on a very high branch in our yard. The branch is curved upward at probably about a 45-degree angle. Pumping does not work on the swing, and it turns sideways while attempting to swing. We think it might have something to do with the fact that the ropes are of differeny lengths because one rope is places higher on the branch. May this be the problem? If not, do you have any ideas that might make it work?

    • BobJackson May 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      The difference in the rope lengths is too great causing the swing to move in an arc (sideways). Best to find a branch that is not so steep. If the ropes are fairly long – at least 10 or 12 feet – try moving the ropes closer together on the branch to minimize the difference in lengths… be careful the ropes aren’t so close as to pinch your head.

  15. Steven Maier May 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Love this post — The information on the knots was VERY useful, thank you!

    We installed our swing beneath a cottonwood tree. The branch is 34′ high — too high for our extension ladder. It took several attempts tossing a weight with string attached, plus there were some smaller limbs we had to “prune” with rope, but we got it done!

    The only modifications I added: putting washers above the Ashley stopper knots and adding S hooks to the bench loops for quick releases (and to reduce wear on rope). An advantage of using the quick links is the swing can be easily removed and a disk, tire swing or a simple foot loop can be connected in its place. If doing this, I recommend tying a knot or two in the ropes above quick links so there is something to hang on to when using the foot loop attachment. Regarding the unused second rope coming down from the tree: just attach a line to the unused quick link and tie it off to the base of the tree so it’s out of the way.

    • BobJackson May 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

      The washers and S hooks are excellent recommendations. I’ll update the main article to include your improvements with an acknowledgement to you. If you’d like to e-mail a photo or two of your swing I’ll post it. Send to bob (at) handymanhowto.com

      Thanks!

  16. Barbie June 22, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I loved this project! It was so much fun to make this and my son was very excited! I shared it on Pinterest because I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who wanted a tree swing but (1) didn’t have a tall ladder, (2) wasn’t confident in climbing the tree, (3) the branch isn’t exactly straight. This method solved all these problems. And with the seat being so wide, I can swing with my son and get some special bonding time in our day. Thank you so much!

  17. jamie August 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Can I use Solid 5/8″ braid polypropylene rope to attach to the tree limb?(as I can`t find the hollow type)?

    • BobJackson August 7, 2013 at 6:28 am #

      Solid-core braided rope will be fine and an upgrade over hollow-core rope.

  18. Sue November 2, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    We have a tree branch that we want to use but it’s 30′ high and are concerned that the kids will be able to swing too high. Are there any suggestions/ideas on how to have this great swing but still be able to regulate how high they can swing?

    • BobJackson November 2, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      A higher tree branch and corresponding longer rope won’t make much difference in how high one can swing because it takes the same amount of muscle energy to overcome gravity (total vertical height gained) when seated. A high swing with long ropes will travel through a longer arc giving the appearance of greater total height gained.

      The things to be concerned about are uneven ground that falls away – which is a risk with a longer swing travel, and the ability for a child to get a running start to gain velocity and ultimate height. The running start technique was real hoot when I was kid!

      The best way to limit the swing seat travel (arc length) is to tie guy ropes about 10 to 15 feet high on either side of the swing suspension rope as illustrated in this diagram. It’s important the guy ropes are attached at equal heights and angles so the swing will move straight. The guy ropes create a shortened pivot point to limit the swing travel. The guy ropes can be attached with chain links to main suspension ropes because a knot around the suspension ropes will slip downward.

      Let me know how it works for you.

      Thanks,
      Bob

  19. Steve June 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    How do you undo a slip knot once it’s on the tree limb? We have a limb about 40 ft high and I am not sure how to remove the rope after we put it up. Thanks.

    • Bob Jackson June 4, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi Steve,
      If you’ve tied a Double Running Bowline Knot then you just need a way to grab or hook the rope loop and pull downward to open the slip knot and pull it off the tree limb.

      To reach the knot fix a hook (bend a 3/16 or 1/4 inch metal rod) to a telescoping pole – something like a fiberglass tree pruner or aluminum swimming pool cleaning pole. I think most of us tend to over estimate heights so a ladder and a 16 or 20 foot pole may be sufficient. A 30 foot pole should certainly do the trick:

      Thanks,
      Bob

  20. Micah July 14, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks for the info bob, where did you get your rope from? I like the black, but I can’t seem to find your talkin about where I live….. Any website suggestions?

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