Two years ago, I was regularly searching Craigslist for a big wood swing set for our backyard (well, for our kids really, but it would go in our backyard), but I could never find anything that I liked for what I felt was a reasonable price.
Around the same time, we had someone come in and help us draw up a planting plan for our backyard. In the plan, she suggested we build two arbors: one for our BBQ area and one that we could turn into a swing set. I immediately fell in love with this idea. Especially with the fact that, once the kids were done with the swing set, we’d still have a beautiful arbor!
So, one fine weekend, we trekked to Lowe’s and bought ourselves a ton of wood and a post hole digger. The holes for the BBQ arbor were a piece of cake to dig (in fact, I dug them all myself), but the 8 holes for the swing set were so NOT! It took us (mostly my husband) hours and hours in the hot sun to dig those holes.
Finally, though, the holes were ready and we started placing the beams. We tried to be so careful to make sure they were lined up and square, but we were constantly foiled. At one point, one of the posts in the long arbor ended up just an inch or so off from the one next to it. Didn’t seem like a big deal until you continue that out another 18 feet and that one inch offset quickly becomes something like 4 inches. My husband ended up digging up that post (which was already set in concrete), just so we could move it over an inch.
Finally, all the holes were dug and it was time to cut the notches for the horizontal supports (two years ago, I knew all the terms for these, but I no longer remember). We started cutting them with a circular saw and a ladder, but the circular saw eventually had to go home and the posts sat there, with half of them cut for about a month.
Eventually, I got enough motivation to have at it again, but this time, I went out and bought a rip saw. We’d tried using our cross-cut saw to saw down the length of the post and that just does NOT work. The rip saw was a dream, though. I had the remaining notches cut within a half an hour. Guess it’s true what they say about the right tool for the job.
Once those notches were cut, we were able to finish the rest of it fairly quickly. We were able to cut the notches for the cross pieces (again, can’t remember the name!) several at a time on our table saw and up they went, lickety split!
We’ve planted Wisteria on each side of them and the blackberry bushes are helping to cover one of them and they look really lovely (sure maybe the BBQ’s not so pretty, but you get the idea).
The next step was to figure out how to attach swings to the arbor’s cross pieces. A friend of mine came to the rescue and fashioned brackets that wrapped around the wood out of bits of metal and up the swings went.The first time I saw the kids swinging on them, I freaked out a bit because the whole structure sways with them. It took me a while (say, several summers) to get used to the idea and to realize that that thing is really safe!
The next summer, we added on a platform with stairs and a slide, which made our play structure complete. The kids love to climb all over it now and have picnics on the platform on sunny days.
I love how it’s a beautiful, permanent structure in our yard – much prettier than a standard play set. And, when the kids are done swinging, we’ll take them and the platform down and maybe put a swinging bench in the middle instead.
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