This classic wooden swing is just as fun as it looks...but it does take some extra time and effort!
Before getting started, carefully read through the full project plan. (Our version of the swing was inspired by this tutorial.) This project easily takes several days to finish and requires a bit of planning.
Step 1: Measure and cut boards
First, use a miter saw to cut the boards to length. Here's a list of the cuts to make:
Out of the 2x4 cut:
- One 36” piece (body)
- Two 8 ¼” pieces (wing supports)
Out of the 1x8 cut:
- Two 36” pieces (body)
Out of the 1x6 cut:
- One 30 ½” piece (seat)
- One 12” piece (tail)
- Two 30” pieces (wings)
- One 7” piece (handlebar stand)
Out of the dowel cut:
- One 8” piece (handlebar)
Out of the 1x4 cut:
- One 5” piece (tail)
Out of the 1x3 cut
- One 16” piece (propeller)
Use this handy template to help you navigate all the cuts you'll be making.
Step 2: Mark and cut body pieces
Using a mixing bowl or other round object approximately 9 inches across as your template, trace a curve along one end of each 1x8 piece. These are your body pieces. This curve will be on the front bottom end of the plane. Clamp your wood to the worktable and make the cut with a jig saw.
Step 3: Measure angle
Measure 23 inches along the bottom of the board from the back to the front. Mark with a pencil. Measure 3 ½ inches along the back of the board from top to bottom. With a straight edge, or carpenter’s square, connect the dots creating a line that slopes up towards the back of the plane.
Step 4: Cut curves into seat, tail, and wing pieces
With the jig saw, cut a curve (with the same template as before) on one end of the 1x6-30 ½” (this will be the seat). Curve both ends of the 1x6-12” (the tail), and the two 1x6-30” (the wings). With a smaller circle as a template (we used a roll of tape) cut a curve on the 1x4 piece (this will be another part of the tail.)
Step 5: Design and cut propeller
Trace a propeller shape onto the 1x3 and cut it out. It may be a little lopsided if you’re doing it freehand, but that can add to the charm of the plane. Be careful of the blade binding in those tight corners. If the jig saw can’t turn sharply enough, it may help to cut straight in the direction of the blade until you cut through the wood, then come back and take another try at the turn. We used this technique several times to get the curves for our propeller.
Step 6: Cut handlebar stand
Cut the small 1x6 with a jig saw to make the stand for the handle. This cut can also just be drawn freehand on the piece of wood and then cut out. With a 1” drill bit, bore a hole for the dowel handlebar. Drill into a piece of scrap wood to create a clean hole and prevent tearing.
Step 7: Lay out pieces
Once all the cuts are made, do a dry fit of the plane. This simply means placing all the parts together (with clamps if needed) to make sure they all fit together well. The pieces you will inevitably need to alter are the wing supports (two-by-four pieces that are 8 ¼” long). These vary as the 1x8 and 1x6 in between them varies. Trim down as needed.
Step 8: Sand all pieces
Now grab your sander and have at it. It took us about four hours to make all the jig saw cuts and then sand everything. Start with a 100-grit sandpaper on your sander and work your way up to 150 or 220, depending on your preference. Make sure to soften all those sharp edges to protect little hands.
Clamp together the two 1x8 pieces and sand them together so they end up with the same, smooth lines. Unless your sander is really good at dust collecting (like the Festool sanders) make sure to wear a dust mask, and always wear eye protection.
Step 9: Stain or paint all pieces
Before assembly, consider how you want to finish your plane. Whether you’ll be staining and coating with polyurethane, or if you’ll be priming and painting, or both—like we did. Because of the small spaces of and all the details of this plane now is a good time to start finishing. We recommend doing everything up until the final coat before assembly. It makes everything a lot simpler and ensures all the wood gets well-covered and protected against the elements. Save that final coat of paint or polyurethane for touch-ups and full coverage after everything is assembled.
We primed and painted the body of the plane, the wing supports, and the vertical tail with Z-Prime Plus interior/exterior primer and Painter’s Touch indoor/outdoor paint in navy blue. The wings, horizontal tail, propeller, and handlebars we stained with Varathane stain in Provincial and coated with Marine Spar Varnish.
We didn't paint ours first. We wish we had. So learn from our mistake, and paint BEFORE you assemble.
Step 10: Assemble body
Now begins assembly: first glue together the 36” 1x8s and 2x4 (these are the body pieces). Predrill with a 3/32” bit and screw together with 1 ¼” screws in pairs on either side. Approximately eight screws on each side. Be careful to offset the screws so they don’t run into each other.
Step 11: Attach handles
Insert the 1” dowel into the handlebar stand. Secure with glue and a 1 ¼” screw. Find the center of the top wing and mark out 3/8” from either side to find exactly where to place the handlebar stand. Use a carpenter’s square to get the angles straight. Glue the handle to the wing on its side and predrill and secure with 2” screws from the bottom.
Step 12: Attach seat
Center the 1x6-30 ½” (the seat) on the body of the swing, predrill and secure with 2” screws down into the 1x8s. We positioned the wings back 6” from the nose of the plane. With a carpenter’s square draw out the guidelines for the wing. We eliminated visible screws by intentionally putting four of them within these lines but keeping them very close to the edge so they wouldn’t interfere when future screws are added.
Step 13: Attach bottom wings
Turning the body upside down, measuring from the back (18”), and using a square, mark out the position for the bottom wings. Glue, predrill, and secure with 2” screws.
Step 14: Attach wing supports
Using a square, mark out a spot for the 2x4 supports. They should be centered and 7” away from the body of the plane. Glue in place, predrill and attach 2” screws from the bottom of the wings up through the supports. Use scrap pieces under the 2x4s to keep them in place while drilling.
Apply glue to the seat and top of the wing supports. Place the top wing and predrill and screw into the supports and into the body of the plane. Make sure your screws are close enough to the middle that they will go through the 1x8s and not just through the 1x6 seat.
Step 15: Finish propeller and tail
With a ¼” bit drill through the nose of the plane for the propeller and through the tail end of the 2x4 for an eye screw.
Drill through the middle of the propeller with a 3/8” bit. This larger hole will allow the propeller to spin freely. With the same bit drill through the top and bottom wings one inch outside of the wing supports.
Once the final coat of paint or finish is on the plane and has fully dried, screw in the eye screw and attach the propeller with the lag screw with a couple washers in between the propeller and the nose.
Step 16: Hang swing and fly!
We hung our swing with ¼” nylon rope from a tree in our backyard. The process of hanging swings is really a blog in itself and worth doing your research on. Feel free to ask your Dunn Lumber sales associate for some free advice.
Now. It's. Time. To. Fly! (Our little guy really liked just pushing the swing, too.)