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Tree Swing

Martha Stewart Kids, 2004

Hang a tire from a branch, and let your kids experience the sensation of flight at home.

To sway, spin, and fly through the air -- that's what swings are good for. The tire swing is a classic, and hanging it from a tree brings the fun to your own backyard.

First, find a willing tree. A hardwood, such as oak, sugar maple, or ash, will safely hold a swing on a branch that's eight or more inches in diameter; the farther out you hang your swing, the thicker the branch should also be. The branch should be at least nine feet high, for a graceful swing, and form an L, not a V, as it leaves the trunk. And it must be long enough to hang the swing so that there's at least six feet of open space in every direction.

Next, get a tire. One from a light truck, such as a pickup or SUV, is best. You can get a cast-off from an auto shop; avoid steel-belted tires, so you won't have to worry about the metal working its way through the surface.

Last, get a length of nylon rope and the right hardware to hang it from the tree (our directions follow). And your kids can soar -- high or low -- all day long.

Hanging the Swing
A trip to the hardware store will net you all you need to hang the tire: a 1/2-inch-thick nylon rope, long enough to reach to the branch plus 10 feet; twine; a 3/8-inch-diameter eyebolt long enough to go through the branch and extend a little, plus a washer and locknut; and a quick link. Screwing a bolt through the branch is safest for the tree (a rope tossed over the bark will cut off nutrients). Drill a 3/8-inch hole through the limb. Attach eyebolt with washer and locknut. Loop rope around tire; tie knot (see below). Loop other end around quick link, adjusting length (tire should hang high enough that feet won't drag but low enough so kids can stop themselves); cut off excess, and knot. Fasten to eyebolt.

Safety Tips
To avoid standing water, drill 1/2-inch-wide holes in bottom of tire every 4 inches. A 6-inch layer of double shredded bark mulch or wood chips will cushion a fall. Spread it twice the height of the swing in all directions.

Tying the Knot
The three-strand eye splice knot is a loop, with one end woven back into the rope. 

1. Wrap the rope tightly with twine, 12 inches from one end. Unravel rope's strands up to twine. Tape the end of each strand to make a tip.

2. With the unraveled strands, or "end strands," on your left, form a loop with the intact portion of the rope. Grasp right-hand side of loop -- or "standing part." Slightly untwist below loop so there is a space between its threads.


3. Weave innermost end strand (A) from back to front under the leftmost thread of the standing part, then over the thread to its immediate right, and under the next thread.

4. Weave middle end strand (B) under the thread of the standing part that A just passed over. Pull taut.

5. Rotate knot so remaining end strand (C) is on your right. There should now be only one thread of the standing part with no end strand under it. Weave C from left to right under it. All three end strands should now exit the same tier or level of the standing part. Pull taut.

6. Continue weaving end strands, one at a time, into standing part in a downward spiral that twists in the opposite direction from the rope's natural twist. Weave at least six rows. Trim end strands 1/2 inch from rope; remove twine. Roll the knot on the floor with your foot to tighten it.

Comments (5)

  • PlayfulDad 12 Jul, 2013

    Those are great ideas on the tire swing. I always wondered how to get the tire clean enough to keep my kids from turning dingy. I also found a cool website where I got my kids a tree swing, ! I'm going to take a look at those instructions for weaving the rope and see if I can get it down! Maybe my kids can help with that. Maybe it'll keep them busy for a while for me too!

  • kkeitht90 11 Aug, 2008

    Just a litle tip. Tires have a tendency of leaving black on the kids clothes. If you will paint the tire with a marine grade urethane varnish this will niot happen.

  • deborahcahill 25 Jul, 2008

    I actually bought a tire swing that someone had artistically cut the tires and made horses and other animails from the tire. Using the swing, a few metal bars and bolts and adding rope for decoration. Real rope. I hung it in my front yard and I had so many people stop and look at how it was made. It was a great item.
    Unfortunately I had paid 130.00 for it at a garden shop, but it could be easily accomplished.

  • TheJonesHome 26 Jun, 2008

    The information about the shredded bark mulch come from the"The Playground Surfacing-Technical Information Guide" and "Handbook for Public Playground Safety". You can call 1-800-638-2772 and they will send you a free copy. I gives specs for other surfacing materials as well.

  • underclocker 13 Jun, 2008

    "A 6-inch layer of double shredded bark mulch or wood chips will cushion a fall. Spread it twice the height of the swing in all directions."
    9ft high x 2 in all directions is a circle 36 ft in diameter = 152 cubic ft of bark mulch. That's the minimum and its already huge! That's a bit overkill for a tire swing. Check for above ground roots that are more likely to be a danger. Wrap a mattress around the tree and if you are really that worried, don't make this.