General Hacks Ideas

How to Make End Tables for a Wooden Garden Swing

For many years, I’ve had a metal swing frame with an upholstered seat next to the garden pond in my back yard. Unfortunately, they only seem to last a few years. This year, I decided to purchase a wood swing and a wood frame in hopes that these will last much longer.

I chose the Great American Woodies 5’ Cypress Mission Swing and the Cypress A-Frame (also by Great American Woodies) from our nearby Lowe’s Home Improvement store. After adding a seat cushion, I’m mostly happy with the swing.

The Problem and Proposed Solution

There was one thing that bugged me though. It was the same thing that bugged me about all the other swings we’ve had in years past. There was no good place to sit our drinks, phones, books, tablets, or anything else we might have taken out there with us. Sure, we could sit it in the swing seat, but that’s just an accident waiting to happen.

Swing frame cross piece is too small to set anything on without it falling off.

Being the hacker that I am, I decided to make end tables (or side tables) for the swing. I’m well pleased with how the hack turned out. Before I show you how to make your own, here is the swing with both end tables in place, so you have some idea of what I’ll be showing you how to build below.

Completed Project - End Tables on Wooden Swing

Design Inspiration

My inspiration for how to attach the end tables came from the Side Table or Phone Shelf that is designed to fit over the guard rail of  OP Loftbed loft bed or bunk bed. If you’re interested in the plans for this, you’ll find them on the Free Loft Bed Plan Accessories page of the OP Loftbed web site. This table just sits over the guard rail and can be slid to any position or quickly removed entirely. It’s held in place by gravity and friction. This was designed by my good friend Charles Cranford, who also designed the OP Loftbed.

Telephone Table for OP Loftbed


I knew that the two tables needed to be approximately 2-feet long since that’s about how long the cross piece is that would be supporting them. I also knew that I needed two table support support pieces to fit on either side of the cross piece. I bought one 1 x 8 x 8’ Kil-Dried Cedar board and one 1 x 3 x 8’ Kiln-dried Cedar Board (Note: this link is to the 1 x 2 Kiln-dried Cedar Board because they don’t have the 1 x 3 on their web site). I chose cedar because the color of the swing is really close to the color our building is stained, our building is cedar, and I still had some of the stain left; cedar also seems to be really similar to the cypress the rest of the swing is made from. I also bought a box of #6 x 1-1/2” Flat Head Phillips Wood Screws to assemble everything with. I think I had around $25 in all the materials combined.

Initial Measurements

There were only a couple important measurements to consider on the swing.

The first is the overall length I wanted the table to be. I decided to make them the same length as the top of the cross piece on the swing: 26-1/2”.

The second dimension to consider is how long to make the pieces that would support the table and fit on either side of the crosspiece—I decided to call these pieces “squeezers”. The opening at the top of the crosspiece is 20-1/8” long. I couldn’t make them this long because they had to be able to slide in from the top. The cedar 1 x 3 actually measures 3/4” x 2-1/2”. The cedar 1 x 8 measures 11/16” x 7-7/16”. This meant that I needed a width measurement about 3-1/2” above this. This measured around 18-1/2”, so I decided my squeezers should be about 18” long.

Important Swing Measurements

Cutting the Pieces

The cuts were all really easy to make.

For the squeezers, I just cut four 18” long pieces of the cedar 1 x 3. This gave me two sets of two. Here is a finished set. Note, this is after staining. I didn’t take pictures of anything until I was finished, then I took them apart for the pictures.

Squeezers and Measurements

To make the table top, I first cut two 26-1/2” pieces of the cedar 1 x 8. The notches in the back measure 4-1/4” x 3/4” (the width of one of the squeezers and half of the overall length minus the length of the squeezer (26-1/2” – 18” = 8-1/2”; 8-1/2” / 2 = 4-1/4”)). The angles at the top are just 45° angles cut from the center of the width of the board (about 3-3/4” from one edge).

Swing Side Table Tabletop and Measurements

Here are the finished pieces for one side table without all the measurements on them.

All Cut Pieces for Wooden Swing Side Table

Assembling the Tables

Note: I don’t have pictures of the assembly process, so you’ll have to use your imagination and I’ll try to make the narrative as clear as possible. If you do have any questions, just ask in the comments at the end.

I drilled three pilot holes in the table top, 3/8” from one edge (half the width of a 3/4” wide squeezer) at the center of the board and 6” off center. This spaced the two other holes at 3” from the end of the squeezer. After drilling the pilot holes, I used three #6 x 1-1/2” Wood Screws to fasten this one squeezer to the table top.

I wanted the squeezers to fit snugly on each side of the crosspiece. Rather than measure the thickness of the crosspiece and possibly have the tables fit a little loosely because of a 1/32” difference in measurement or something, I decided to fit the table in place, hold the second squeezer tight against the crosspiece and against the table, and draw a pencil mark along the outside top edge of the squeezer on the bottom of the tabletop piece.

On the bottom of the tabletop, I marked for the three screw holes using the the same linear positions and measurements as before, except these were 3/8” off the line I had just drawn (to be where the center line of the second squeezer would be). I drilled three pilot holes in the table top at these marks. I screwed three more screws into these pilot holes, but left the points just barely protruding.

To attach the second squeezer, I held everything in place again (just as I did before when I drew the line) and screwed the three remaining screws into the second squeezer board. At this point, I was done with one table and I repeated the process for the other one.

Here is what the finished end tables look like from the bottom.

Finished Wood Swing End Table from the Bottom

Here is whatone looks like from the top.

Finished Wood Swing End Table from the Top

Attaching the Table

Since the tables are just held on my gravity, no fasteners are needed. You just simply slide the notched edge of the tabletop between the frame supports and press down so the squeezers fit on each side of the crosspiece. This is the best picture I could get of putting one into place.

Setting the Wood Swing End Table into Place

The Finished Product

Here is what itlooks like from the inside of the frame.

view of Wooden Swing End Table from Inside the Swing Frame.

His what it looks like with a drink and my Xoom tablet on it. I think it’s the perfect size.

Wooden Swing Side Tablet with Drink and Tablet Computer (Motorola Xoom)

Once again, here is the the how the swing looks with both tables in place, just so you don’t have to scroll all the way back to the top to see it again.

Completed Project - End Tables on Wooden Swing

Final Words

This entire project cost less than $25 and probably took less than an hour to make. I probably have another 15-minutes in staining them (which I did on a different day). I think it would also be quite easy to make tables like this for other models of swings as well. I didn’t spend a lot of time making sure that every cut was perfect, nor did I sand anything before I finished it. I’m not a really good wood worker, but I generally understand how power tools and wood engineering and design works. The swing and frame has a slightly rustic look to them and I think the tables compliment it well.

If you have any additional questions, just ask the in the comments section below. If this inspires you to do something similar, please post a comment to let me know and I would love to see some pictures of your finished work as well.

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  • Reply
    Russ Wright
    5/13/2012 at 6:48 pm

    Look at you go! You’re not only a computer hacker but you’re a wood hacker as well! Great job!

  • Reply
    5/13/2012 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks Russell! That means a lot coming from you!

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