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"Wooden Swing Sets are Best"

Posted on 30th May 2014

Alison writes -

“Wooden swing sets are best.”  As an American, that has always been my view.  I grew up with a fabulous swing set that my Dad built by hand and it was the best swing set in the neighbourhood, everyone played at our house. (Until Chip hung a swing from the enormous tree in their garden - tree swings feel so magical because they swing you that much higher).  

I married a Brit who grew up with a steel swing frame, and let’s just say the debate has been a heated one.  It’s not something I admit often, but I can now declare “he wins.”   I am a convert.  I have been convinced that a steel frame really is better. 

Why I have changed my mind:

Play value: I have three boys, and they are always climbing on the sides of our steel swing frame, doing somersaults around the side stays, or climbing up to stand on them, they couldn’t do this on a splintery wood frame.  Steel is smooth and slim and fits in your hand, which is why the best bits of the most expensive wooden climbing frames are made of steel: the slide; the fireman’s pole; the monkey bars.

“Wooden swing sets are prettier and more natural in the garden” I used to argue, but are they really?  Wood is bulkier, the supports have to be thicker to take the weight and bulk is always obvious, so while wood might blend into a forest it’s still a hefty presence on a lawn.  The slim lines of our steel frame are less noticeable and actually take on the green of the grass and the blue (and grey) skies in our garden.

Now that I have got used to the idea I am comfortable, after all steel is at the heart of the Modern movement.  There is a reason Le Corbusier chose it when designing his famous chairs.  It has made New York City possible.  Let’s face it – steel is just cool.

What’s true for architecture is true for swing design - steel is predicable, it fits. When swinging you don’t want to hear the groaning of a creaky wooden frame.  No matter how posh your wooden set is, it will be noisy, because its design must leave space for the expansion and contraction of the wood in the weather.  I’m glad my boys can listen to the birds when they’re swinging on our old steel frame.

If you’re still hesitating because a painted metal frame looks awful when it becomes a rusty eyesore.   Brave’s won’t rust, it’s galvanised.

It is dusk, and as I look out of my kitchen window, I have to look quite hard to see our Invisible Swing Frame.   When I want people to notice it, I’ll put on the Fringed Funhouse Froufer, its matching Bolster Cushion and Skeleton Skin, and light up the BBQ. (The BBQ - another heated debate in our British/American household.)

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