DIY Porch Glider

Build outdoor furniture with slip-joint plumbing.

| May/June 1984

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    The finished glider suggests far more than just a melange of plumbing parts. The tasteful use of some oil-based paint and a coordinating fabric makes a world of difference, turning what would normally be a piece of outdoor furniture into an attractive indoor appointment as well.
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    Frame and seat diagram.
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    Fabric-cutting pattern. 

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In Build a Replica Antique Pie Safe, we featured a design for an old-timey pie safe offered to us by The Family Workshop. For the spring season, the Oklahoma-based outfit has worked up this plastic-pipe porch glider, which the Workshop folks feel will have as much appeal to MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers as it did to the fans of their own crafts books and syndicated newspaper columns. 

If front porches were made for lazy spring and summer evenings, then gliders were made for front porches . . . and though it may seem that the swinging settee has gone the way of Rhett and Scarlett, there's no reason why you can't rediscover its pleasures by re-creating this leisure lounge, using modern materials.

I'd suspect that the earliest gliders were made of hardwoods, which eventually gave way to steel with the onslaught of mass production. But our updated version consists mainly of plastic plumbing pipe (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short), which has the admirable qualities of strength, workability, reasonable cost, and universal availability.

There are, however, a few important things you ought to know about the components before you get into the "swing" of things. First off, there are seven different formulations of plastic pipe, only two of which—PVC and its chlorinated cousin, CPVC—will be used for this project. (Each is available in a rigid, thick-wall design that is ideal for furniture building.)

Second, like conventional steel pipe, PVC is measured—nominally—by its internal diameter . . . but the outside dimension of similarly sized plastic pipe remains the same, regardless of the thickness of its wall. Theoretically, this allows the fittings in each size group to share the same inside diameter . . . but don't count on it: Minor tolerance differences between various manufacturers' hardware make it necessary to prefit the pipe and fittings prior to purchase. If a joint is too sloppy (or excessively tight), it would be advisable to try another fitting.

While on the subject of joints, be aware that you can build disassembly capability into this piece of furniture by locking the unions with self-tapping metal screws rather than cement. But should you choose to go the permanent (and far stronger) route, the mating surfaces must be prepared by roughing them lightly with fine sandpaper or steel wool (or cleaning them with plastic pipe primer) before they're chemically welded together. It is equally important to use the correct primer and cement for the type of pipe you're working with, since PVC and CPVC each use specific solvents. Moreover, once the mating surfaces are bonded, they're joined for good . . . so be careful not to paint yourself into a corner, so to speak, by gluing an assembly together without a trial fit. You may discover that the last section of pipe cannot be squeezed between two fittings, no matter how hard you try.

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