Homesteading Fun: Building a Homemade Zip Line

Build a homemade zip line, every farm or homestead should have one, and you can build your own in a half hour, more or less.

| July/August 1978

  • Have fun building and using a homemade zip line.
    Have fun building and using a homemade zip line.
    Photo by Fotolia/corepics

  • Have fun building and using a homemade zip line.

Learn how to build a homemade zip line while adding more fun to your homesteading way of life.

Every farm or homestead should have a homemade zip line, and you can build your own in a half hour, more or less. All you need are two sturdy trees located about 200 feet apart, with a gentle slope between 'em. Put up a ladder or nail some "climbing" boards to the uphill tree and — approximately 25 feet up its trunk — construct a simple but rugged platform that can accommodate a minimum of eight people.

(Eight? Why eight? Because . . . you're gonna need at least seven buddies standing by your side to peer-pressure you into making your skyway's maiden voyage . . . that's why.)

Next, scrounge up 200-odd feet of cable that you're sure is strong enough to support more weight than your aerial tram will ever be asked to carry. (Forget trying to get by with rope. The stresses that a terrified, kicking and screaming, 180-pound skywaynaut can put on a pulley-frayed, 200-foot-long line is more than most ropes can bear.) We took out a permanent loan on some slightly rusted — but strong! — one-inch steel cable that we're pretty sure the factory down the street had thrown away.

If you don't have a cable jack handy, find (as we did) a buddy with a jeep winch and draw the cable up between your two trees as tightly as you can. No, you won't be able to pull all the slack from the line . . . but that's OK: The tiniest little bit of sag is essential to the smooth operation of your aerial tram.

There must be a whole lotta expert ways to secure a cable to a chunk of wood . . . but none of us knew any of 'em, so we just looped our line around each tree trunk until — with the addition of some baling wire — it formed sort of a hangman's noose. Then, for added security, we pried back some of the twisted hawser's strands and ran the baling wire right through the cable (just to make sure the line couldn't slip). It looks pretty bad, but our skyway has been up for three years now and is still holding.


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