Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Easy Homemade Teeter Totter

Look at that joy!
Remember when you were a kid and parks had all of the coolest things to play on? I remember my uncle taking me to the park by my grandparents house. It had metal monkey bars that erased your fingerprints in the summer, a metal slide that seared through your way-too-short shorts, and long wooden teeter totters that always managed to pepper your bottom with splinters. It also had a merry-go-round type thing with metal bars. My brothers and I would hold on, and my uncle would spin it as fast as he could. Eventually we would go flying off and/or jam some joint (elbow, knee, crotch) on the metal bars. Yes, those were the good old days.

Trust - Will my sister drop me like a bad habit?
One of my favorites was the teeter totter (or seesaw for my readers across the pond). All kinds of fun games came from those, but unfortunately since most of those games ended in a cracked head or a broken arm they are seldom found in parks now. So what is a Renaissance Dad to do...? Make one, of course.

Before I go on, I need to give the standard warnings. Like anything that kids get their hands on, they can get hurt on a teeter totter. They can also get hurt having a pillow fight, putting rocks down each others' pants (yeah, that really happened), or jumping from the couch to the coffee table while playing "The Floor Is Lava." So please use discretion and supervise your kids.

While this is not an instructional, step-by-step as to how to make a teeter totter, you can see by the pictures that the design is quite simple. It is made from two eight-foot 2X6 boards and one eight foot 4X4 redwood post. I used the redwood post because redwood is naturally moisture resistant and insect resistant, and I figured that if it can handle those two things, it should be able to handle my three kids. This also means that it does not need to be painted. The 2X6 boards were painted using some left over exterior paint.

Note the decorative chalk designs
Two boards make up the legs and two boards make up the uprights. There are two spacer blocks between the uprights to give space to the post, which is attached using a threaded rod with locking nuts holding it in place. Two board cutoffs make up the seats, and the handles are made from 2X2 scraps with round dowels running through the tops. You will also notice in the picture from the side that there is a hole above the pivot point. When I originally built this that upper hole was the pivot point. Then I realized that my then three-year-old was about five feet in the air. I modified and moved the pivot down, which lowered the maximum height. I can still move it up to daredevil level in their older years.

The whole project took me about two hours to cut and put together, not including the time to paint it. One thing I realized is that the handles do not work really well. The kids put so much torque on the handles that they regularly break off. A little more engineering with longer lag screws, anchor sleeves, and some wood glue solves this problem. However, if I had it all to do over again, I might choose simple rope handles. All of which leads me to this realization: some projects, especially ones that are tested out by kids, need to be fixed and modified on a regular basis. This is part of the wonderful world of engineering for kids who operate outside the realm of normal physical constraints. This is part of being a Renaissance Dad. 

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