Slides and helter-skelters hold a particular fascination for active youngsters. The adrenalin they gain from zooming down the slide seems to give them the energy to race from the bottom back up to the top of the steps for another go.

I made this toy from Nordic redwood and ‘far eastern’ plywood, but, if you can afford it, Finnish plywood is better. It is more expensive but tends to splinter less.

The climbing frame

I Start by preparing the four uprights -or ‘stringers’ — for the two ladders that form the frame. The stringers have to have slots, or ‘trenches’, cut in them to take the rungs and these must be carefully marked out. if you mark out all four together you will achieve greater accuracy and save a great deal of time.

Once the marking out is done, fit two uprights in the vice at a time and, using a tenon saw cut down the sides for each trench and then use a large firmer chisel to remove the waste wood at the bottom. As you are chiselling across the grain of the wood, the waste will come out very easily.

2 • When all the trenches have been cut, you can start work on the rungs. There are a total of eight, four for each ladder, Clamp all eight together with the sides (i.e. narrowest edges) facing you. Mark out a rebate on each end of each rung. These rebates will make the ladders very stable when assembled. Un-clamp the rungs and cut out the rebates with a tenon saw. Check that each fits snugly in the trenches on the stringers as you go.

3 Before assembling the ladders you need to do some more work on the stringers. The bottoms of each stringer need to be cut off at an angle so that when the frame is opened out the feet stand firmly on the ground. Using a sliding bevel gauge, mark out the angles and cut away the waste with a tenon saw. Double-check, before you cut, that you have marked the angle correctly on the right side of the stringers.

An angle also has to be cut at the top of the stringers for the front ladder (i.e. the one used for climbing up to the slide). This is so that, when the frame is opened, the tops of the ladders butt together.

Once all the angles have been cut, chamfer off around the bottom of each stringer using a block plane or chisel. This simple precaution will prevent the ends splintering if the slide is dragged along the ground.

Drill holes in the rear stringers to take the hand rail, and in all the stringers for the hinges that will hold the two ladders together.

4 Now you are ready to assemble the ladders. Lay the stringers on the bench in pairs and giue and screw the rungs in place. Use zinc-plated screws that won’t rust and stain your handiwork. Both glue and screws are essential for this since the frame has to withstand several children climbing up and sliding off at one time.

5 Cut out the two hand rails and, in each, drill a hole at the top for the hand rope and two holes at the bottom for the coach bolts. Coach bolt the hand rail on to the inside of the rear stringers.

6 Fit the two ladders together using black ‘japanned’ or zinc hinges. Ordinary steel hinges will rust. Thread lengths of strong rope through the holes in the top of the hand rails down to the second rung of the front ladder. Knot them firmly in place. Make sure you use good rope and very good knots as young children will cling fast to these ropes as they climb up.

7 Assemble the platform for the top of the frame which is simply two slats screwed to cross-pieces of timber. Note that the slats should be chamfered so that there are no sharp edges to cut children as they sit down ready for their slide. This platform fits snugly in place on top of the opened-out frame. Use two long screws to hold it firmly to the frame.

The slide

If you watch children at play on a slide you discover that they not only slide down, but also enjoy turning round at the bottom and trying to run back up the slide. Some children will also run down slides and others will ride BMX bikes up them! Therefore this slide is built like a battleship.

1 Cut the slide side members to length. Round off the bottom ends using a spokeshave. Mark out the angles needed at the top ends and cut away the waste wood with a tenon saw.

Clamp both members together and mark the places where the cross members are to go.

2 Cut all six cross members to length. Clamp them together, with the narrowest edges facing you, and mark out the positions for the rebates on the ends. Using a tenon saw, cut away the waste pieces.

Lay the side members out on a large flat surface (i.e. the floor!) and fit all the cross members in position. Glue and screw each one in place using long screws with a minimum gauge of No. 8. This is important as the slide frame needs to be very strong.

3 Turn the frame over and measure very carefully the piece of plywood you’ll need for the base. If you marked all your cross members out accurately and fitted them carefully you should find the width is constant right down the length of the slide. If it isn’t you’ll have to measure out your plywood even more carefully (better luck next time!).

Cut out the plywood and fix it to the cross members with zinc-plated screws. These must be countersunk so that the screw-heads don’t scratch the slide-users.

Assembling and finishing

1 To assemble the slide, open out the climbing frame fully. Fit the platform on top and then fit the slide on to the frame. The top cross member of the slide fits snugly over the top rung of the rear ladder and you should end up with a firm and stable structure with no ‘movement’.

2 Plywood can give some very nasty splinters so make sure you carry out the following before you let your children use the slide: i glasspaper the entire structure, but particularly the plywood sliding area.

ii seal the plywood with three coats of polyurethane varnish, glasspapering thoroughly between each coat. This will, of course, also increase the slide’s slipperiness. However, it also means you should not leave it out in the rain unless you are prepared to sand it off and re-varnish it every year.

Cutting list

Rung 8 off 700 x 70 X 44mm (271/2 x 23/4 x 13/4 in) Timber

Forward stringer 2 off 385 x 70 x 44mm (541/2;. x 23/4- X 11/3 in) Timber

Rear stringer 2 off 3~2 x 70 x 44mm (54 x 23/4 x 13/4 in) Timber

Platform 2 off 610 x 95 x 22mm (24 x 33/4 x 7/8 in) Timber

2 off 318 x 70 x 44mm (121/2 X 23/4 x 13/4 in) Timber

Hand rail 2 off 622 x 44 X 44mm (241/2 X 13/4 X 13/4 in) Timber

Slide cross members 6 off 470 X 70 x 44mm (181/2 X 23/4 x 13/4 in) Timber

Slide side members 2 off 2100 x 95 x 35mm (823/4 x 3:3/4 x 13/8in) Timber

Slide surface 1 off 2032 x 400 x 9mm (80 x 153/4 x 3/8 in) Plywood


2 off Hinges

4 off 102mm (4in) X 6mm (1/4 in) coach bolts, washers and wing nuts

2 off 1525mm (60in) lengths of strong nylon cord

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