How to Make a Gymnastics Bar – The Horizontal Bar

Gymnastic apparatus costs money and needs to be housed, because it will not stand the weather. Gymnasiums are not always available for the average boy who likes exercise and who would like to learn the tricks on horizontal and parallel bars, horse and rings, which all young athletes are taught in regular gymnastic courses.
Any small crowd of boys—even two—having a few simple tools, a will to use them and the small amount of money required to buy the necessary wood, bolts and rope, can make a first class gymnasium. If trees are convenient, and some one can swing an axe, the money outlay will be almost nothing.

The following plans are for material purchased from a mill squared and cut to length. To substitute small, straight trees for the squared timbers requires but little changes in the plans.
Adjustable Horizontal Bar
Adjustable Horizontal Bar

The most important piece of apparatus in the gymnasium is the horizontal bar. Most gymnasiums have two: one adjustable bar for various exercises and a high bar for gymnastic work.

The outdoor gymnasium combines the two.

The material required is as follows:

  • 2 pieces of wood, 4 in. square by 9-1/2 ft. long;
  • 4 pieces, 2 by 4 in. by 2 ft. long;
  • 4 pieces, 1 by 7 in. by 6-1/2 ft. long;
  • 4 filler pieces, 3/4 by 3 in. by 3 ft. 9 in. long and 1 piece, 2-1/2 in. square by 5 ft. 7 in. long. This latter piece is for the bar and should be of well seasoned, straight-grained hickory.

It makes no difference what kind of wood is used for the other pieces, but it is best to use cedar for the heavy pieces that are set in the ground as it will take years for this wood to rot. Ordinary yellow pine will do very well.

The four 7-in. boards should be of some hard wood if possible such as oak, hickory, maple, chestnut or ash.

The other material necessary consists of:

  • 2 bolts, 1/2 in. in diameter and 7 in. long;
  • 16 screws, 3 in. long;
  • 4 heavy screw eyes with two 1/2-in. shanks;
  • 50 ft. of heavy galvanized wire: 80 ft. of 1/4-in. manila rope and 4 pulley blocks.
  • Four cleats are also required but these can be made of wood at home.

Draw a line on the four 7-in. boards along the side of each from end to end, 1-1/4-in. from one edge. Beginning at one end of each board make pencil dots on this line 5 in. apart for a distance of 3 ft. 4 in. Bore holes through the boards on these marks with a 9/15-in. bit.

Fasten two of these boards on each post with the 3-in. screws, as shown in the top view of the post Fig. 1, forming a channel of the edges in which the holes were bored.

Two of the filler pieces are fastened in each channel as shown, so as to make the space fit the squared end of the bar snugly. The ends of the boards with the holes should be flush with the top of the post. This will make each pair of holes in the 7-in. boards coincide, so the 1/2-in. bolt can be put through them and the squared end of the bar.

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Select a level place where the apparatus is to be placed and dig two holes 6 ft. apart, each 3 ft. deep and remove all loose dirt. The ends of the posts not covered with the boards are set in these holes on bricks or small stones. The channels formed by the boards must be set facing each other with the inner surfaces of the posts parallel and 5 ft. 8 in. apart. The holes around the posts are filled with earth and well tamped.

The hickory piece which is to form the bar should be planed, scraped and sandpapered until it is perfectly smooth and round except for 3 in. at each end. Bore a 9/16-in. hole through each square end 1-1/4 in. from the end. The bar may be fastened at any desired height by slipping the 1/2-in. bolts through the holes bored in both the bar and channel.

Each post must be well braced to keep it rigid while a person is swinging on the bar. Four anchors are placed in the ground at the corners of an imaginary rectangle 9 by 16 ft., in the center of which the posts stand as shown in Fig. 2. Each anchor is made of one 2-ft. piece of wood, around the center of which four strands of the heavy galvanized wire are twisted, then buried to a depth of 2 ft., the extending ends of the wires coming up to the surface at an angle.

The heavy screw eyes are turned into the posts at the top and lengths of ropes tied to each. These ropes or guys pass through the pulley blocks, which are fastened to the projecting ends of the anchor wire, and return to the posts where they are tied to cleats. Do not tighten the guy ropes without the bar in place, as to do so will strain the posts in the ground. Do not change the elevation of the bar without slacking up on the ropes. It takes but little pull on the guy ropes to make them taut, and once tightened the bar will be rigid.
How to Make a Gymnastics Bar - Ground Plan
Ground Plan

Oil the bar when it is finished and remove it during the winter. It is well to oil the wood occasionally during the summer and reverse the bar at times to prevent its becoming curved. The wood parts should be well painted to protect them from the weather.