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Let me start off by saying I am a complete and total newb when it comes to wood work, so any advise is super helpful.

Okay, so I purchased a swing set that you assemble yourself. I started to put it together and I'm already stuck on like the fourth step. The instructions had me put together two sides of a structure, and now I have to put the two structures together. The beams connecting to the two sides are near impossible to square. I'm assembling this on grass ... as I don't have much else to do it on. Whenever I get one side square the other side isn't square, and so on. The ground is hella-unlevel, so I'm not surprised I'm having issues.

Does anyone have any tips or recommendations on how I can make the structure square? I have a square tool but all I know to do with it is check if something is square.

I was thinking maybe I could purchase some L brackets that are guaranteed to be a 90° angle, and use that to attach the beams to the structure at the proper height. But they are expensive and I don't want to end up buying them only to have them not be the best idea. Though, looking at the instructions right now, I don't think there would be anyway to make that work given that there's no inside joint to bind to.

I've attached a photo of the step I'm stuck on and highlighted the beams that aren't square with a green arrow.

I really want to get this thing done for my son, so any help is really really appreciated.

Thank you!

enter image description here

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  • Is the lawn just bumpy? Or is the site genuinely un-level/ on a grade? Where will this ultimately be set up? Do the instructions say anything about a level site? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 21 '20 at 16:31
  • If you can find flat surface like a driveway or make a flat surface like some plywood you should be able to get all the pieces to line up for assembling. – Alaska Man Aug 22 '20 at 17:19
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If the issue is a flat place to put it, see Kyle B's answer.

If the issue is squaring the individual parts into one of these frames, cast your mind back to geometry, and make the diagonals equal length (i.e. get the screws into a section but not completely tight. Measure the diagonals and nudge the frame until they are equal, then tighten the screws, and check the diagonals again just in case.) This is typically much more accurate than using a square, though you can certainly use a square in the same manner (assemble loosely, nudge to square, tighten) and that may be close enough for this purpose.

Edit to add: Putting in one screw, adjusting the diagonals, and only THEN putting in the rest of the screws will work better if you are not using pre-drilled pilot holes for the screws. I was assuming that this being a kit it has predrilled holes, which should be close enough that having them all in but a bit loose should allow adjustment to square.

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  • Your edit is what I basically ended up doing. I just took it slow and adjusted everything to be square to the vertical beams. Adjusting continually until it was all square. I’d love to accept everyone’s answer, they were all great. Thank you! – Kyle Aug 25 '20 at 5:03
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Big clamps are hugely helpful in situations like these.

https://www.harborfreight.com/60-in-aluminum-f-style-bar-clamp-60673.html

And 90 degree clamps too...

https://www.harborfreight.com/corner-clamp-with-quick-release-38661.html

You should work on the ground first. Yes that means digging down a fair amount and laying sand or whatever. You want this setup on a level surface or it'll never be level in the future and drive you nuts every time you look at it. Don't get ahead of yourself. Just like anything else in life, you need a solid foundation firstly.

If you decide to go the L-bracket route, I suggest you get stainless brackets and grind the sharp edges down for safety (super quick on a grinding wheel, but can also be done with a flat file and some elbow grease). Match with stainless screws. These things are not expensive on Amazon or Ebay. Most L-brackets sold in hardware stores are for indoor use and have little to no rust protection. Unless you don't care if it looks like cr*p in a few years.

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    Yup - fix the unlevel ground and it all gets much easier. Also, it will be dangerously unstable if the ground it's on is not leveled. And we don't want it falling over and hurting your son, Kyle... – Ecnerwal Aug 21 '20 at 11:38
  • What if the OP places the structure "on it's back" and shims or otherwise blocks up the planks to create a level reference? – fred_dot_u Aug 21 '20 at 14:42
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In my opinion, you can do this without any additional tools/clamps or L-brackets.

You do want level-ish ground at the end to stand the structure on, but you don’t need level ground to make it square. Ecnerwal’s answer gets at the heart of the issue, and this is how I would do it.

Lay the two frames down on their sides, and prop them with something so they stand upright (or ask someone else to help hold them). This way, gravity holds the connecting beams in place, you can screw downward, and it’s much easier than trying to install while vertical. If the “wings” on Frame A are already installed, then you might have to just do it vertically.

Measure from the bottom of each frame and make a mark on each frame where the connecting beam should be mounted. This will get you pretty close to having it level. Then hold your connecting beam on the mark on one frame, and use your square tool to make sure the beam is square to the frame. Drive one screw in to hold it temporarily and still allow it to pivot. Do the same for the other end of the beam on the other frame.

Repeat this process for the second beam, and then measure the diagonals as Ecnerwal said. For it to feel square, you probably want your diagonals to be within 1/8” of each other. Since you only have 4 screws in total (one on each end of your 2 beams), you can nudge it a little until your diagonals are perfect. Then drive the rest of your screws to lock it in place.

Flip the whole thing over and repeat the process on the other side!

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