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Rube Stump

Calhoun County’s King of Swing

By Kim Johnson

Rube Stump
Rube Stump with one of 157 porch swings he built on his family’s Calhoun County farm. Photograph by Michael Keller.


Eighty-year-old Rubert “Rube” Stump of Apple Farm, Calhoun County, led an active and varied life. Born in 1925, he grew up during the hard times of the Depression years, was a Navy pilot in the Pacific during World War II, and kept his pilot’s license current. He had a Ford-Mercury dealership in Glenville for almost 20 years, and remained keenly interested in preserving and restoring antique cars through to the end of his life. For years, Rube grew and sold Christmas trees. During his retirement years, he taught himself to build porch swings.

“I don’t use any plans or blueprints when I build the swings,” he said during a recent visit to his workshop. “I make up all the designs myself. When I first started building swings, I could see where improvements could be made here and there. Then I’d put those ideas to use on the next swing. Now all the swings I make have built-in magazine racks on the back and cup holders in the armrests. One of the things I’ve learned through experience is to drill a little hole in the bottom of the cup holder, so that any moisture accumulating there can drain out.”

Rube was very inventive and original when it came to building his swings. They are all well-crafted, and each one is a little different from all the others.

“Each swing takes from 40 to 75 hours to build,” he said, “depending on the size or the amount of decoration involved. Sometimes, people want a little fancier decoration for their swing, which makes each of them unique. The plainer swings don’t take as much time to make. I usually make them from poplar and paint them white with two coats of good oil-based enamel.

“I’ve never made a swing from maple,” he added. “When it’s dried, maple is an extremely hard wood. One time, I ran some maple through a planer, and I could see sparks flying off the planer blades. I don’t like to work with maple, gum, or persimmon, because they’re all such hard woods. Hickory is almost as bad, but not quite so much as the others.”


Most of Rube’s swings are made from either red oak or walnut. They are stained and sealed with polyurethane, and sell from about $245 to upwards of $600. Rube was always thinking of ways to make his swings better or maybe just a little different than before. He recently came up with the idea of making what he called a combination swing.

“I made the first combination using black walnut and red oak,” he said. “I’m also building a mini-swing that’s only 48-inches wide that can be used on the smaller porches being built on some of the newer homes.

“My standard swing measures 52 to 58 inches. The queen size is 62 to 68 inches, and the king size is 72 to 78 inches. I’ve also made one super-king size that is 84-inches wide, but I don’t plan on making many more as big as that one. Swings of that size are heavy and hard for me to work with.”

Some people prefer to have their swing out in the yard instead of on the porch, and Rube devised a special design for those. “I make an A-frame for yard swings about 10-feet high. The higher you can get the chains, the longer glide you get from the swing. I go to junkyards to get springs from inside the hoods of old pick-up trucks to use at the top of the chains,” he said. “There is a manufactured spring for swings, but I’ve found them to be a little stiff. I like the truck springs because they make a softer, springier seat. There used to be a junkyard at Sand Fork that I kept stripped of all their springs.”

Over the past 25 years, Rube constructed many different items from wood, including fold-up stools, gun cabinets, and corner cupboards.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.