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News Link owner's lawn gliders built to last
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News Link owner's lawn gliders built to last

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When he found out one of the lawn swings he’d built from recycled plastic milk jugs had survived Tropical Storm Debby, Pete Ringsmuth took it as an affirmation.

He’d always said the lawn gliders were built to last, so he wasn’t the least bit surprised when he heard that the one he’d delivered to David City, Fla., in May had emerged fully intact from the 60 mph winds and torrents of rain that pummeled much of the state a month later.

It wasn’t just any old swing, after all. If it was, he says, it wouldn’t have been delivered on special order from Lincoln.

For the 58-year-old native of Minnesota, the old-fashioned swings represent a small taste of the past, what he calls a return to sanity. They can be a sanctuary for face-to-face conversation, a center for relaxation, a setting “where candor can be had.”

But above all, he said, they’re just plain fun.

The owner of Lincoln-based News Link, a business publisher of newsletters and other materials, only recently started conducting business meetings on the glider that sits outside his office. And on the swing that sits beside his house, he’s instituted a single rule: no texting allowed. Technology takes away from the experience, he says.

“It is so conducive to visiting,” he said. “People would never get together and talk, but you sit on one of these lawn glider swings, and before you know it, an hour can go by and you wouldn’t even know it.”

Ringsmuth started building the swings in 2004 -- back then, out of wood. He modeled them after the wooden lawn glider his cousins had set up on their central Minnesota acreage in the 1960s. That’s where he remembered gliding back and forth for hours on end as a kid.

“I just loved it,” he said.

But for Ringsmuth, attempting to recreate those memories initially wasn’t so pleasant.

The first replica took him 40 hours to build.   Process and design modifications along the way left each subsequent one looking a little bit different from its predecessor.

“The first one was the most challenging thing I’ve ever made,” he said.

But now, he has it down almost to a science.

He’ll start building his 19th soon — he’s made five since March — and he says it’ll take him 16, maybe 17 hours to build it. The sanding, the sawing, the drilling, the welding — they’re all second nature to him now. It took him years of trial and error.

“I don’t think the average person could make one,” he said. “There’s too much to it. But I would invite anybody to try.”

The DIY builder of 20 years started building the swings out of recycled milk-jug lumber a few years ago, when, he said, he'd been looking for a material that'd be longer lasting and easier to maintain.

The material he uses now might be just as rare as the lawn gliders themselves.

Minnesota-based Bedford Technology specializes in creating the type of plastic lumber Ringsmuth uses. On its website, the company claims that it takes approximately eight one-gallon milk containers to make one pound of the material.

Each of the gliders, it's worth noting, weighs nearly 500 pounds. The structure's legs weigh nearly 60 pounds apiece.

For Ringsmuth, though, discovering what he calls the "newfangled" material -- the stuff that converts 4,000 milk jugs into a single one of his old-fashioned swings -- made the building process easier.

The only downside of it all was that the plastic was more expensive. Abandoning natural lumber as the base material nearly tripled the cost of building a lawn glider.

Considering the minimum $1,000 he has to invest in building each swing, Ringsmuth says, the $1,499 he charges for each one is a fairly reasonable price -- especially, he adds, when considering the labor that goes into building a product of their quality.    

Each swing is said to last 20 years, plus, they require virtually no maintenance.

He has only recently begun selling the lawn gliders. Before, he gave them away to friends, family members, neighbors — anybody who would ask. Each one ended up serving as a lawn centerpiece for its owner, he said, and it almost always inspired curiosity from passersby.

Norma and Don Chvatal said drivers sometimes stop by their Malmo home to ask about the swing Ringsmuth gave to them a while back.

“There’s a lot of people driving by that see it,” she said. “It’s a nice swing, and people always comment on how nice it looks.”

For Ringsmuth, in spite of the cost and labor that goes into building them, there’s a quality that accompanies the swings that’s almost priceless.

“It’s impossible to argue on a lawn glider swing,” he said. “You can only make friends.”

Reach Faiz Siddiqui at 402-473-7239 or fsiddiqui@journalstar.com.

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