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Garden Gate in an Afternoon With Zero Metal Fasteners

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This is a simple gate design that's strong, light and fun to build. It should be do-able in an afternoon, but requires a small amount of joinery. If, like me, you're pretty handy, but interested in building your woodworking skills, then this is perfect for you. This would also make a good teaching project!


I usually start with an abstract concept, and develop the design - sketch, think, repeat. Usually, only the core concept lasts all the way through to the final version. This particular design is flexible. You can easily modify the pattern to suit the width and height you will need. I have attached a sketchup file of my gate. Feel free to use this exact file, or modify it to suit your needs.

Since this was a weekend project, I didn't want to spend a lot of time preparing lumber. So, as I developed the design based on pieces of hardwood that I new were available at my local home improvement store. I made allowances in the design to tolerate the probable warping or inconsistent dimensions of their lumber.

Note: spend a good deal of time selecting your lumber. You want to look for straight even grains in hardwood. Also, it helps to look with one eye down the length of the board to detect and warping.

For this project, I purchased the following lumber:

  • (2x) 0.75" x 3.5" 6' Poplar Boards
  • (1x) 0.75" x 1.5" 6' Poplar Boards
  • (8x) 0.75" x 6' DIA Poplar Rounds
  • (3x) 1.75" x 1.75" x 3' Poplar Boards
  • (1x) 0.5" x 3' DIA Walnut Dowel (oak will do just fine)
Note: a commenter has pointed out that poplar isn't the best choice for an outdoor setting. He recommends white oak, among other species. See comments for more information.

I recommend that you have the following tools available:

  • 0.75" and 0.50" DIA forstner bits (Regular drill bit will do in a pinch) need one?
  • Drill Press (If you try to use a handheld drill, you're gonna have a bad time)
  • Medium Chisel (keep it sharp!) need one?
  • Mallet or Dead Blow Hammer
  • Japanese Saw (If you've never tried one of these, you're missing out.) need one?
  • 220 Grit sandpaper

A note on sealing/finishing: Normally, I use a molten mixture of beeswax and mineral oil. However, due to the outdoor exposure of this gate, I'll be using a simple low-voc oil based clear finish. Use whatever you like.

 
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anarnold (author) 8 months ago

I forgot to mention the reason I wanted to avoid metal fasteners or even glue! Basically, its so that the gate will age gracefully.

With temperature and moisture fluctuations over the years, the wood pieces will expand and contract. a metal faster could rust or cause splitting, and glue may lead to the buildup of stress within the gate as it naturally expands and contracts, which could case warping.

Also, just because. =)

chuckyd anarnold8 months ago

Zero may be an inaccurate quantity, for I do see metal hinges and bolts.

Actually, glue and metal are no worse than wood fasteners. Proper application and proper materials work wonders.

As far as aging gracefully, poplar is not known for that. It will be gray for a couple of years, and then move right on to rot. White oak, cypress, redwood, and locust are naturally resistant to most rot-causing organisms, and would have been a better choice.

anarnold (author)  chuckyd8 months ago

thanks for the feedback, sir. I did use metal hardware to hang the gate, but there is no metal used in the gate itself. None of the wood hinge details I could think of would be slender enough to look right with this gate, any suggestions?

With respect to the species, you are right. I'll be making about 6 more of these gates this summer, and this first one was more of a proof of concept. I think I'll take your advice and use oak for those. I actually would have preferred oak, but oak the lumber available when i went shopping was total garbage. I'm adding a not to the instructable in light of your recommendations, although I stand by the choice to go all-wood.

Thanks again!

makendo8 months ago

Great work. Love the metal- and glue-free joinery.

spylock8 months ago

Really nice job.

jhawkins148 months ago
anarnold. Great job. This looks very nice
pop888 months ago
great work
anarnold (author) 8 months ago

Thanks, guys. @Makendo, I was seriously impressed by your bookcase, I had always fantasized about a bookcase door, but had never thought to use a track like that!

Beautiful!