The scene: Father’s day, my wife and son had gone to church. At home by myself, I was bored. My wife had decreed that I wasn’t to work on my boat until some things were done around the house; that sounds bad, she’d have let me get away with it on Father’s day… I think. Not wanting to scrape and paint the house’s windows, I decided to see what else was about that needed doing. We had discussed removing a bit of what was probably once white picket fence (the house was built in the 50’s afterall) and replacing it with a trellis for some as yet to be determined climbing plant. I did have a bunch of thin strips of wood leftover from building spars for the boat… I wonder if I could build a trellis from them???
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Hand saw for cutting strips to length
Thin strips of wood approx. 3/8-inch x 1/4-inch, size not critical – thin bamboo would work nicely
2 large plastic wire “zip” ties
16 small plastic wire “zip” ties – more if you screw up or break some
Step 2: Cut Wood to Length
Six pieces 6 feet long for uprights (not critical, if you want a 5 foot high trellis, cut ‘em at 5!)
One piece 36 inches long for the top crosspiece, again, not critical make it look right to your eye.
One piece ~28 inches long.
One piece ~18 inches long.
One piece ~12 inches long.
Step 3: Connect Uprights Together at Base
Begin assembly by laying the 6 uprights next to each other so their ends are flush. Using a large zip tie fasten them together approximately 2 inches up from the bottom and again approximately 8 inches up from the bottom. Tighten the zip tie with the pliers, snip off the excess with the wire cutters.
Step 4: Aesthetics
I made several of these trellises. On the first, I paid no attention to the zip tie angle or where the “latch” ended up. My wife came home and wanted the “latch” behind the uprights. She also asked how many I was building. “One” was my reply; “How about 6?” was hers. I decided on my own that angling the zip ties so they are symmetrical would be nice. So…when you attach the crosspieces, put them UNDER the uprights and put the “latch” above. When angling the zip ties, I chose up and toward the center. So, on the left side uprights the high point should be to the right and the low point to the left. On the right side uprights, the high point should be to the left and the low point to the right. Look at the pictures, 1000 words and all that…
Step 5: Top Cross Piece
Mark the 36 inch long top crosspiece where the 6 uprights will cross it. From each end mark in the following locations: 3-3/4 inches, 10 inches and 15-1/2 inches. Those aren’t perfectly, evenly spaced; if you want them perfect, do the math yourself.
Attach the top crosspiece to one of the outside uprights at the X inch mark using a small zip tie. Just eyeball the distance down from the top so it looks about even. Don’t pull it too tight, just enough to keep the pieces from sliding in relation to each other. Attach the crosspiece to the other outside upright. If the trellis tries to twist when you do this, clamp down the bottom end to your work surface (sawhorse in my case). Attach the other uprights to the top crosspiece at their respective marks.
Step 6: Attach Other Crosspieces
Measure perpendicular to the top crosspiece down 12-1/2 inches (or eyeball it, but I wanted the crosspieces parallel so I measured) and mark each outside upright. Hold the second, 28-inch crosspiece at those marks (UNDER the uprights!!! Screwed that up a few times…) and eyeball it centered (again, if you’re OCD, measure it). Zip tie it to all the uprights, minding aesthetics of course.
Repeat with the third, 18-inch crosspiece, 12-1/2 inches down from the second crosspiece.
Repeat with the fourth, 12-inch crosspiece, 12-1/2 inches down from the third crosspiece.
Step 7: Finishing Up
Pull all the zip ties tight (not too tight!) with the pliers and nip off the ends with the wire cutters.
Well, almost. I’m planning on spray-painting mine brown to match the house trim. Mine are Douglas fir so they’ll rot eventually (especially at the bottom where they touch dirt). Cedar would work nicely. It wouldn’t require finishing and wouldn’t rot!
For placement, I’m planning on driving a stake into the ground a few feet with a foot or so protruding (so a 3 foot stake). Then I’ll zip tie the arbor to the stake.