How to Make a Wooden Gate




Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Gate

About: 30 something Carpenter/Joiner from North Wales, UK. I love the smell of sawdust in the morning!

I'm going to show you how to make a simple, yet long lasting wooden gate. This step by step guide assumes you have a basic knowledge of Joinery/Carpentry, have access to some hand/power tools and have some kind of workshop to put the gate together in - I have tried to keep everything as basic as I can, if you've got any questions then please ask them in the comments below! :)

The gate I'm going to show you how to make is a through, wedged, morticed and tenon jointed gate, with a  flat top gate (with protruding joggles - the pointy bits on the top corners). The gate shown is open boarded (you can see through it) and is 915mm high to the top of the joggles (850mm to the top of the top rail) and 750mm wide x 70mm thick.

If you decide that you'd rather a flat top gate then you will have to adapt the joints used in this guide as you will have to use a haunched morticed and tenon joint with wedges rather than the through, wedged morticed and tenon I am using here. You can read more on the differences between the two joints here

If you've got any questions or comments about anything I've said here then please leave them in the comments section below and I'm more than happy to explain anything in more detail if required. :-)

Tools required

Tools required will vary depending on what equipment you have in your workshops. The list below is the most basic kit list.

Hand tools
Tenon saw,
Hammer (or mallet),
Chisels 10mm, 25mm
Mortice chisel approx 15mm,
Mortice gauge,
Tape measure,
Sash cramps,
Bench hook,
G cramp (or similar cramp),

Power tools
Mitre saw,
Router (with half round bit and rebating bit - approx 10mm to 15mm)
Belt sander
Orbital sander,

I'll also be using a Planer/Thicknesser and Circular Saw as I'm starting with rough sawn timber.

Materials -

The next step assumes you are starting with rough sawn timber, if you've already got nice smooth planed all round timber (PAR) then please skip the next step and go to step three.

Step 1: Cutting List & Smooth Planning the Timber

I am starting off with rough sawn timber, this will first need to be cut to size, ripped down and planed etc. If you've purchased PAR (planed all round timber then you can skip this step).

As I am working with rough sawn timber I've added 50mm in length to all the sizes below, and an extra 5mm in width and thickness.

Rough sawn cutting list
Stiles (Vertical uprights) - 2 at 960mm long x 75mm wide x 75mm thick
Head/Toprail - 1 at 800mm long x 75mm wide x 75mm thick
Bottom rail - 1 at 800mm long x 75mm wide x 52mm thick
Open boarding - 7 at 850mm long x 75mm wide x 20mm thick
Diagonal brace - 1 at 950mm long x 75mm wide x 30mm thick

Cut everything to the lengths listed above, and if applicable rip to the widths and thicknesses again shown above.

Move on to your surface planer and plane a face and edge onto the timbers, making sure these are square (check with a square).

Once you've surfaced planed everything, put them through a thicknesser to smooth plane the remaining sides. Plane these to the desired sizes below.

Finished planed sizes as below -
Stiles - 70mm x 70mm
Head - 70mm x 70mm
Rail - 70mm x 48mm
Open boarding - 70mm x 15mm
Diagonal brace - 70mm x 25mm

Once this has been done you can move onto marking out.

Step 2: Marking Out

The next job is to mark the stiles of the gate up, we're going to use a through wedged morticed and tenon joint - so we need to mark the positions of the mortices on the gates.

First off mark a face and edge on both gate stiles, the face marks will indicate the front of the gate from now on and the edge marks will indicate the inner side of the gate.

When marking the face aim to keep any bows in the timber on the same sides between components, this makes for a more stable gate when complete.

We're going to put a square cut end on the bottom of the stiles, so just skim the end of with a mitre saw.

Next up using a G cramp (or similar) cramp the two stiles together, making sure bottom of the two stiles are flush with each other and that the edge marks (the inside of the gate) are facing up towards you. In the picture showing the cramped up timber the cramp is also in contact with each of the faces of the timber (i.e. the two faces are facing away from each other).

Mark the mortices out

1 Using a tape measure or rule, measure up from the bottom of the gate stiles 150mm - this will be the position of the bottom rail (to the underside of the rail) and square this line across the the edges of the two stiles.

2 Now mark up from the bottom of the gate 220mm and square this measurement across the two inner edges of the gate - this is the height to the top of the bottom rail.

3 From the bottom of the gate stiles measure out 780mm and square this line across the two stiles (this is the measurement to the underside of the top rail)

4 Again from the bottom of the stiles measure out 850mm - this is the distance from the bottom of the gate to the top of the top rail.

5 Again using a rule (or tape measure), mark a line at 870mm from the bottom of the gate and square this across both stiles - this will be the start height for the horns/joggles (we don't start these immediately above the top rail as we would have to use a different mortice and tenon joint).

6 Now transfer all the lines for the mortices right the way round to they are on the opposite side of the edge mark.

7 From the bottom of the gate mark a line 915mm from the bottom of the gate, this should be on the outer edge of the gate (this will give you the maximum height of the gate to the top of the horns/joggles). You now need to join the two lines for the joggles up, you can use something like the end of a paint tin to do this (make sure it's not distorted as you want a nice curve to enable water to run off - if you've a few joggles to mark then it can be worthwhile to make a template to do this, as a one off just make do!).

8 Un-cramp the two gate stiles.

9 Grab a mortice gauge and set the distance up between the two spurs to 15mm (I'm using a 15mm tenon - adjust to your requirements - you can use the mortice chisel as a guide to set up the gauge, I prefer to measure it out) and then set up a distance of 25mm from the stock of the mortice gauge to the first spur and tighten the screw/ thumbscrew so nothing can move. (If you're not sure what I'm referring to then the stock is the part of the gauge that acts as the fence and runs along the timber - if you don't follow what I mean then check out the following page from the Technology Student about Marking Gauges ).

10 Now from the rear of the stiles (opposite the face side), press the stock of your mortice gauge against the timber and and push it along the timber between the two lines (for each mortice) that you marked out earlier. You would normally do all the marking out from the face-side of the stiles, but in this instance the mortice and tenon are off set to the rear of the gate and the bottom rail is not a full thickness rail (it's only 48mm thick and the rest of the gate frame is 70mm thick).

11 Once you've marked the mortices out with the gauge leave it set up - we'll need it again very shortly!

12 The final part of marking the gate stiles out is to mark the joggles out (the pointy bits!). To start with mark and square across a line 20mm above the top of the top mortice on the inside edge of what will be the gate stile.

13 Mark another line, this time on the outside edge (on the opposite edge from where you've marked the first joggle line). This line wants to be 65mm above the top of the top mortice. Again square this line across to the outer edge.

14 Join these two joggles lines up, use something with a curve on like a paint tin or similar

15 Cut the joggles using a bandsaw, if you don't have a bandsaw then a jigsaw will do!

16 Once the joggles have been cut give then a quick sand to tidy them up. For this I would tend to use a belt sander, an orbital sand will suffice though it may take a bit longer doing it this way.

Rails of the gate

Before marking out the tenons on the rails of the gates, we need to first cut them to length.

1 Put a square cut on one end of the top rail (as before just skim the edge off with a mitre saw) then cut this rail to 750mm long.

2 Repeat the process for the bottom rail.

3 On the face side of the rails mark a line 70mm in from each end - this will become the shoulder line for the tenons. Mark these lines right the way around the gates.

4 Grab your mortice gauge and from the rear of the rails (opposite the face side), run the gauge from the shoulder lines to the end of the timber and down the endgrain - do this on all the rails.

That is it for the time being on marking out as we're going to move onto cutting the mortices.

Step 3: Cutting the Mortice

Cutting the mortices is probably the hardest part of the job, having said that it's not that hard more time consuming. As well as giving instructions for cutting the mortices by hand I've also linked out to a couple of places where you can get different techniques for cutting the mortices.

Cutting the mortices

1 Lie the stile down so that the edge (inner edge) is facing up. Make sure you're using a sturdy bench for this as you will have to use some force!

2 Using a normal chisel (bevel edged or firmer chisel - it doesn't matter) and a mallet or hammer score around the lines that form the edge of the mortice - this stops any breakout and splitting.

3 Using a mortice chisel, starting nibbling away at the centre of the mortice - you will need to apply a bit of force onto your chisel to do this, so again use a hammer. When chopping out the mortice you want to aim to go just over halfway through the timber - so aim for about 40/45mm down. This is time consuming as I've said, but take your time and don't rush anything and make a mistake!

4 Once you're over halfway through, turn the stile over and repeat the process until you're right the way through the timber.

5 Now you've cut the main part of the mortice we need to cut the wedge space. Set the stiles up on your workbench so that the outside edge is facing up wards.

6 We're going to mark out the wedge space, there is no need to cramp the two stiles together - though you can do if you wish. For each mortice that you've cut mark one line 5mm below and 5mm above. This is now going to be cut out with a chisel at an angle.

7 The angle we will be using for this is approx 5 degrees, if you need some guidance on this set up a mitre saw to 5 degrees cut a piece of timber and you've an instant guide to the angle required.

8 Cut down on each side of the mortice with your mortice chisel - you'll need to do this on very mortice.

You can see this demonstrated over on Paul Sellers' Youtube channel here , he is not going right the way through the timber but otherwise the principles are still the same. You can also drill out the mortice and then tidy it up with a chisel, you can see more on this over at Woodworkers Guild How to make mortices using a drill press , unlike the video you will need to make the ends of the mortice square rather than leaving them round - again this can be done later with a chisel.

Step 4: Cutting the Tenons

Compared to cutting the mortices, the tenons should present no real problems and should be a breeze as long as you've marked everything out correctly.

Before marking out the tenons on the rails of the gates, we need to first cut them to length.

Cutting & marking the tenons out

1 Put a square cut on one end of the top rail (as before just skim the edge off with a mitre saw) then cut this rail to 750mm long.

2 Repeat the process for the bottom rail.

3 Grab your rule/tape measure and mark a line 70mm from each end of both the top rail and bottom rail - and square this line right the way around each rail.

4 Grab your mortice gauge and from the rear of each rail, run the gauge from the shoulder lines to the end of the timber and down the endgrain and back along until you reach the other shoulder line - do this on all the rails and at each end.

5 Now cut the shoulders of the tenons using a tenon saw, only go as far as the marks that the gauge has left. Take your time doing this, precision is more important than speed! If you've a bench hook then it will make things a bit easier, if not don't panic. Cut the shoulders on all then tenons.

6 With the shoulders cut, we now need to cut the cheeks of the tenons. Place one rail at a time in a vice, with the end you are working on at a suitable height for yourself and begin to follow the line the gauge has made with your tenon saw. As with cutting the shoulders before, take your time and don't rush anything. An alternative method of cutting the cheeks is to use a bandsaw if you have one. Repeat this process until you have your tenons complete.

7 Try the tenons in the mortices, if anything is a bit tight then you can either pair any tight fitting areas of the mortice with a chisel or lightly sand the tenons in any areas that are tight.

8 The mortices are cut as are the tenons! The good news is the hardest part is over! We just need to cut two wedges for every tenon we have now, so that is 8 wedges but cut a few extra to be on the safe side!

9 You'll need a piece of timber the same thickness as the tenon for this part, the timber will also need to be the same material as the rest of the gates as well.

10 Cut the wedge timber in length to 100mm, make sure the grain is running the 130mm way as it will give the wedges strength

11 As we're cutting wedges all the time for tenons etc we tend to use a jig on a bandsaw to cut them. If your just making the one gate it is probably a bit over the top to create a jig just for this. So just cut them freehand on a bandsaw (if you've not got a bandsaw then it's a tenon saw job!). Wedges want to start off at around 20mm thick and taper down to around 2mm or so.

Tenons cut!

Step 5: A Spot of Machining If You Please!

Groovy baby!

So you've cut the mortice and tenons in the last step so you're all set to glue the framework up....Just wait a cotton picking second (always wanted to say that lol). Before we glue the framework of the gate up we've got a spot of machining to do, rest assured you've got this far this bit is easy.

First off we're going to need a router with a rebate cutter, ideally this cutter wants to be the same size as the thickness of the boarding (15mm) but if you've only got a smaller cutter then it can be done in a couple of passes. Also the router bit must give you a depth of cut of approx 12mm - this is not to critical so don't worry if you're bit is only 10mm or so.

What we are going to do is run a groove in the underside of the head/top rail of the gate, this is so the boarding sits within the rail - it gives it more protection than sitting in an open rebated, more protection from the weather etc. The groove wants to be stepped back from the face of the head/top rail by 22mm (see picture). Once you've got your router set up, run it in a piece of scrap to check the distance into the timber you're routering,

You can do this either free hand with a normal router (clamp your work down!) or use a table router if you prefer.

Carnegie if you please!

Once you got groovy with the router the final step in machining involves a surface planer. Now if you've not got a surface planer then you can skip this step but it is worth doing to give your gates a little bit of a longer lifespan (especially if you live somewhere wet!).

What we are going to do here is run a couple of Carnegie mouldings on the top rail/head and one Carnegie moulding on the bottom rail -  if you're not familiar with a Carnegie moulding then it's just a 9 degree angle that acts as a water run off (these are commonly found on timber window cills/sills).

The easiest way to set your planer up is to first cut a piece of timber on a mitre saw to 9 degrees. With this piece of timber sit it on the bed of your planer and adjust the fence so you've got a 9 degree angle that matches the timber.

Set your planer up so it's taking  about 2-3mm off and run the head/top rail through over the planer with the top of the top rail facing down - this will be going through the planer twice, once with the face against the fence and once with the rear of the top rail against the fence - this then gives a nice saddleback moulding.

The bottom rail is the final piece to go through, this goes over the top of the planer with the top of the rail facing down and most importantly the rear of the rail against the fence of the planer - this just goes through the once.

Once you've done all of the above give the inside edges of all rails and stiles a quick sand to remove any machine marks and any pencil lines.

Step 6: You've Been Framed

It's a fairly straight forward gate to glue together but its always worth cramping it up dry with no glue, just to check everything is fine and dandy!

Once together dry, give it a quick check for square - if not adjust if for square then when you are happy you can take it apart ready for gluing.

Gluing up the gate frame

1 Get yourself some waterproof glue (not water resistant), I'm old school and using Cascamite (a traditional boat building glue) but you can use whatever you prefer.

2 Lay one gate stile down on your bench / or the floor floor with the inside edge facing upwards.

3 Now on each rail, apply glue to the tenons - all the way around and do not forget the shoulders. You want a lot of glue on these so that as the gate is cramped up the glue will ooze (I love that word!) out. It will be messy, but it is the glue that oozes out of the joint that makes for a water tight, solid joint.

4 Locate the glued up tenons into the correct mortice, at this stage it's fairly straight forward but make sure all the face's on the timber are aligned correctly with each other and just double check that you have the top of the rails correctly aligned up with the positions of the stiles. Do this for both rails.

5 When both rails are correctly in place, put the remaining gate stile on. Don't worry yet whether the joints are all tightly closed or not yet.

6 Lie the gate down on a bench (sit it on bench bearers) with the face/front of the gate facing up.

7 Get two sash clamps, place one at the top of the gate just below the top rail. Place the second sash clamp at the bottom of the gate, just above the bottom rail. Try and keep the clamps aligned so that they are near enough square with the gate stiles and tighten both clamps.

8 We're now going to put the top rail/head of the gate into the correct position - this then gives us something to check for square off. We need to position this rail into place using the lines we originally marked onto the gates stiles when we marked the mortices out.

If the top rail/head needs to move up slide in a glued up wedge below the tenon and tap gently up until it's in the correct position.

If the top rail/head needs to move down then slide in a glued up wedge above the tenon and tap gently until it's in the correct position.

Repeat this on the other side of the gate.

9 With the top rail in place we need to check the gate for square. We do this by using a square stick - it's just a scrap stick with a point on the end, nothing technical. Using a stick gives a more accurate measurement than actually measuring the distance with a rule or tape measure.

Position the stick at the point where the top rail meets the stiles (the pointed end allows the stick to get right into the corner) and run the stick diagonally down to the bottom of the opposite gate stile.
Now mark a line on the stick with a pencil.

Next place the stick in the opposite top corner and run the stick down to the bottom of the other gate stile.
If this distance is the same distance as your first measure then your gate is square.

If not then you need to make the distances the same - you can do this by loosening the sash cramps off and moving them at an angle to correspond to the longest side of the gate - this will then shorten the longest diagonal measurement. This is a bit trial and error until you get it right, just do it a bit at a time until you've got the diagonal measurement correct.

10 If the gate is square then glue up all remaining wedges and insert them into the empty wedge spaces.

11 Tap home the wedges in the top rail, you'll still need to drive home the original wedges you put in to position this rail. So as you drive all these wedges in, keep an eye on the rail and make sure it doesn't move from the position it was placed in.

12 Move onto the bottom rail of the gate and drive the wedges in below this rail all the way home.

13 Again on the bottom rail, drive the wedges all the way home above the bottom rail

14 Loosed all the sash cramps but don't remove just yet, we may need them in a second.

15 With all the wedges in and the cramps loose, double check for square on both sides. It can sometimes move a bit as the wedges are being driven in. If it has moved correct with sash cramps!

16 Once it is square clean up the excess glue using a wet cloth and keep rising the cloth out. Concentrate on the inside of the gate first then move onto cleaning the outer parts.

17 Before we leave the gate to dry we just need one final check - make sure it is not twisted. Stand the gate up and look down, we now line the top rail up by eye with the bottom rail. If one rail appear to skew off from the other rail then the gate is twisted and needs correcting.

To do this it's simply a case of twisting the gate into the correct position - it can be a help to have an extra pair of hands to do this

18 It's just a case of standing the gate up now and leaving to dry - in my case it's twenty four hours drying time, this will be dependent on your glue.

Step 7: Adding the Boarding and Diagonal Brace

Once the glue is dry we can carry on with the rest of the gate.

First off, cut off all the ends of protruding wedges, just use a hand saw for this - it will only take a couple of seconds.

Boarding the gate

1 Lie the gate down on your bench face up, as before place it on two bearers (one top, one bottom).

2 Take one board, push it all the way into the top groove and pull it so it is hard against the gate stile.

Now mark the length the board needs to be off the bottom of the gate stile. I tend to keep the board up above the bottom of the gate stile slightly say 1-2mm.

Cut all boards to this length.

3 Place all boards into gate and pull them all towards one side of the gate, against the gate stile. Make sure they are tight with no spaces between either each board or the last board and the gate stile.

4 Measure the distance gap between the edge of the last board and the gate stile. This gives me a measurement of 194mm.

We have six boards for the gate so this will give us seven gaps in total between the boards, so we divide the 194mm by 7 which gives us 27.71mm which I am rounding up to 28mm.

5 We now need to cut a few spacers/packers so the boards are correctly spaced out whilst we fix them.

Just use a scrap piece of timber with a planed edge for this and rip it down to 28mm.

We then cut this timber down to lengths 70mm or so to give us several packers to use.

6 Now place a packer on the bottom rail against the stile and a packer against the stile and top rail.

Stick some glue on the top edge of the board (where it will go into the top rail) and also stick some glue on the bottom rail where the first board will sit.

Position board within top groove and against both the top and bottom packer and secure in place. I'm using a nail gun for this, you can if you prefer use screws.

When you fix the boards in we work from both sides of the gate. So once the first board is in place do the next board before repeating the process from the other side of the gate.

7 Put the last two boards into place (remember the glue!) using the packers from both sides. In some cases you may have to remove the packers if you've cut them too big and manually spread the boards so everything looks right.

8 Fill any nails holes and leave the filler to dry.

9 Once the boards are all fixed in place, turn the gate over and remove any glue that has leaked out. Just use a damp cloth for this.

Fitting the diagonal brace

The diagonal brace is the last thing to be fitted. The position of this depends on which side of the gate you intend to fit the hinges to - the brace should always point down to the bottom hinge.

The brace is present to spread the weight of the gate down to the bottom hinge, this then prevents the gate from sagging.

1 Place the gate on your bench, with the rear side of the gate facing up.

2 On a gate this size the brace will just run corner to corner (It shouldn't be fitted at an angle less than 45 degrees as it becomes useless!)

Grab your brace and sit the brace on the gate pointing down to where you intend the bottom hinge to be. It wants to be sitting on the intersection of the top rail and stiles and at the other end the intersection of the bottom rail and stile (In both cases all of the brace wants to be sitting on the rails - it doesn't want to sit on the stile at all)

3 Using the top secret special brace marker and a square, place the marker against the underside of the top rail and place your square behind to ensure the marker is sitting true - and mark a line that corresponds with the underside of the top rail.

4 Brace marker and square, this time on the bottom rail - but this time mark the top edge of the bottom rail with your pencil

5 Cut the brace using either a bandsaw, mitre saw or the old fashioned way by hand.

6 Try the brace within the gate for size, you should as well mark the position of the brace within the gate so you know where to place the glue later.

7 If brace fits then remove and give it a sanding. If the brace doesn't fit very well then get it to fit - a quick way of doing this is to use a belt sander on the end of the brace, mind your fingers though.

8 Apply glue to the area that the brace will be positioned in and put brace into place.

9 Pre-drill a couple of holes for screws, in a gate this size two is more than enough.

10 Screw brace up and remove any excess glue from the rear of the gate. Then turn gate over and check for any excess glue leaking out on the font side of the gate.

The gate construction is all done and all that is left is to give the gate a smooth finish by sanding it - this is in the next step!

Step 8: Give It a Good Sanding!

We're nearly there now, we've just got a couple of things to do.

Belt sanding

Firstly we're going to give the gate a rough sanding with a belt sander. For this I'm just using an 80 grit belt.

Basically we're just belt sanding it to get rid of any remaining machine marks and smoothing down any joints that are not quite flush.

Sand all over, keeping the sander moving in the direction of the timber grain (when you come to sand any joints you may have to go against the grain, but keep this to a minimum with the belt sander).

Round and round we go

Before we orbital sand the gate, we're going to put nice rounds on the outer edges of the gate.

Orbital sanding

Hand sanding

Once we've finished with the orbital sanding we'll just give the gate a quick sanding to get rid of any arrises (sharp edges).

This is simply just running the sandpaper on any sharp corners and takes seconds and then we are done!

Further reading

I've linked out at various stages of this Instructable to sources and info that hopefully may be of use to you. If you're reading this and thinking I cannot make this - go and have a go! Keep yourself and your fingers safe and what is the worst that can happen - you'll maybe write off a piece of timber!

Remember to wear suitable safety equipment when required, safety goggles/glasses, ear protection and dust marks etc.

If you're still struggling then please ask me anything in the comments section below - I'd love to help you out!

All thats left to do is give your gate a coat of paint or stain to give it some protection from the elements.
If you're looking for gate fitting advice then please check out a gate fitting guide that I'm currently working on over on Woodworkers UK  - fitting guide for wooden gates

If you're after something a bit simpler to make then check out the following Instructables -
Dentsinger's Building a Fence Gate Instructable here
Pushthatboulder's Instructable to building a simple picket gate

If you do decide to have a go at making either the gate in this instructable or a gate based on this Instructable then please let me know how you get on in the comments section below and feel free to ask any questions etc - I would love to hear from you!

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    9 years ago

    Hi, beautiful gate, what wood would you recommend I use?

    Timber Ninja
    Timber Ninja

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Depends really on what you want to do with the gate once it's finished really, the one in the Instructable is in Meranti (Hardwood) as it's being painted.

    Personally I love Oak so that would always be my choice!