Introduction: Pallet Wood Driveway Gates

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done I …

Our friend Marinette lives on the beach, so her driveway gates need to be robust to withstand the Westerlies from the Atlantic and also the spray from the sea. The old UPVC gates had taken a pounding over the Winter and were also sagging in the middle. Most of the time they had to be roped up otherwise they were apt to come open or fall over, which was not terribly convenient! As I had never made gates from pallet wood before I thought it would be a fun project. One drawback for me however was that Marinette wanted to keep the original granite posts, I can see why but it meant that as these were themselves rather windswept there was going to be a bit of manoeuvring to get the gates to sit straight on the pins

Step 1: Supplies

Because of the width of the gateway some of the pallets used were of a non-standard size. I keep a workshop attic full of broken down pallets ready for projects.

The pallets I used were as follows:

  • 2 two way entry pallets - standard size (120cm x 80cm) equiv. US GMA pallet 48" x 40"
  • 3 four way entry pallets - standard size (120cm x 80cm)
  • 2 non-standard pallets - (250cm x 120cm) These pallets are large freight pallets for transporting exhibition materials - you will find them at design companies.

We finished the gate with linseed oil which we coloured with natural earth pigments. However I have heard great things about tung oil which is not readily available here, so would be interested in hearing from anyone who has used it in similar seaside conditions. For the shutters we made for our house we used hemp oil which is brilliant but quite difficult to find.

Step 2: Design

I decided to replicate the sizes of the original gates in the pallet wood version, this meant that each gate had a width of 1750mm (69") and thus at nearly 6ft support wheels were essential. The existing granite gateposts had steel hinge supports with 12mm (½") pins) embedded within them and I chose to mount the new gates from these pins. The gates were 95cm (37")high and when hung, the top rail was to be at a height of 102cm (40") from the ground. The exposed end grain of the four vertical sides and the vertical slats of the gate were protected with end caps for the former and chamfered capping strips for the latter.

The four vertical sides of the gates were 'stringers' from two-way entry pallets. Diagonal braces were used to stiffen each gate.

For the vertical slats, I laid the uncut timbers for the gate perimeter flat on the ground to the desired gate dimension and laid the slats upon them until I felt a pleasing result was obtained. In this case 11 evenly spaced slats were deemed sufficient.

The vertical slats were screwed to the rear of the front horizontal rails and then sandwiched by the second horizontal rail, which fitted into the lap joints in the vertical side posts.

Simple Tip: In order to make sure that my design came out as envisaged and that the interval between the vertical slats was constant, I used a piece of pallet wood as a spacer and guide.

The diagonal bracing strips were wedged and thus tightly held between the upper and lower horizontal rails and were screwed to the vertical slats.

Step 3: Preparation of the Pallet Wood

I cut the four vertical side posts to length from my stringers. The four faces of each side post were sanded to remove most of the machine marks and surface stains that were visible.

The long top and bottom rails which made up the other two sides of the gate frame were cut to length. I had decided to cut 8 of these items so that when they were joined to the vertical side posts the front and rear rails were separated by a gap adequate for the smaller vertical slats to be 'sandwiched' between them.

All the faces of the 8 rails needed to be planed as the pallet wood planks were in an 'as sawn' condition. This was to remove the majority of machine marks and remove the risk of splinters.I decided to also use my router to machine a chamfer on the edges of all the road-facing timber, this to furnish a run-off for rain from the windward side of the property and to give a more elegant appearance to the finished gates.

Step 4: Construction

I filmed a step-by-step 'making of' for the gates and also showed how I got around the problem with hanging them onto the existing pins.

Hope you enjoyed this project as much as we enjoyed the challenge of making it and I hope you will agree that if you take the time to prepare it, then pallet wood can look really elegant!

All the very best and good luck to everyone, Andy

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