Introduction: Restoring and Fitting an Old Gate Into an Empty Space in the Fence

This is a story about how an old, rusted and abandoned gate found behind the garage got a new life as part of our fence. Moreover, this is a story about how I finished a project, originally started back in July 2019, in a record time – only thanks to Instructables and the Finish It Already contest. Plus, after being an Instructables reader for more than a decade (14 years), I was finally motivated enough to create my first insctructable. Tadaaa!

Hint: If you are not exactly good in reading between lines, please vote for this instructable if you like it.

For starters, let me share some background info – we moved from an apartment into a house a couple years ago which enabled me to finally unleash my inner DIYer which resided in me since I was a child. However, having a relatively big family with small kids (four, to be precise), I am always time-constrained and more often than not have to watch for them while doing my current job. What's more, my „projects“ usually need to be performed in small increments which significantly increases the inefficiency introduced by often preparing and tidying up my tools.

And this is one of the reasons why this project took me so long to finish. The other reason is that it involved welding which I have never done before (you'll see the pictures later, no worries) nor I have a welder. So I had to borrow it from my coworker and this simple process took both of us some time. Furthermore, he needed it in between, and then the winter come. So here we go in May with the gate finally finished!

Note: Sorry for some pictures missing from the initial phases of the project – I really did not have this instructable in mind when starting!

Step 1: Filling the Gap

Our backyard has currently two gaps in the fence. One is for a car, in front of a garage, the other one is designated for a small gate (and lies in a pretty weird spot – who knows what the intention was). We had it this way since we moved in and it was not a major problem with our three older kids. Surely, we had to keep an eye for them while being outside in our backyard but they at least had not tend to run away. Unfortunately, the youngest one, our first boy, is completely different. If not thoroughly watched for, he just walks away sooner or later :-) So the motivation to fill the gap, besides the aesthetic factor, got a new dimension.

We discovered an old rusty gate behind the garage which seemed to fit the gap. But you know what? It was too wide. Bummer. Our further idea was to have someone manufacture a new gate. But then I thought to myself could I just make it somehow smaller? The more I thought about that the more realistically the plan seemed.

Step 2: Select the Hinges

On the old gate, there were no hinges and neither the left gate column suggested how the gate should be hung. After some research, we decided to go for adjustable hinges as shown on the picture above. The construction allows for adjusting the hinge without removing the gate from the column. I thought this feature would be really helpful but then it turned out that the hinge can be very well adjusted even before the gate is fitted and there is no need to re-adjust afterwards.

However, the adjustability itself was a must from the very begining. When measuring the gap I found out that the columns aren't perfectly parallel to each other and the gap between them was about half an inch bigger in the upper part then by the ground.

The hinge itself consists of two parts joined by a removable pivot. On the column side, a circular hole is to be drilled – the round lip is then welded to it. The other part is welded on surface of the gate wing.

Step 3: Measure and Cut to Size

The gate was too wide but luckily, the height was OK. So reducing the size to required dimensions was pretty simple (at least in theory :-) ):

  • Cut the three tubes forming the frame and two angle iron cross members (for fixing the fence slats) along a imaginary line parallel to the side of the gate
  • Shorten each of the 3+2 parts by measured dimension (approx. 2 inches in my case)
  • Weld the two gate parts together

Step 4: Welding Back Together

Here the trickiest part for me came: welding. In spite of being really intrigued by it I had practically no experience with the process (except for a couple test welds beforehand). So it really did not go well... Anyway, a piece of scrap angle iron and a couple of wood claps helped me to fix the parts in a suitable and stable position to do the weld. Eventually, I somehow managed to weld the parts together.

Well, sort of. I made a mistake when measuring the cuts and when trying to weld the two angled crossmembers with holes for mounting the slats, I realized they remained too short (*facepalm*). Time to figure out plan B, I guess.

Fortunately, I had some suitable angle iron laying around so I decided to cut the existing crossmembers altogether and create them anew. So more cuting and more welding...

Step 5: Hinges

Like I wrote before, the hinges have two separable parts. I started by welding the smaller part to the gate. No rocket science here – I simply placed them near the corners so that they were placed symmetrically around the horizontal axis.

For the column part of the hinge, things were a bit more complex. I first had to measure the „exact“ (quotation marks intended) position and then drill two 30 mm wide holes in the column. I used a stepped drill bit for the task and WD-40 as a lubricant (I know, I know).

Once the hole were ready, time for more welding came. Meanwhile, I created somewhat love-hate relationship to this activity: still very intrigued by it but always discouraged by how bad it went once I started :)

When I was done with the weld job and angle ground the welds to an acceptable shape, and exciting moment came – dry fitting the gate. Now the things got serious.

Step 6: The Slats: Cutting

When buying the house, we received not only the house itself but also an attic full of many long time stored things and various lumber. I was happy to turn some of it into something useful, the fence slats in this case. First, I measured the existing slats on a different section of the fence and then based on these dimensions (58 x 20 mm) I cut and planed the new ones with a table saw and a electric hand plane. Using a router I then rounded over the edges and as the last step I sanded them down with a orbital sander (120 grit or so – not crucial, really, for this use case).

Step 7: The Slats: Drilling & Spacing

Once the slats were ready, I had to drill two 5 mm holes in each of them for the carriage bolts they were to be mounted by. I proceeded as following:

  • align the slats next to each other on a flat surface
  • mark two lines across all of them denoting the hole distance
  • drill two centered holes per slat, each on the marked line

For centering the holes, i created a simple centering jig out of a piece of scrap ash floor trim and a 10 mm dowel. Simple but very effective!

I did not want to risk another problems with measurements so I decided to first align the slats across the gate and then, through the holes in wood, mark the hole positions on the two angle iron crossmembers.

To space the slats evenly, I first clamped the rightmost slat to the gate (eye-balled that) and then approximately spaced the slates towards the lock side. Then measured the spacing and based on that I cut a spacer from a piece of wood. After that, I used it to lay down the slats again. In one or two more iterations I acquired an acceptable result.

Once I drilled all 18 holes in the metal, I could dry fit the slats with a single row of bolts poked through the holes which was enough for me to raise the gate of the ground and have my wife make me a happy photo :-)

Step 8: Rust Conversion and Gringing

Here I made the things in a somewhat illogical order – first I applied a rust converter on all previously ground spots which meanwhile, before I got myself to continue, became rusty. Then I roughly ground the remaining paint of the gate using an angle grinder with a flap wheel. I payed special attention to the inner surface of the door handle hole in the lock case – here my Dremel tool came in handy.

Step 9: Improving the Welds With... a Putty!

As much as I would love to know welding much better, I just have to accept the fact that for now the welds are terrible. So in order to help them a little, I used a car bodywork (2-component) putty with fiberglass.

I used it not only to flatten the welds but to cover up a rusted hole in the lock case and a hole in the frame tube I accidentally created when welding.

To use the putty, I had to mix it with hardener in a proper ratio (200:1) which, for such small quantity, is necessarily a matter of guessing. Fortunately, it worked for me and not long after that I could continue with...

Step 10: More Grinding and Sanding!

Yup, my least favorite activity on any project. But we all know it simply needs to be done...

I started with the filled spots and ground off the putty with an orbital sander (180 grit) – I was simply too curious about the result to not start with that at that moment. I also sanded some missed spots by hand using the orbital sander disc.

Next, I used a drill with a wire brush to grind difficult spots like corners, inner angles etc. For the remaining majority of surfaces, I again used the orbital sander. I really did have to twist my wrist when doing that but it proved to be much easier to copy the round cross section of the tubes with this type of sander thanks to its relatively small shape.

Step 11: Painting the Slats

At this step, I happily accepted my wife's offer to help with painting the wooden slats. We used identical wood protection (type and color) like we did for the existing fence and balcony railing: thin-layer wood protection (Xyladecor Classic HP, for Europeans among the readers) of teak shade.

Step 12: Paiting the Frame

At this point, the project (and the contest deadline as well:) got very close to its end. I was pretty excited about the fact the gate will finally be finished but at the same time nervous about whether I'll manage to post this instructable on time.

For painting the gate's metal frame, I again used identical paint like we did for the rest of the fence: black colored combined primer and top paint purchased in the local LIDL chain store. But before doing so, I first degreased the whole frame with a brake cleaner (from LIDL as well, of course).

We had the can of paint opened probably since last summer so it was pretty thick. And here's where I made another mistake – I had not thinned it before I started paiting so it created too thick layer which later created an ugly pattern at some places. I am currently considering sanding the paint a little to get rid of the pattern... we will see :-)

Step 13: Wedding Time!

Don't get mistaken, my wife and I are happily married for almost 14 years. What I am talking here is putting the wooden slats and the metal frame together. Using M5x32 carriage bolts + washer and nut, the task was really straightforward and doable even in the evening.

Knowing my limits of accuracy, I was smart enough to number the slats when drilling the holes to make the assembly easier later on. What I had not thought of was that after painting the slats, the thin pencil numbers may not be visible anymore. And they weren't, except for a couple. So I had an unplanned exercise in trying all the possible combinations of slats and holes... Just kidding. Seriously though, I had to try a good dozen of combinations before all the slats were eventually mounted.

Step 14: Adding Lock and Handle

When we found the gate, there was a lock in it but since it was laying outside behind the garage for quite a long time, it was naturally rusty and stuck.

So I planned to take my box of old locks collected over the years as well as found at the attic to pick another one in a better shape. You might be already guessing that none of them fit. Never mind, I have the drill and wire brush, right? And did I mention WD-40 and another rust dissolving lubricant from LIDL?

Fast forward a half an hour, the lock looked much better and worked pretty well (for its years, of course).

To mount it i tapped a threads into two holes which were already present in the frame and used two machine bolts to fix the lock.

Then only the handle (the old one found with the gate, made of aluminum) remained to be fitted which was just a matter of minute or two.

Step 15: Final Assembly

Mounting the gate to the column was really simple – putting the two parts together and securing by hinge pivot – see picture for details.

Oh happy day, the gate is finally done and assembled!

Step 16: Outro

This is the place were makers usually express their pleasure over how the project turned out. For me, I am really (and I mean, really) happy to have the gate finished. I am also happy to have my first instructable written.

But... being a perfectionist by nature (and trying to fight this trait off), my joy over completing a project is always at least a little spoiled by the imperfections I made. But I am trying to intentionally overlook them and enjoy the finished project :-)

Thanks for reading!
P.S.: If you feel like so, please support my motivation to create second, third... instructable by voting for this piece in the Finish It Already contest. Thank you!

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