Privacy Fence Gate

My wife saw this gate down the street from us and decided we needed two. The wider of my two gate openings is 42 inches wide, the narrower is 37 inches. For materials I used 2×8 cedar for the arch and 2×6 cedar for the rest of the frame. The panels are made from 1×6 cedar boards in which I cut tongue and grooves.
The clavos (black decorative nails) I found on-line for about $1 each. Material cost for both gates was $300 including the hardware. I didn’t want self closing hinges so I could easily get the wheel barrow in and out.

I found the cedar at a local business that supplies cedar for outdoor projects. I looked for boards that were relatively knot free and straight. The color of the cedar can vary quite a bit as well – depending on whether the boards are sapwood or heartwood or a combination of both.

I started by laying out the curve that would define the top rail and the top of each vertical stile. After determining the gate width, I used a flexible yard stick to draw the full curve on a piece of poster board and cut it out. Fold it in half to ensure both sides are the same. Then transfer the curve to the top rail, making sure to allow the for the length of the tenons which will be used to attach the top rail to each stile. Cut the tenons on the table saw before cutting the top and bottom curves on the bandsaw. I made my tenons 2 and 1/2 inch long and 5/8 inches thick. You could make the tenons longer if you have the capability of cutting mortises on the stiles deeper. I was limited by the length of the shafts on my forstner bit that I used to rough out the mortises.

Now layout the ends of the curve on the top of each stile and cut them on the bandsaw as well. Making the top curve of the gate include the stiles reduces the width of the top rail. The widest 2x cedar I could get locally was 8 inches. Wider boards would have been special order, and I would have given up the ability to select the board I wanted.

The length of the tenons on the top rail determines the tenon width, since it will fit into the top of the stiles which are curved. I made sure I kept the end of the top of the tenon at least 1 inch below the top of the stile. The bottom tenon was cut 1/4 inch up from the bottom of lower rail curve.

My fence pickets on each side of the gate are 6 foot tall, so the stiles had to be the picket height plus the height of the curve on top of the stile (a little over 1 inch) plus any extra length you want the gate curve to be above the pickets. Also, if the gate opening is over sloping ground, don’t forget to add this in as well.

After cutting the right and left stile to length, you can layout the mortise positions. Use the top rail to layout the location of the top mortise on the right and left stiles. I made the position of the bottom mortise up 1 inch from the bottom of the stile and then extended it to 1/4 inch below the top of the bottom rail. The bottom of the center rail on my gate was 38 inches up from the bottom of the stile. The center rail mortise was located 1/4 inch up the bottom and extended to 1/4 of the top of the rail.

Now I roughed out the mortise with a 5/8 inch forstner bit in my drill press. I spent a bit of time positioning a rest to keep the stile level before I started drilling. I cleaned out the remaining waste with chisels. Be careful not to enlarge the mortise with the chisels since cedar is so soft.

The bottom of the top rail needed a dado to hold the top of the 1x boards used to make the top panel. I did this by adding oak guides to the base of my trim router. They were located so that they would act as a guide on either side of the rail and offset the position the 1/4 inch router bit such that with two pass (turning the router around between passes), a 7/16 dado would be cut.

Here is the trim router in use. The small size of the router base allows it to accurately follow the curve in the bottom of the top rail. The depth of the router was set to remove an 1/8 inch of material per set of passes. A final depth of the 3/8+ inches was desired.

The dados in the straight rails and the stiles were cut on the table saw with a blade that cut a 1/8 inch kerf. The center of each dado was cut first using table saw fence as a guide. Reversing the stock between passes ensured that the resulting dado was always centered in the board. A scrap was used to sneak up on the final desired dado width of 7/16 inch. Note: The stiles and rails were planed to the same thickness before starting the project.

Next I worked on the 3/4 inch cedar boards which made up the interior panels of the gate. I bought 8 feet long 1×6 cedar boards, selecting those which had the fewest knots and consistent color. I cut the grooves 1/16 inch deeper than the length of the grooves. The board width was determined to allow for wood expansion and contraction. I allowed for each board to move 1/16 inch, this meant that the breadth (width of the boards minus the tongue) of the boards was 7/16 inches less than the distance separating the right and left stiles. The width of the groove was 1/4 inch, and its depth was 3/8 inches. Note that one of the panel boards would have two tongues. The two outside panel boards require a wider tongue to allow it to engage the wider groove (dado) in the vertical stiles at either end of the panel.

All of the center panel boards also required a tongue at both top and bottom to fit into the door rails. The boards in the upper panel section also had to follow the curve in the top rail. I cut all the bottom panel boards first, since they would all be the same length (distance between bottom and middle rail plus the length of the tongue). The remainder of each board was used for the top panel boards (numbered and oriented, so the leftmost top and bottom panel boards both came from the same 8 foot cedar board. The scrap from each top board was used to construct a template which followed the curve in the top rail. A metal ruler was used to separate each template 1/16 inch from its finished neighbor (allowing the boards to overlap the width of the tongue). A pencil marked the top of the required curve on both the scrap template and on the upper panel board. Be sure to drop the lower tongue below the level of the center rail when marking the upper curve.

The bandsaw was used to cut the required curve at the top of the template scrap. The template is then used to transfer the curve to the top of the upper panel board – 3/8 inches beyond the pencil line which marked the beginning of the boards upper tongue. The uppermost curve is then cut on the bandsaw. This defines the upper extend of the tongue. The template is then clamped to the upper board slightly below the lower curve (3/32 for my router setup), to allow for the thickness of the router guide bushing. The scrap board provides the edge along with the router guide bushing will run to cut the tongue on each side of the board. Work from either side of the door panel toward the center.

After fitting and routing the upper tongue on all of the boards in the upper panel, dry assemble all of the gate pieces, and make sure the individual door panels boards move easily. Fine tune sticky spots with a shoulder plane. I also used a plane to make a slight bevel on the top side of the center and bottom rails to allow rain water to run off and not sit and cause dry-rot. When satisfied with the fit, apply exterior glue to the mortise and tenon joints and clamp. I also checked the diagonal gate measurements to check for square.

Now any knots in the cedar can be stabilized with marine epoxy. After setting up for a couple hours, but while still flexible, I use a chisel to remove the excess above the top of the board. This makes sanding them flush after drying overnight much easier, and lessens the chance of dishing in board with the orbital sander.

I applied a penetrating oil to the gate to match the rest of my fence. I used the Behr product from Home Depot. Since I had done sanding on my rails and styles, the gate was a bit lighter than my fence. I mixed in a little Watco walnut oil to darken it up a bit.

I added decorative clavos (nails) to the top and bottom of each panel section. I drilled a pilot hole 3 inches down from each edge. The length of the nail on the backside was not consistent, so I trimmed them so they would not go all the way through the panel boards.

Here is the finished gate with 3 butt hinges installed.

Light Fixture for Bekah

Bekah wanted to replace her entry way flush mount ceiling light globe with a hanging candelabra light fixture. We first made a trip to the Habitat or Humanities RE-store, where we found a used candelabra for $7.00. We patterned the open box design after a $225 wooden fixture she had found locally.

We started the construction process by making the top of the frame 13 inches square with rabbeted ends secured with glue and small screws. The 15 inch vertical corner members had a 3/8 inch rabbet cut their entire length on the inside face. These corners were epoxied to the top frame. A 13 inch plywood square was elevated about 6 inches above the top frame and inserted into the rabbets to keep the assembly square while the epoxy hardened overnight.

Next the a full length diagonal with the mounting holes for the candelabra base pre-drilled was glued between opposite corners of the top frame, and the bottom frame with mitered corners was glued at the bottom of the assembly just above the small 3/8 inch blocks that were inserted into the rabbets at the bottom of the vertical corner members. Lead weights set on the top kept the assembly flat on the work table and added stability to the construction process.

Next, the x-struts were made to fit in two opposing faces of the open structure. Each end of the strut was cut with two opposing 45 degree angles which fit snugly into the rabbets of the vertical frame corners. Half laps were cut in the struts where they crossed so they would be flush and provide additional structural strength.

X-struts were constructed for the remaining two side faces. They butted up against the ends of x-struts constructed for the first two faces.
Trim pieces were added along the top and bottom frame to bring it flush with the vertical corner members.

After letting the glue try overnight, the trim pieces were hand planed flush with the vertical corner pieces. With the exception of the small screws in the top frame, the rest of the assembly is all fastened with just glue.

Here is the frame just before Watco natural oil was applied. All pieces were made of red oak scraps left over from other projects.

Here is the fixture with the candelabra and chain installed with the lights on. Note the interesting shadows on the walls and the contrast between the illuminated and shadowed frame members. The five 25 watt incandescent bulbs in the open fixture provide much more illumination than the two 60 watt bulbs shrouded in the original flush mounted ceiling fixture.