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garden gate build

When I first took on this blogging gig for Popular Woodworking I was concerned about coming up with enough ideas. Megan said, “just write about what you’re working on,” aware that my work is quite diverse. A short while back, David Lyell encouraged me to broaden my scope from techniques to occasional writing about design and other stuff. So I haven’t lacked for subject matter.

What I do lack, though, at least some weeks, is sufficient time to get as far on a job as I’d like. I expected to make more progress on the garden gate build last week but was so consumed by other work that I only got the parts milled and the mortising done. Had I devoted Sunday to the gate, I would have gone farther, but I spent the day in the garden….because the garden is the point of the gate.

garden gate build

Siberian iris and columbine

In essence, this gate will be a simple frame: two stiles held together by a top and bottom rail with wedged through tenons. Five-inch-wide stiles require a deeper mortise than I typically make. My Bridgewood mortiser has plenty of vertical capacity, but if your mortiser does not, or if you don’t have a mortiser, you can hog out the waste with a drill press, then clean up the sides and ends with a chisel.

It’s key to lay out the mortises accurately. The rule of thumb for mortised and tenoned doors is that the joint should be 1/3″ as wide as the stile, so I used a 1/2″ hollow chisel. But since these are through tenons and my mortising set up leaves a less than perfect edge, I set my mortise gauge to just over 1/2″, which allowed me to clean up the edges with a chisel. Of course, this means also paring the sides of the mortise across their full length.

garden gate build

One advantage of using a mortise gauge is that it provides a positive ledge for the tip of your chisel when you’re ready to pare the walls to final size.

As you flip each stile to mortise (or drill) from the second edge, be sure you keep the face of the workpiece against the fence. Otherwise, you run the risk of the two halves of the mortise not aligning.

garden gate build

Ready for paring.

garden gate build

Two mortises for the wide top rail, one for the bottom.

If you’re building a gate like this one on the weekends, this pace may be just right for you. If you wish I had more to offer this morning, you have my apologies.

garden gate build

Catmint (nepeta) and columbine

garden gate build

The little persimmon trees are now big enough to provide shade.

– Nancy Hiller

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