Garden Gate Build – Part 1 | Popular Woodworking Magazine
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garden gate build


Thanks to a wonderful chain of events, my dear former home has a new lease on life: One of my best friends recently bought it. I’m going to build her a garden gate as a housewarming gift.

The garden still has a gate – the one I built about 20 years ago. But as you can see in the picture above, all of the slats are now missing. Presumably, they went to the same place as several sections of the fence I installed, i.e. to the local dump, after a storm ripped through the neighborhood, wreaking havoc.

Meanwhile, my friend has a dog and needs to enclose the backyard. She loves the design of the original gate, so I’m basing the new one on that. I’m building this one in white oak, a good choice for exterior work because it’s dense and its pores are filled with tyloses. (This is not just book learnin’; a white oak garden bench I built in 2001 still has intact mortise and tenon joints, despite having stood outside in the weather for 17 years.)

I’ll be sharing step-by-step instructions here over the next few weeks, so you can follow along and build one using my drawing, or adapt the principles to your own design.

garden gate build

Cut list
Stiles 2/1-3/4″ x 5″ x 60″
Top rail 1/1-3/4″ x 13-1/2″ x 48″+ (through tenons)
Bottom rail 1/1-3/4″ x 7″
Shaped rail 1/1-3/4″ x 3-1/4″ x 42″
Slats I haven’t decided yet how many slats I’ll use or how wide they’ll be. I’m allowing for 5 at 3/4″ x approx. 5″ x approx. 26″
Decorative trim 2/1-1/4″ x approx. 1″ x approx. 41″
Polyurethane glue

Obviously, this is going to be a heavy gate.

When building exterior furniture it’s important to think about joinery, adhesives, and finish as well as wood species. Ideally, you should use stock as wide as indicated in the cut list, to avoid glued-up widths. If you can’t get stock this wide in oak, you might want to consider an alternative species such as ipe or cedar.

garden gate build

16″ wide!

I was fortunate to get an 8/4 board of white oak 8′ long and 16″ wide from Frank Miller Lumber.

Because no adhesive is 100% waterproof, the main structure of the gate will not rely on adhesive. Instead, it will have pegged through tenons. Slats will be pegged into a groove at the top and a long slot in the bottom rail. The decorative trim will be something of a liability over time, as it will offer a place for water to collect. If you’d prefer to leave it off, be my guest.

I’ll be back next week to get started.

– Nancy Hiller

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