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How To Make a Wooden Gate

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A gate on your driveway or garden is a great way to keep kids and pets in, and intruders out. Here's how you can make your own signature gate.

Step 1: Putting in Posts

The most important aspect of gate posts is their stability. If your posts are not correctly secured, your gate won't be either. It also pays to make sure the timber you choose is of a durable quality - use hardwood or softwoods like Oregan or Treated Pine.

When choosing post sizes, use 100x100mm timber for narrow gates up to 1200mm high, or 125x125mm posts for gates up to 1800mm high. For wider gates, use 150x150mm posts.

The post should be concreted into a hole 600mm deep and 300mm square. If you are erecting a wide heavy gate, make the hole 900mm deep.

You'll need to brace the post temporarily when setting the concrete so it stays upright and straight. Check the post is vertical with a spirit level and adjust the brace if necessary to hold it steady and square.

Tip! Slope the concrete mixture away from the post to allow rain water to run off.

Step 2: Measuring

Measure the height from the top of the post to the ground and the full width of the gate opening. Then subtract a ground clearance of approx 50mm off the height, a side clearance of 20mm per side off the width (10-15mm for single gates) and a centre clearance of 5 -10mm.

Calculate the number of cladding boards (pickets, palings) you need by dividing the width of the boards into the space you have just calculated. If you plan to space the boards out, adjust this figure accordingly (try and avoid having to cut a board to make it fit as this will make the job look messy, but if this can't be avoided place the cut sections next to the posts).

Step 3: Making the frame

There are two common methods for making the frame - the Ledged and Braced Method and the Mortise and Tenon method.

The Ledged and Braced method uses the cladding as the support, while the Mortise and Tenon method uses vertical posts to hold the gate frame rigid. It is easier and cheaper to use the Ledged and Braced method, but the Mortise and Tenon is likely to provide better long-term stability.

Don't be scared off by the term Mortise and Tenon - it simply consists of a tongue (tenon) that slots into a hole (the mortise) cut in the matching piece of timber (refer to diagram at right). For a really strong joint, the tenon must be a tight fit into the mortise, so care must be taken when cutting both parts of the joint. For maximum strength, the tenon width should never be more than one third the width of the timber in which it is cut.

Tip! For gates higher than 1.2 m you will need a middle rail of timber as well as a top and bottom rail.

To assemble the mortise and tenon joint, drill a hole the size of a small dowel through the centre of the mortise from each side. Fit the joint together, marking the hole's position on the tenon. Take out the tenon and drill a dowel hole through it about 2 mm closer to the shoulder than the mark you have just made. Put the joint together and drive a tapered dowel through it.

You won't need nails, screws or glue if your tenon forms a tight joint with the vertical posts. However, if you are unsure about the quality of your workmanship, glue and screw your joints together.

Measure the two opposing diagonals of the gate frame to check that the frame is square. Adjust the frame until these two measurements are the same and the corners of the rectangle are at right angles.

Step 4: Hanging the gate

Place the gate in between the two gate posts and sit it on timber wedges or packing blocks to ensure it is lined up (alternatively rope-in a willing family member to hold it in place!). Place wedges or packers at the sides of the gate so that the gaps between the gate and posts are even, and the gate is jammed in place.

Tip! Fix the hinges to the inside of the gate if it is to open inwards, or to the outside if it is to open outwards.

Drill one screw hole for each hinge and fit a screw. Try out the gate as you may have to adjust screws if it is not swinging freely. Fit the remaining screw and bingo your gate is hung!

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