Project Spotlight: Custom Garden Gate

It started with a simple email as most projects do.  The words “special gate” in the subject line caught my eye.  This client wanted a gate that would be the focal point for a small, intimate sitting area in the corner of her garden.  The creation of such gates is often similar in terms of how things are built, but the people and the spaces they inhabit or have created are always different. This is what makes each gate unique and will be a topic of  discussion for another day.


The project started by removing an old wood fence that was currently in place.  Interestingly it was built with eastern red cedar; a material not commonly found in fences.  I salvaged what I could of the material knowing it would find its way into something in the future as I’ve done before. The project included building a small double sided fence that would surround the sitting area with the gate to be the focal point.  Once the fence portion was completed I turned my attention to the gate.


Once in the studio I can set things up in preparation for building the gate.  This work takes place offsite in my woodworking studio where tools, benches and vises are set up for these particular tasks.  The main theme for the gate was for it to include an arched top and an metal insert that had been found at an antique sale.  The insert was rusted, but with a little work and a little paint it was ready for its place next to the beautiful red hues of the cedar.  With the opening between the hinge post and latch post determined I’m ready to begin the build.


The first to do item is selecting the wood that will be used.  There are several options, but one of my favorites and the one I work with most often is western red cedar. It’s a light, durable wood that has a beautiful red color.  Left unfinished it will age to a visually pleasant silver/grey color. Selecting straight grain and sufficiently dry material will lessen the potential for problems in the joinery later on.


Although I use a variety of different framing methods for gates, when I’m working with designs outside the norm I favor a version of mortise and tenon joinery.  This is a way of connecting wood that has been used by humans for thousands of years.  It also opens the door for a variety  of design options in building wood gates.  Once the layout for the joinery is complete it’s time to begin cutting the actual joinery in the wood.  Next up is the dry fit phase, the final opportunity to make any adjustments to the gate that may be needed before it is completed. 


With the main frame of the wood gate finished it’s time to work on laying out framing for the insert.  I won’t lie.  This is always a nervous moment for me.  It’s with a sense of trepidation that I begin to cut an opening in an already perfectly good gate!  It’s here that the weight of the adage “measure twice cut once” can really be felt. 


With the insert framed and secured within the gate it’s time for delivering this custom cedar wood gate to its new home and installing it.  This phase may seem the easiest, but in some ways it’s just as complex as the build itself.  Sure, everything needs to fit properly, but selecting the hardware for a gate is not a one size fits all approach.  Let me explain.


 Every wood gate needs two things to function well; hinges and a latching mechanism.  Within those two categories are a plethora of choices.  I won’t get into the details (perhaps another topic for another day), but the hardware should function well and compliment the style of the gate.  It’s easy to see something that visually strikes your fancy, but does it compliment, not compete, with this gate in this space?  As much time goes into selecting the hardware for a wood gate as does the design of the gate itself.


The gate was a success and is now a joy for  this client to see from their kitchen window and back garden.  Passerby walking down the alley are also treated to a view of the gate. Adding beauty to a space is always where I have my eye oriented.  Sometimes I even achieve it…


Thinking of creating a unique entryway for your space?  I would love to chat with you about your idea and overall vision.  Click that little email icon in the top right corner and let’s begin the conversation of discovery.

All the best,