Home Making

Garden Gates

DEFECTS to gates are most usual in the posts and hinges. Posts rot or become loose after some years, and may deteriorate in a much shorter time if poor work or bad material has been used for the job. Let us take the case of posts which, though reasonably sound, have become loosened. First try to find the cause. The gate, if one of a pair, may not meet its ‘ fellow fairly; undue pressure will be applied to the post if an attempt is made to force it to close against the opposite gate. The meeting edges of the pair of gates must be eased so as to permit them to close together. Here it must be pointed out that such an adjustment, if made in the dry weather, should take account of the fact that the gate will be tighter, owing to swelling, in the wet season. However, assuming that the cause has been diagnosed, it can be dealt with later. Gate posts may loosen for other reasons, and will themselves cause the gate to jam, so we must not mistake the effect for the cause.

First Aid for a Loose Post

Procure a piece of steel angle about 1 ½ in. x½ in. x 2ft. 6in. Get the local blacksmith to cut or forge one end to a point for driving into the ground. At the opposite end, get three holes drilled to take ½ in. coach-screws. While a helper holds the loose post in an upright position, carefully drive the angle- stay into the ground, close up to the post. It may be well to point the lower end of the stay very slightly inward, merely to prevent it going the other way and being too far away from the post. The stay may twist as you drive it, so guard against this by using hammer blows designed to correct any such defect. If a club-hammer can be borrowed, as used by the bricklayer or mason, this is the best tool for driving in the stay. When the latter has gone down about i8in. Into the ground, fix it to the post by three coach-screws about 2 in. long and ½ in. in diameter. Start the holes in the post with a gimlet, but do not go too far or make them too big. Insert a coach-screw, give it a gentle tap with a hammer, and proceed to turn it in by using a spanner of the proper size on the square head. In a single gate it is usually the post on the hanging side which fails first—that is, on the side to which the gate is hinged. But both posts may need support in this way.

Decayed Post

If the top portion, from (say) an inch above the ground, is sound, the best repair is to use a concrete ‘repair post.’ This is placed close up to the existing post, in a hole carefully dug, and is bolted to the old post. The gate should be taken off first, and the post strutted or stayed so that it will not get out of place.

The earth is replaced and rammed hard around the post and concrete butt. Makers of these repair-posts supply full instructions for their use. When the old post has gone beyond repair, a new wood or concrete one must be substituted. There are difficulties, however (such as getting a proper alignment), in this task which almost takes it outside the competence of the average handyman.

Sticking Gates

When it is not the posts which are at fault, look to the hinges. Screws may have rusted; the hinges themselves may have become eroded by rust: in bad cases fit new hinges, choosing robust strap hinges in preference to cross garnets or the Tee pattern. If the clearance will not permit any other than the existing type to be used, bolt them through the gate with ½ in. coach-bolts instead of using screws. Try to avoid the old positions, on account of enlarged screw-holes in the posts; plug any old holes and trim off the plugs level with the surface. The gate should be packed up with blocks and wedges to the proper height before taking off or fixing hinges.

Besides attending to the hinges, look to the woodwork joints, to see that they have not opened and so made the gate wider than at first. This would be corrected before rehanging the gate, as would any easing needed where the gate closes against the stop on the latch side. For loose joints, tap the side members of the gate frame close home against the shoulders; further, bore holes through the frame where the tenon passes, so that two pins cut from ¾ in. dowel can be driven through. The dowel should be a tight fit; if there is any doubt about this with the purchased rod, cut pins from oak or birch to a slight taper and drive in carefully. These pins need not be truly cylindrical; in fact, if they are octagonal they will be better, so long as they go in somewhat tightly. Trim off any projecting tenon ends with a chisel. Now is the time to plane off the edge of the gate slightly where it sticks, but do not overdo it, and be careful of the places where the tenons come through and show end-grain.

Fit a new latch if required. In the case of a pair of gates, give an eye to the stop-block in the centre. If it is doubtful, dig it out and put in a new one. With a little ingenuity a cast concrete one can be formed in place, the socket for the bolt being made of a piece of gas-barrel of suitable diameter. All that is needed is a mould or box formed of stout wood, into which the concrete is poured. This box should go down into the ground far enough to give strength; when the concrete has set hard, the box is knocked off, and the paving made good around.

Making a Garden Gate

While there is almost endless variety in the patterning of light gates, there are certain requirements which must be fulfilled if long life and satisfaction in service are to be ensured. In the mechanical sense a gate is a rather poor contrivance, since it hangs from a post which has to sustain not only the weight of the gate, but the stress due to leverage as the gate swings to and fro. So long as gates are not unduly wide, and are of light construction, they will answer even if the diagonal brace be omitted; but this brace, extending up from the lower part on the hanging side, helps to sustain the weight and transmit the load to the post at the best place. Further, such a cross-member, if tightly fitted and properly fixed, holds the gate together.

The gate is dimensioned at 3ft. 8in. Wide, as for a single gate. A pair of such gates, but each 3ft. 6in. Wide, would serve very well for the garage entrance to a forecourt. The sectional sizes given for the posts and rails are about the minimum for strong construction. Dealing in detail with the components, the stiles are cut from 4 in. x 2$in. Timber. The three rails are all 2 in. thick, tenoned into the stiles. The top rail is cut from timber sin. Wide, in order to allow the swept top to be got out. The middle rail is rebated on its lower edge at the front, so as to take the vee-joint match-boarding shown. The lower rail is similarly rebated on its top’ front edge. Behind this matchboard panel (our diagram************ shows the gate as seen from the back), a diagonal brace is fitted tightly and nailed to the stiles and rails. The thickness of the brace, and the depth of the rebate in the middle and lower rail, depend on the thickness of the matchboard used, which comes flush with the front of the gate. Our diagram************, assuming that this panel is ½ in. thick, puts the thickness of the diagonal brace at 1 ½ in.:

Between the middle and top rails, five slats cut from 4 in. x 1 in. timber are tenoned. The tenons need only be short ones. A simpler method is to plough a groove along the respective edges of the top and middle rails; to fit the slats (in this case of about 1¾ in. timber) into the groove, and to fill in the intervening spaces of the groove with blocks level with the rail. Yet another method is to use ¾ in. slats and to make the mortises the full size of the slat ends. Another variation is to use round members instead of slats, sinking them into holes bored in the two rail edges. Sometimes it may be considered preferable to let the matchboard panel run through to the lower edge of the bottom rail, fixing it over this rail, which then must be of thinner timber—I.e. Ijin. Thick if we are to use½ in. matchboard. Objections to this practice are made on the ground that the lower ends of the matchboard quickly rot despite the use of paint. It will be noticed that the bottom of the gate is kept well above the ground line.


There are many types of latches designed for use on garden gates and the majority are quite simple to fit. The choice of any one of them is, of course, a matter of individual taste and requirement. The height and side at which the latch is secured are largely matters of convenience and requirement.

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