With This project was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. My mother-in-law wanted a gate for her driveway/lane and looked high and low for something elegant, but that wasn’t going to break the bank. After a fair amount of searching, it became apparent that an opportunity to construct was knocking.
The criteria for the gate included:
1) Can’t be driven around – it would need to span the entire width of the driveway and preferrebly couldn’t be walked around, but definitely not driven around.
2) Elegant – even though she lives in the country, a farm-style gate was out of the question, it needed to be befitting of the house.
3) Easy to open and close – she has some physical issues and a gate that is difficult to manuver was out of the question.
It began with design – asside from her requirements, I wanted to make sure that the gate wasn’t too complicated or required any special fixtures that could not be replaced in the future if they became damaged. I settled on a simple two-panel fifteen foot wide swinging gate that didn’t have any features that connected it to the road surface (no latches that contacted the ground, no wheels to support the panels and no chance of the gate dragging the ground if additional gravel was added to the road surface at some point).
All parts of the structure would be made of square tubing, it is easy to keep square while welding it together. Decorative finials and scroll features would be added to the structure and I found a few places that sold these features made of cast iron; which could be easily welded to the structure.
With the design complete and materials list developed, it was time to go to pick up the steel. I like to get materials from Pontiac Steel. They have always had what I needed and have a decent “drops” selection, so no project is to large or small. For this project, I purchased entire 24 ft “sticks” of material which they cut in half so I could load them onto the rented 10 ft trailer and get it home. The range of material size is from 1 inch square for the pickets, to 3 inch square for the posts. The idea was to keep the weight of the panels down by using 18 gage wall for the pickets and much of the structure of the panels. Only the portions of the gate where the hinges attached would be 0.25 inch wall thickness tubing.
At about this time, the finials arrived from the supplier and were in great shape! I was concerned that the castings would be crude and need a great deal of rework to fit into the end of the 1 inch tubing; but no such rework was needed.
Since the finials were on hand now, I was anxious to see what they would look like and cut the first picket and welded a finial into place. It looked great, and even better was the ease of which it welded into place. That evening, all of the pickets were cut and finials welded into place. This gate is to have 9 pickets per panel with just over 9 inches between pickets. This spacing seemed most visually appealing in the design stage. Also at this time, the main frames for the panels were constructed.
Until this point, the hinge was something that I thought I would make from scratch, but after more consideration, I opted to use purchased components. The primary reason being that I needed the ability to perform fine adjustment once the gate was in place. All of the hinge designs I came up with otherwise lacked the adjustment that I needed… unless for some reason the concrete gods were going to look favorably upon me on installation day and there would be NO misshaps – didn’t think that was possible. These nifty 5/8″ gate hinge pins were purchased at TSC and are made by Stanley.
Installing the hinge parts onto the panel frames was going to be a delicate operation. It was critical that they were square to the pannel and completely concentric, otherwise, the gate would bind as it was opened and closed which wouldn’t be any fun to try to remedy.
After playing with different fixturing methods, I found that oversized 5/16″ nuts and all-thread rod provided an excellent fixture. The nuts just nested inside the opening of the spacers used as the female portion of the hinge. Therefore, the spacing could be controlled easily and the concentricity came along for free!
A great deal of thought was also put into the latch. I’ve seen lots of latch variations, some are complicated and have lots of parts, some are dead simple, but didn’t seem to have a great deal of strength. This simple latch is nothing more than two lengths of square tubing where one is a size that slides snuggly inside the other. Added a handle on the right to open and close it and hole on the left for a lock and walla!
Now with the main structure complete and all of the pickets ready for installation, time to spend the afternoon welding everything together. Afterwards, everything was cleaned up and painted. Two coats of PPG DP-40 Epoxy primer and two coats of PPG single-stage urethane. This should hold up well in the sun and last many years.
The picture isn’t the best, but the gate is nearly ready for use. Once the concrete that the posts are set in fully cures, I’ll come back and fine tune the fit by adjusting the hinge pins and cut off the remaining threaded portions to finish it out. Future plans may include adding an opener, but that is a project for another day.
Thanks for reading along! If you have any questions, about any part of this project, don’t hesitate to ask!