Making a T&G Gate (Part 2)

Following on from Part 1, I can now take some time to show the various stages I went through [practically – not personally, you wouldn’t like to see those!! :oops:] to construct the gate. After a half-day at work, I spent a good six-hours on this job. It was a couple of hours longer than I was intending and, as I was unable to ‘complete’ the gate in time, that explains why the gate was left in the following state overnight (as you saw at the end of the first instalment):


You can probably see already that the gate is in need of some (sturdy!) braces in order to maintain the gate’s stability and prevent it from sagging (on the ‘closing’ side) in the future. Traditionally, these braces should run ‘up’ from the hanging side of a gate, as you’ll soon see further down the page. I’m never very good at explaining (or, even, fully understanding) these kind of things but it’s all to do with the closing side of the gate being in compression (not to be confused with tension). If ever you purchase a gate that’s been produced on larger scale (batch or even mass production), you may find the back of the gate is braced with an A-frame, as opposed to the traditional Z-bracing that I’ve used. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, it simply allows the gate the be hung from either side, where the manufacturer’s are not producing this gate to suit ‘your’ situation alone. In fact, on a picket or palisade-style gate (narrow, vertical slats with spaces of 1in or more in between), some people prefer an A-frame construction as you gain extra fixings points (and strength) that you may not get from a Z-frame.

Before we look at my braces though, I first had to come up with a method of keeping the three ledges (horizontal rails) in place so that I could nail the boards from the other side. My best idea was to temporarily brace these rails in position using odd lengths of 2x2in timber, all screwed together. As I was after a painted finish, I wasn’t worried about any visible holes as these could easily be filled later on. This temporary construction was also braced to keep it square as I turned it over and set it down on the driveway.

Next and, working from a centreline outwards (as I was working with an even number of boards), I could commence fixing the boards in place with nails:

I spent a lot of time thinking about the options available to me when it came to fixing these boards in place. Round wire nails and the like and liable to working lose and the timber (particularly wide boards) shrink and cup with seasonal changes in humidity. Annular ring shank nails (which are ribbed, almost like a screw’s shank) would always be my preferred choice for exterior woodwork like this, but for the cost of a bag of stainless steel nails. Anyone who’s tried to break a pallet apart to salvage the usable timber can tell you just how well these nails ‘bite’! I was almost set on the thought of using 2in galvanised lost-head nails, secret-nailed through the tongue of each board until, that is, I received an excellent suggestion on The Wood Haven from DougB (aka. Baz)…

Polytop nails (commonly used for fixing uPVC fascias and the like) are, essentially, A2 stainless steel nails with annular ring shanks – if you ignore the plastic caps, of course, which can be removed quite easily. It’s a time-consuming task (perhaps whilst waiting for paint to dry?) and, at the final count, I used ninety-four of these nails on this project alone. But, they are significantly cheaper than the other variation. I’m only using long-nose pliers in the photo above so that I don’t risk bending these 50mm nails.

You do end up with a 7mm diameter head on the surface; that’s the only downside I’ve come across so far… Ignoring the “hours” of labour involved in hammering each one home! I do actually own a nail gun that may have saved me some time here but, after six-years in my workshop, it’s still never been used and I intend to keep it in that condition so that I can (hopefully) one day sell it… I’ve already tried many times on eBay yet, people are often too far away and not prepared to pay the courier/shipping costs, considering it comes with three boxes of nails; a grand total of forty-eight-thousand and many, many kilograms!!

Some woodworkers believe you should leave a few millimetre’s clearance between boards on a gate like this; others say it isn’t necessary. Wanting to approach this with caution and, not wanting to gate to (literally) burst at the seams when winter comes, I those Polytop nails again to create an even 2-3mm gap between each board. I don’t expect this previously kiln-dried timber to expand too much, once I’ve finished painting it. Who knows! If we ever see a spell of dry weather again [how long has it been?!], it may even get an opportunity to shrink before the clocks go back, later this year…!!

Okay, now we can look at cutting and fitting the braces…

If I had the time on the first day of action, I’d have been able to set each brace in position (1in in from the ends of the ledges) and mark the cut lines directly, before having nailed a single board in place. With those PTGV boards already in position, that wasn’t possible. So, instead, I set the braces down (generously over length) and, using a straight edge and by sighting down over the join, I was able to mark out the line to be cut.

This is the kind of situation where I think that a laser line or guide would prove to be beneficial on a sliding mitre saw. It doesn’t have to be exact, as long as it’s parallel to the saw blade and clear to read. Otherwise, aligning a saw blade to a non-preset mitre angle involves tentatively rolling the saw blade along the timber until it looks like it’s parallel to your pencil line. You could also try and adjustable square of bevel gauge, I supposed.

My sliding mitre saw (the excellent Makita LS1013 – which I’m actually thinking about upgrading) will swing around to slightly more than 45° when required and, if not for the dimensions of the mitre saw station I built back in 2008 [sadly, not featured on this site], I would’ve have been able to utilise this facility, instead of placing a spacer between the saw’s fence and the clamping the brace securely…

…Well, I suppose I did build it to suit my previous mitre saw. 😳

Back in Part 1, you may remember that I opted to bevel the top edge of each of the three rails. This meant I was also going to bevel-cut the lower end of each brace in order to achieve a snug and tidy-looking fit; thereby creating a compound mitre joint, where neither angle is at 90°. I used a offcut to check I had the saw blade tilted to the correct angle before making the final cuts:

Both braces were fitted in to place with reasonably neat-looking joints… With the exception of this one, where the edge of the rail isn’t perfectly square to its face – the perils of having someone else prepare your timber for you!

If I was to turn the gate over at this point, I probably would’ve found that the braces fell out, as they weren’t fixed in any way. So, in order to temporarily hold them there so that I could nail the boards to them from the other side, I had to fix them with some 2¼in screws in to the rear face of the boards (again, it’s a painted piece). You can also see where I used two long straight edges as guide to ensure that I didn’t miss the braces whilst banging the nails in.

There was still some more working to do before you’re up-to-date with how the gate hangs today and, I’m still waiting for a perfect opportunity with some clear weather in which to finish painting it. So, there will be a third instalment to follow, over the weekend.

Thanks for reading.

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