A Garden Gate


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Established Member
11 Mar 2022
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It’s been a while since I have posted anything up here as it’s been pretty busy and fairly run of the mill stuff, I am in the process of making a semi circular headed side gate, and although it’s not particularly interesting i do sometimes make these in an alternative way to a bridle joint and key so i thought I would let you in on it to see what you guys think.
There are pros and cons to it as with most things.

It all starts with a nice new shiny sheet of MDF, a drawing, and some setting out tools, and on we go………


So the drawing isn’t quite right, the middle rail is in the wrong place but other than that it’s ok, I am only after the height and width to be honest and what it’s supposed to look like.
It’s 63 thick, with 120 posts and a 120 arch that sits over the top of the lot, 45’d onto the tops of the posts.


Pretty much all I use plus a tape measure for setting out, and my rubber mallet if I make a mistake.
The crux of this job is all in the setting out and the templates, the templates are critical in the way this is going together so I need to be really accurate in marking out!


Now the above photo shows a lap joint where the stiles meet my curved head, and it’s this where the templates need to be really good, as my stiles also incorporate the arched top, replacing the usual bridle joint I would otherwise use. The bit I like about this way of making an outside gate like this is i can do away entirely with a key at the top to join the two curves, or if it’s lapped I avoid the off centre joint!
I would also say this way is ideal for a big old outside gate as it’s possibly more robust given the thickness of the joints and jointing method.


Above is my templates, I will need one for my stiles, one for my head and one for the arched top going over the lot. All my radius measurements I worked out on the rod so it’s real simple to know where i am going at this stage.
The stile template needs to be spot on, there is disadvantages to this method, and it’s in this template. If it’s slightly out it’ll be an uphill struggle from here as it’s profiled to width on its face directly from the template, and if the curve runs in or out on the inside or outside or both when I cut it out it’ll be all kinds of trouble come assembly.



Here’s the template routed out, I used the factory edge of the sheet for the outside of the stile (left in the above photo) and ran the inside of the stile on the table saw leaving myself a little richness in the casting to hand plane to the correct width and smooth out the kerf marks left from the saw.
I spoke shaved the transition of the curve to the straight section on the stile and that about completed it. The other templates were straight forward.

It’s now time to hit the timber rack to see what we have got to play with


This piece will do all my curves, a little shaky on the end but all was well a little ways in to the plank. It was a bit tricky to cut out as the tennoning machine was in use at the time which is behind the band saw, and the portable bandsaw only had one band left at the time, so i let the chainsaw dog out the majority and saved the band for the curves. Bit of a pain but it sometimes goes like that.
Another draw back to this method is the waste, my stile stock needs to be more than double what it would be for a standard way, but by putting tie templates top and tail to one another before cutting it’s not that wasteful.


I got all my rails out at the same time out of one long plank (I am using 3” Iroko for this job) and pushed it through the Stenner (green resaw in the background of the second above photo) makes much lighter work of it than the table saw. From here it’s in to the machine shop to get it all prepared ready for phase two.
I am treating the posts and arched top as a separate job as it’s not a frame as such that I am fitting the door to, it has no rebates in it for the door to sit into etc etc so no real need to make it before or alongside.

The head of the curved section ready for marking out, this is where a big advantage to this method comes into play.


From this photo you can see that I am leaving about 3/8 on instead of the usual 1/8 or so for machining, I shall let you know why a bit further down the line.


The spindle is set for taking up these edges after everything has been thicknessed, there is too much fat on this at the moment so i banded the edges down to leave around an 1/8 to machine off. This is done in one nice easy pass, with fresh knives in the block it really does cut superbly well leaving a lovely finish to work with.


I have purposely left the curve not machined, the same as the top piece that’ll join both together, it’s this that allows me to get a really nice half lap on both sides, and I don’t have only the one crack at it (if I had machined these pieces to finished width you have no wiggle room on adjusting your angle, or making it slightly smaller or bigger etc etc as all your eggs are in one basket, this way you can start with an 1/8 waste either side and knock it up, down, re-tenon, adjust the angle whatever it needs and you can do it as you have yet to get to finished width, it makes it so easy it feels like cheating, I am all up for working dead nuts etc, but when you don’t need to it’s lovely 😊) if I were making an arch or multiples of then of course I would have set up pieces and finish all to size, but a one off where it’s not economical to crack out like for like test/set up bits this is a great way. And it’s so easy!

Next up is marking out, it’s wedged up this one, i am going 7/8 as it’s 63+ thick

I had to mortice on little raising blocks that were conveniently in the firewood bin, to get me up out the way of the rough sawn at the curve

Morticer set, on we go…….


Time for some tenons, and it’s time to look at the rod again, it’s all going in the right direction…..

Just trying the shoulder sizes to get the correct width, all is well here so I’ll tenon the other two and cut the haunches in, then I can lay it up on the rod and start marking the laps


With the rails fitted in and the gate clamped up dry I can set it up on the rod and mark exactly where my halving’s land, now i can only machine these from one face but the halving needs to be facing the same way on both stiles when face up, so i need to take one halving from the top and one halving from the bottom of the tenon blocks. It’s a simple set up struck with a marking gauge and raised or lowered on the machine to suit. As shown below


You can make out a very faint score line from my gauge, that’s the target for the tenon block.


Looking good here so I can cut to my line now


Under my square here is a pencil line, which is my angled shoulder line, I simply put the square on the fence of the machine following the cut line, line up the pencil mark with the Square and clamp down once it’s set. Push it through nice and easy and we’re away. No need to worry about tear out on the back edge either for two reasons, one the direction the grain is on my side and two is that it’s still rough sawn and i have to flush cut it to a template yet taking off atleast another 1/8
As it happened I had zero tear out anyway.


Here’s the other stile with the bottom portion ready to come out, it’s a case of marking the lines around to get the shoulder cut.


That’s the halvings done


I can now get a curve i machined at the start with all the rest of it and offer it in, mark the lines and halve in exactly the same way as I have just described. You can get a really good joint easily this way.

I am placing the curve on top of the gate here and all I need to do is mark up the shoulders and halve it, I have loads of adjustment if I need it to get it really tight (it needs to be spot on top and bottom as when I flush cut it on the joints they will break out if they are not snugged up to one another, it’s best practice to have it glued to the hilt when doing this but I need it to come apart again to machine a groove in it to recieve the T@G boards)
That’s as far as I am with it at the moment, i shall be in touch soon when I do a bit more to it.
I am back on the gate now and it’s nearing completion, next up was to halve in the curved head, which as I have previously explained is a doddle doing it like this.

As you can see there is loads of room for playing around until it’s spot on, i have a good 3/8 to keep coming down to find the sweet spot front and back on both sides of these laps. As it happened the first crack was good enough it just needed a light tweak with the no.5 on one shoulder to bring it bang on.


Now it’s ready for machining in to final size, the stiles are already finished width, so I need to match the curved head to those, as long as the template to follow is good, this process is simple.


Here is my template for machining it all through, it’s exactly the same width as my stiles, and unstressed is MM perfect for overall width, both are critical here, if the template is too thin or too thick there will be no continuity between the stiles and the head, and if that o/a width is wrong either way and i try and ‘get it’ to fit it’ll be the wrong radius and won’t follow my top frame moulding! Time taken here to get it correct is all it takes.


Now I am not a fan of machining like this but needs must, this is too big to spindle and it’s not practical either as the inside faces would be well dodgy to machine. So the router it is, plus side is there is plenty of control here and I don’t have to lug it down to the machine shop, this thing is getting heavy already!
As a side note, I have in the past machined massive circles on the race (basically a bearing guided cutter) on the spindle in the same manner as i have made the top of this gate, we’re talking probably 2m wide, 2” thick!! Worked a treat inside and outside but we had to rearrange the shop so two of us could walk around the machine!


So with the template cramped on the gate and cutter ready to roll in the router it’s time to face up this head, being really really careful on the joint, if you have a blunt bit or your joints are laughing in either direction this will break out all day long, and at this stage it would be pretty annoying for that to happen! Slow and steady wins the race here. Once I have passed both sides I finish it up with a flush cutter on the other face of the gate. Job done. No thrills and no spills!


That’ll do nicely, fresh off the router, no break out, tear out or misalignment and we have a really nice strong lap joint ready to go. Now I have to sink a 5/8 deep by 7/8 wide groove all around this gate and rails to accept the tongue and groove board. It’s a date with the spindle and ring fence again for this one. Lovely.


Set the ring up to sink 5/8 (about 16mm in new money) set the height on the cutter, and fire away. I am machining from both faces here to get it dead middle, so it’s offset and I use a set up piece first to get the right size for my boards, it’s a case of lowering the cutter until it’s the right size remembering I am taking two cuts one from each side, so moving it 1mm equals 2mm overall.


Template tacked on one side as the halving has been taken out, the other side I just use the actual workpiece.
I actually machined my rails off the ring fence too as it’s already set for the depth, the stiles were also grooved out the same way as the curve. No break out to report so we’re getting there now. Next up is getting the T&G board out………

Dry fit to check the grooves are all good, a quick look at the rod to get the dims for my T&G and off we go


I’ve worked it out so it’s all even across the board, six across plus two wider end boards to go into the groove. It’s a dark art machining boards that are just right, take a bit of time to get a nice loose (but not sloppy) fit between tongue and groove and the board between grooves makes assembly simple.


Having a look at how things are playing out here, all looks good


95mm is the ticket, the above shot is just a dry fix up but properly spaced, obviously it all needs to run through and I needed to know the gaps so I could set the curved boards up on my rod


The hatched line where my finger is is the depth of groove, keep a few mil in from here whilst striking my trammels across the set up boards makes this a breeze, one cut, fit up and glue up (that’s the plan anyway)


3mm spacers inserted, placed on the rod and set for the trammels, time to strike the line


Sling them round the band


Another quick dry fit all looking good here just need to sand the inside faces of this, put a small angle on the rails to allow water to slide off and it’s ready for wedging


Space the boards, check the measurement both ends is the same and that it’s square to the rials. Glue up, check for square and then wedge up. I will pin the boards in place after it’s wedged as they can float around until then.

7/8 wedges for my 7/8 mortices, looking for nice straight grain here as I’ll give these some welly when I drive them home.


Wedges are snugged up and ready for flushing up, I’ll hack them off with the Disston and no.5 them smooth.


I put a strap around the top to keep it solid while the glue went off. I wanted to drawbore this but the client wanted a clean face, so plugged from behind was a better option than trying to stub bore it and risk any disasters.
Home and dry now on the gate front, over to the posts and headed to finish it off.


Joints have come up really nice, a really simple and strong way to joint up curves. Every method has its pros and cons, with this way it’s all one or lost on the templates, if they are no good this would be a struggle but if time and care is taken it’s simple and strong! It



Front and back, front isn’t sanded yet but you get the gist…….
Wonderful work Scotty! It does make me smile when people that are incredibly talented and experienced call something very complicated a doddle :)
Wonderful work Scotty! It does make me smile when people that are incredibly talented and experienced call something very complicated a doddle :)
Thankyou Foxbat. I suppose it depends where on the ladder you are at. As a hobbyist or someone who has a keen interest this may seem technical and I appreciate that.
This post was to really demonstrate an alternative method of jointing up, I hope it is of interest and you never know someone may give this a go if they get a similar job.
does having the top of the rails grooved lead to discolouration and swelling of the rail/joards?
your descriptions remind me of coleys1 (thats a compliment unfortuneatly he's not posted for a long time)
hi Johnny thankyou for the compliment and the interest.
It’s a lot more usual to make something like this bare faced to avoid what you have pointed out, however this was the way the client wanted it so what I do is end grain seal the bottom of each board (takes 5 minutes all in) and then apply a liberal bead of silicone in the bottom of the grooves. I really don’t like silicone and I am hopeless with the stuff but this method limits swelling and does stop moisture creeping up the boards and turning the bottom 1/3rd a different colour.
Won’t last forever but you can’t have it all is what I say 😀
Thank you for this project, as an amateur I found your thread so well presented it was easy to follow even the technical stuff I've never heard of before.

My pleasure, I am pleased you enjoyed it. I will post up one more time on it showing the posts and headed frame with the gate in it as the finished article! I should have it done by Tuesday 🤞😃

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