Garden fence

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Blog entry by JerryAtric posted 01-11-2022 05:34 PM 253 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Several people have asked for information about how I built my fence. I am certainly not an expert on fence building. I am happy to share some of my thoughts and impulses.

The origin is I like to cook. Fresh ingredients make an enormous difference in flavor and I hate to run out of seasonings. So, I needed an herb garden.

I had seen an image of a checkerboard garden that was charming. The contrast of stone and herbs are very attractive and walking around the checkerboard is amusing. It is convenient to have segregated patches for each herb.

The plot is on the southwest side of the house and gets about 8 hours of sun. The garden supplies most of my needs.
We have basil, oregano, thyme, sage, dill, tarragon, peppers, chives, rosemary, parsley, and strawberries. I keep mint in a pot because it spreads so aggressively.

Unfortunately, the local wildlife enjoys the herbs, also. And they don’t understand sharing or moderation. I gave up on tomatoes because of the deer after several years. One evening I was complaining about the animals and my wife told me to build a fence. I asked if I could design it and have fun. She said to go for it… and away I went.

I wanted a stone foundation because of groundhogs and because I like the look.
I had a picture of a braided wood fence in my ideas file.
I wanted two gates because we enter from both the front and back of the house.
My wife is fond of humming birds so she would get a hummingbird on the front gate.
I’ve always wanted to build a circle gate

The posts are seated on a gravel base in 28” holes and backfilled with concrete. There are two posts on the hinge side of each gate for extra stability. They are connected with several 1/2 inch dowels drilled at angles so they can not pull apart.

I put a 36 inch square piece of bluestone in each gate entry to provide firm footing.

I dug a trench and tamped down a gravel bed for the stone. The interior side of the wall is flush with the posts and the blocks are cut to fit around the posts. There is a 12 inch stone (paver) apron on the interior of the wall to provide walking room.

The fence top rails are mounted on rabbets or shoulder joints. They are positioned an inch below the top so that the cap slopes at about a 15 degree angle. I used Simpson ties for the bottom rail because I was impatient.

The side facing the house is left open (wire but no wood panels) so that I can see into the garden from my office window.

I wrote about the braided wood panels in another article, so I won’t repeat that information. However, I will note that I built the fence three times before I found a pattern that I found acceptable. Although I like the braided pattern, it was too repetitive. That gave rise to the grass panels on the front and back sides.

Here are the front and back ready for gates.

The gates were a challenge; particularly the proportions. I had no idea how tall the arch should be. I looked at lots of images and found a few that I liked best. Then I created a life size template. It hung in our foyer for several days (and my wife – bless her – didn’t complain).

I build the gate panels first because I knew how to do that. After I got started the inside of the gate seemed empty. I added the girl running through the grasses because it appealed to my sense of whimsy. My wife thought it was silly at first, but she grew to like it.

The images of the hummingbird and girl were complex and it was necessary to make multiple stencils to capture all the overlapping lines.

Here is the girls’ image traced on to the back panel and then after carving and painting.

Finally, there was nothing left but the gate frame and the arch and I had to address them.

The bottom rail is a 2×6, the stiles are 2×4’s and the two arches are each made of two 2×10’s joined with dowels. I cut a dado for the fence panels to float inside the frame (which created a problem).

The bottom rail and stiles are joined with a half-lap and 4 dowels. I thought that with the large surface area a half lap would be stronger than mortise-and-tenon. And the dowels should make the issue moot. The bottom arch is joined to the stiles with 5 dowels on each side.

Everything went together fairly well. I experienced a couple of character-building moments during glue-up, but it got done.

However, while I thought I was being clever in using the floating panel there was an issue. I had a complex image spanning 5 panels and the panels were able to shift. If you look closely at the hummingbird beak, you can see that the panel has moved and the beak doesn’t align exactly.

That provided an opportunity to learn about wood steaming. I soaked and heated some trim pieces and applied them on the interior edges. That effectively stabilized the panels.

My son came home to visit and helped me hang the gate. Here it is – front and back. You can barely see the trim around the interior edges.

The top arch was pretty easy by this point. There are two tenons – one on each side – for mounting into the posts. I was really unsure how high up to mount it so I clamped it to the posts and adjusted it up and down until it looked right. Then I got on a ladder and cut the mortises (another opportunity for self-reflection). I had to cut a slot from the top on one side in order to slide it into position. The patch is nearly invisible and nobody but Manute Bol would be able to see it.

I have some finials for the post tops, but I’m waiting for warm weather to put them on.

The second (back) gate remains undone. I have several ideas but have not settled on one yet. Fortunately, my daughter want a gate, so I can experiment on her property.

Thanks for your interest.

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