Spanish Cedar Gate

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Blog entry by clin posted 12-30-2016 02:38 AM 1659 reads 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been making some gates for my house. Here’s a link to a project I posted a earlier.

Click for details

Here’s the drawing. the gate is roughly 6 ft tall and 4 1/2 ft wide. So it is a rather large gate.

While the back gates, made from inland red cedar, came out fine, I wanted a more refined look for the large front gate leading to our house. After calling around, a small lumber dealer “Southwest Lumber” in Albuquerque, NM suggested I consider Spanish cedar. So I headed there to have a look. Big very, very clear pieces of wood.

For the most efficient use of the wood, pieces about 11 ft long would work best giving me a 6 ft and 5 ft piece, one stile and rail. Most of their stock in 6” width was 10 ft. To get 11 ft I had to get wider stock. So I got one piece that was roughly 11 ft x 13” x 3” thick. That was one big piece of wood.

From that piece, I got two two stiles, a center rail, and center stile. I got a 9” wide piece for the top and bottom rails. I also bought 4/4 stock for the panel boards and a 8/4 for the battens the gate mounts and latches to.

The big piece weighed about 100 lbs, so it was all I could do do drag it from my truck into my garage. But I cut it nearly in half (6 ft + 5 ft) using my circular saw. At over 3” thick, I had to make two passes to get through it.

This is the rough wood used for the frame after cutting to rough length. Keep in mind that the largest piece you sees is roughly 13” wide and over 3” thick.

Here it is after ripping the wider piece. Note: For reference, the yellow straight edge is 6 ft long.

Being rough lumber, I needed to joint and plane it. I don’t own a jointer, let alone one wide enough. So I used a planer sled. For those unfamiliar, a planer sled is just a flat board the rough lumber is mounted on. It’s not necessary that this sled be real stiff. All that maters is the rough lumber be secured to it and well supported. Usually shims and hot glue. As long as the rough wood is attached to the sled while the sled is dead flat, the thickness planer will plane the top true.

You’ll note the lack of shims on this piece. In this case I tried a technique where blobs of hot melt glue are used instead of shims. I found this okay as long as the gap was small, say less than 1/16”. Thicker than that and the hot melt glue compresses too much. Perhaps there are stiffer hot melt glues. So, in most of my runs, I used shims.

This was quite an effort as the some of the rough pieces were over 30 lbs, and the sled itself (8 ft melamine shelf) is darn heavy too. It takes many passes to level a single board.

Once the boards were surfaced on one side, it was easy enough to plane to thickness. Here’s the boards planed and a pic of planer and chip bag. Since the Dewalt 735 planer has a powerful blower, a filter bag is directly attached. This works very well.

In order to joint the edges, I use an 8 ft long, clamp-on edge guide. This is typically used a as guide for cutting down sheet goods using a circular saw. But it works well to give a straight edge for jointing an edge on a table saw.

I don’t have a pic of the straight edge in use, but here’s the results of the main frame pieces milled on all sides:

Here’s the pieces in a rough layout:

I cut the groove for the panel boards next using a dado stack. I had to make a stopped dado cut. But since I wanted to register all these from the same side (back side of gate), this meant I needed to start one of the cuts in the stile at the stop point. It took me a while to figure this out. The trick was to position the board and raise the blade up into the wood. I had previously set the depth and marked the depth wheel on the table saw and counted the number of turns. I made this cut first, and then all others after to get the same depth.

The next step was cutting the mortises. This is my first project cutting mortises. I decided to hog out the bulk using my drill press. Then cut the rest out with a chisel.

Here’s me channeling my inner Gepetto for the small mortises that hold the spindles. There’s something very satisfying about using a chisel.

And of course where there are mortises there are tenons. I made shoulder cuts using a good crosscut blade on my table saw and used a dado stack to remove the bulk of the material. Then use a large chisel to pare away to final size.

Here’s a dry fit of the spindles in the top and center rail.

I didn’t get any photos of the spindles by themselves, but I simply cut square stock, then made them into octagons by making 45-degree cuts.

Because my mortises were less than ideal, I decided to go ahead and use drawbore joints. This was also new to me, so I made a test run on some scraps:

I bought a new flush trim saw just for this. Great little saw and only cost $10.

I went ahead and sectioned one of the pegs. The crack in the larger pieces was there. The crack in the tenon was apparently caused by the peg. However, of the two pegs, this was the one I intentionally offset more than 1/16”. That appears to have been too much. But I sectioned the end of the tenon (not shown) and it turned out this was a very small section and the other peg had no issues.

It’s interesting to see how the peg has a bend to it and you can see the gap between the peg and tenon. Even without any glue, this is a very, very tight joint. It’s clear you could easily build this way without any glue.

I planed the 4/4 for the panel boards. I cut the tongue and groove on the table saw using a dado stack. This works well enough. Though I found I need to make several passes when cutting the tongues, pressing the board down tightly.

I put chamfers on the T & G using my block plane.

I then cut the panel boards as needed. and began fitting them. As you can see, I used shims in the T&G joints to maintain an even spacing without pushing the T&G together. That way it has room to expand more if needed.

And a dry fit before final assembly:

Before final assembly, I pre-finished the panel boards and the inside of the panel grooves in the rails and stiles. I used Penofin for the wood finish.

I also drilled weep holes in the bottom rail to drain water that would otherwise be trapped in the groove. We don’t get much rain here, less than 7” a year. So moisture isn’t much of an issue.

Here’s the backside after assembly.

While probably not needed, because of the drawbore joints, I still used Titebond III on all the joints. Though if you refer to my drawing, you’ll see a haunch on the bottom rail. I did NOT glue this. So as this rail expands and contracts, this haunch can move. Of course the haunch itself still holds the rail inline with the stile. I’m not sure how important this is, but it seemed making a 7 to 8” wide M&T was asking for trouble.

To secure the panel boards, I toe-nailed them from the back side. I put just one 16 gauge brad in the center at the end of each board. This way the board should be able to expand and shrink without creating stress. I did make a point to use stainless steel brads for this to minimize the streaks typical of metals used with woods, such as Spanish cedar, that have a lot of tannins.

Here’s the front side assembled and finished:

The gate latch was a little tricky because I wanted the thumb latch on the outside and the gate to swing out. So I had to create a clearance for the drop bar and a recess for the catch.

And here it is completed and installed:

-- Clin

7 comments so far

View Rich's profile (online now)


7127 posts in 1754 days

#1 posted 12-30-2016 04:39 AM

Beautiful gate. This is also a great post with the sort of detail I like to see. I like how you do sample joints before you jump into the real thing. Smart move.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Redoak49's profile


5328 posts in 3153 days

#2 posted 12-30-2016 12:02 PM

Really nice looking gate…and a great post.

View splintergroup's profile


5484 posts in 2387 days

#3 posted 12-30-2016 03:04 PM

Spanish cedar available in Abq? You’ve got to be kidding! If you don’t mind me asking, what is their board foot charge?

I’m in need of a similar gate to replace the one I built out of plain old cedar about 15 years ago (arched top) and that wood looks fantastic. I also love the recessed latch detail.

What form (if any) of finish did you use?

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2161 days

#4 posted 12-30-2016 05:26 PM

I think it was about $6.30 a bd-ft for the 12/4 and $5.75 for the 4/4.

I used Penofin on it. Penofin is mostly rosewood oil. I’ve used that for years on outdoor projects. You do have to touch it up every 1 to 2 years. Penofin has a lot of UV inhibitors and sun is more of an issue where I live than rain.

Of course it is an option to not finish it at all. Like many woods, the Spanish cedar will turn grey over the years. In fact, there was part of one of the rough boards that had weathered a bit. The grey really was more of a silver. I thought about not finishing, but decided to go with the Penofin.

-- Clin

View magaoitin's profile


249 posts in 2114 days

#5 posted 12-30-2016 05:39 PM

Fantastic post sir! The detail and sketches are exactly why I love LJ’s. You did a great job.

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

View splintergroup's profile


5484 posts in 2387 days

#6 posted 12-31-2016 03:21 PM

Clin, I use Penofin down here in Socorro. Good stuff (smells like fish).

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3422 days

#7 posted 12-31-2016 10:45 PM

Clin, that is one excellent gate. Are you the gate keeper? haha

-- Art

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