Custom baby gates

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Blog entry by Justin posted 01-12-2016 04:59 PM 2089 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After shopping for gates to corral our 11-month old crawler, my wife and I decided none of the available products provided the features we wanted. We also found the better units to be quite expensive. I began to think the “universal” nature of these things was limiting their ability to be very good at anything. Lots have a crossbar to trip over, others have strange latches, and none seemed like something we wanted to spend a bunch of money on.

I spent some time in SolidWorks and came up with a design that is easily adjustable for any width doorway by simply editing the width of the rails and re-spacing the spindles (if needed). We want to fit these in at least four places in the house (eventually), but to start we really need just two. The rails and stiles are going to end up about 3 3/8 inches high by about 1 3/8 thick.

An additional aspect of this project was to use dimensional framing lumber, treating it as if it were rough sawn stock. This limits the cost of the project, while allowing me to practice skills like hand planing on an inexpensive and somewhat temporary piece.

The stock I chose was Douglas fir 2×12 from the orange retail giant. After laying out the parts around the knots and pithy core, the frame members for one gate easily came out of one 12 foot board, with quite a bit of stock left over, for a cost of $20. Each part is essentially quarter sawn or rift sawn, with nice straight grain for the most part. Jay Bates and lots of others are using this technique for shop projects, casual furniture, and what-not. I think it makes a certain amount of sense, depending on the project.

After cutting to rough length and ripping to rough width I began planing them to achieve a better surface. This is my first time using hand planes. I purchased several on eBay and began restoring them. I watched a lot of videos on hand plane restoration, use, and tuning. After the usual flattening of the sole and sharpening the iron I was quite pleased with the performance of the this 80-year old Milers Falls jack plane.

I surfaced all four sides of each piece, learning quickly what tearout really means and figuring out how to avoid it. Reading the grain a little better, more Youtube, sharpening to 1500, and adjusting the cap iron. My technique needs some work, but I’ve learned a lot so far!

Trimmed each part to final length on the table saw sled and laid the pieces together for a progress mock-up photo. The spindles are just 3/4” dowel stock.

I built a quick ‘n dirty version of Bill Hylton’s router mortising jig. Works sweet. Made a few practice joints in scrap, and cut some practice loose tenon stock from some other offcuts. I’ll use oak for the real tenon stock once I get the roundover dialed in on the scraps.

That’s where I am so far. More to come soon. Planning to try to get two of these gates finished in the next two weeks. We’ll see if I can find the time but that’s the plan. Tonight I’m going to try to gather the courage to cut the mortises in all those parts…

3 comments so far

View onoitsmatt's profile


446 posts in 1951 days

#1 posted 01-12-2016 05:18 PM

Thanks for the blog, this is a good idea. I’ve got a 7 month old and a 3 year old at home. I would love to do this too, but I have no idea where you’re finding the time!

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

View Justin's profile


22 posts in 1704 days

#2 posted 01-12-2016 05:21 PM

After the little one goes to bed…. ;) I get about 1 or 2 hours a night, and it helps that the wife supports it because she wants the gates as bad as I do!

Thanks for the blog, this is a good idea. I ve got a 7 month old and a 3 year old at home. I would love to do this too, but I have no idea where you re finding the time!

- onoitsmatt

View Justin's profile


22 posts in 1704 days

#3 posted 01-13-2016 02:39 PM

Made some progress last night on the loose tenons. The dry fit went together OK but the joints need a little finesse work (some of my cuts are not as square as I would like). I made some new tenon stock from red oak for some extra strength. I had to sand the faces and edges of each tenon to make them fit, which was my intent. I wanted a nice snug fit. I’m sure this is way overbuilt. I feel like it’s going to weigh 20 pounds.

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