Cedar Gate with Arc Top

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Project by WoodHoarder posted 06-29-2013 03:42 PM 2100 views 7 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a gate made of clear grade western red cedar. It is a first for me as it was my first non-friend/relative client. It was quite a learning and growing experience for me. If only it were as simple as woodworking.

The Gate went together beautifully, all M&T joints on the frame and T&G on the slats. I bought the wood rough and milled it to my specs. It was very cooperative for once. The mortises were cut on my delta mortiser and the tenions on the table saw. For the curve, I needed to refer to lumber jocks for techniques to obtain a consistent curve. (Click for details).

I made a template and routered the final curve with a template bit.

The finish color, type and brand were specified by the customer. It was an acrylic semi-transparent and after the application is when I started losing sleep. I have never worked with acrylic stains despite them being the only thing still legally available in my part of California. (Oil based typically obtained through unconventional means). After the first application the finish turned out too light, after a second coat the finish was blotchy, after the third it was blotchy and tacky. After a couple days of panic, my father in law stepped in to help. We removed the top coat with steel wool and applied a very thin coat using a rag. This resulted in a dark finish with a distressed look. Which I thought looked beautiful.

Upon delivery, the client was happy with the gate but preferred a darker color. The finish was still slightly tacky but I wasn’t too worried as it still was within the 24 hour drying time. The client hung the gate himself and I haven’t heard any further problems.

So the reflection begins. I truly have respect for you who do this as a living. On the business side, I made some errors. The first was estimating the final price. In my excitement to get the job, I ignored some sound advice from my wife in estimating the time involved in a project. She has learned that when I say something will take one hour it ends up taking four. She is correct.

Another mistake is that I quoted the project based on the material prices of knotty cedar. I told the client at some point that I would be using clear cedar. I realized my mistake when it came time to purchase materials. Instead of a $100 material cost, I ended up closer to $300. Being true to my word, I ate the difference and didn’t mention the mistake to the client.

In terms of dealing with clients, I learned some other valuable lessons. The client was self admittedly very picky and very involved. I had illusions on my head of sending progress pictures and keeping the client involved in every step of the process. I learned this is very time consuming as it is hard for a non-wood worker to appreciate the jointery and process. All I got was a client panicking that he hired a woodbutcher who admires a square hole in a piece of wood. Sometimes less is better.

So after all the CAD design revisions, sight visits, reassuring the customer and dealing with difficult finish…I made minimum wage off the job. Still, it was worth it to learn the process and have an appreciation of what it takes to do woodwork for a living.

-- Christ was a carpenter...a fact that humbles and inspires me.

8 comments so far

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

6223 posts in 3551 days

#1 posted 06-29-2013 04:26 PM

Looks really nice! I like the look of your gate. The curve top gives it a touch of class! Nice Job!
I posted one a while a go here on LJ’s if you care to take a peek it’s here. Link to my gate

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

6223 posts in 3551 days

#2 posted 06-29-2013 05:17 PM

I clicked on the link you provided in your description and it seems to be not working.

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View steliart's profile


2847 posts in 2886 days

#3 posted 06-29-2013 09:35 PM

Beauty !

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions !!!

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3167 days

#4 posted 06-29-2013 09:36 PM

Nice gate. As for business, it gets easier after the first hundred jobs.

View josephf's profile


207 posts in 2295 days

#5 posted 06-30-2013 02:22 AM

I loved hearing your client experience . So so like I have experienced . Keeping my mouth shut would be valuable .But i also blurt a price or feature before i give it any thought . The client experience is exhausting -trying to figure what they want and then to build it for them .
I have a question .your panels ,did you leave space for them to move and if so how much . The lower channel /dado will collect water .do you care ,did you do anything to deal with this .

View dnick's profile


986 posts in 2581 days

#6 posted 06-30-2013 03:22 AM

Nice looking gate. You learn from every project and every client. It never stops.

-- dnick, North Hollywood, Ca.

View WoodHoarder's profile


67 posts in 2480 days

#7 posted 07-02-2013 03:17 AM

Thanks for the nice responses everyone.

josephf, in answer to your question, I left 1/8 of an inch of space on both sides to allow for the expansion. As for water pooling, I sealed all of the dados and the end grain of the slats prior to assembly. In SoCal we get very little rain which dries up fast so I wasn’t too worried about pooling. I’ve read that some will drill weep holes to allow the water to drain.

Woodshaver: I had certainly looked at your gate before starting mine for inspiration. It is beautiful, I intend to incorporate metal in my next gate project similar to yours as I like how it looks on your gate. Also, I’ll try to fix the link.

-- Christ was a carpenter...a fact that humbles and inspires me.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2374 days

#8 posted 07-02-2013 02:26 PM

Beautiful gate, looks professional. Has a great design especially the arched top. Like the finish as well. Great job!

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