Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pet Gate

So I got the cutest puppy in the world this last May.

I know...  You're thinking two things: Wow, that's the cutest thing in the world and why didn't you get a real sized dog?

Well, you're right on the first part and as for the second part...  She's only eight weeks old in this photo and she's already 11 pounds. As I write this she's just over five months old and is already 50 pounds. Full grown she should be 80 - 100 pounds which is a large dog in anyone's book.

In any case I've been crazy busy taking care of a puppy the last two months.

Ripley, my wife and I also co-habitat with three cats. The cats get fed in the dining room and in interest of giving them that room with no puppy and keeping the puppy out of the cat food we've gated it off with baby gates. We've got a nice commercial gate with a door and an animal pass-through that is large enough for the cats but small enough to keep the dog out for our main door; however, the other doorway is blocked by one of those classic tension lock style gates. It works but it isn't convenient.

So, in my spare time standing around holding a leash and waiting for the puppy to do her business I was designing a new and improved gate I could build in my shop. I set myself two challenges: Build the hinge mechanism myself and build the latch mechanism myself.

I had a few additional specifications:

  • Gate should reach about the height of the chair rail
  • Cats need to be able to pass through the gate
  • Gate should swing both ways
This is what I came up with.

Everything - excepting the screws and bolts - is shop made.

The hinge is a single board screwed to the wall. I rounded over the face so that the gate could swing freely without pinching. As you can see in the photo the top and bottom rails extend from the side of the gate. A 1/4" pin through the top and a 1/4" bolt through the bottom completes the hinge. The picture below shows the top part of the hinge connection when I was prototyping with some scrap.

I added some slick tape on the top of the hinge to eliminate wear. I used a threaded insert in the bottom rail to hold the carriage bolt in place. If I were to make another gate I'd put the threaded insert into the wall mounted block. To help ensure my holes were vertical and placed correctly I made a drilling jig.

I also decided on a simple latching mechanism. I created a swing arm that when lowered would extend from the side of the gate and capture another wall mounted block. In the raised position it would swing the latch out of the way.

I make the latch by first doing some math to figure out where my pivot point needed to be. I then sketched it out on graph paper. I transferred the pattern to poster board which I cut out and used as a pattern. Having a poster board template allowed me to use a thumbtack into the frame of the gate to make sure I had the pivot point and size of the latch pieces calculated correctly.

I had milled down some black walnut to just under an inch thick. I wasn't to concerned with the exact thickness so once the board was flat I stopped planing it. Once I knew the length of the latch piece I could cut out the three pieces: latch filler, long piece, and end filler.

The walnut cap is about 3/4" wider than the gate rails so there's a little overlap. I used my table saw to cut bevels across the top and rounded over the edges to soften the feel of the top. I rounded over the hinge end to let the gate pivot freely.

I made the main body of the gate from poplar because it is light weight, inexpensive, and I have a fair amount of it in my wood stash. The rails and stiles were fastened together with a modified saddle joint. I say modified because to glue the balusters in solidly I ripped the top and bottom rail into two pieces. I could then cut dado joints across the wider of the two pieces to capture the balusters.

The above picture shows my modified saddle joint. I call it modified because 1/3rd of the rail is missing. It gets glued back on after the balusters are glued in place.

In the above picture you can see how I handled attaching the balusters. I using a jig and the dado blade in my table saw I made 1/2" dados about 3-3/4" inch apart. The dados ended up being just a hair bit shallow which was perfect because I could fit each baluster by sanding the end a bit until I had a perfect fit. Then I glued the other piece of the rail on using a bunch of clamps to keep everything aligned and tight.

I wanted the balusters to be square where they met the rails but I decided to make them a little more fancy by putting a round over on the bulk of the rail.

To finish the gate we painted the body of the gate with a white semi-gloss latex paint. The walnut just got some general finishes semi-gloss oil and urethane that I diluted with mineral spirits to make it into a wipe on finish.

My weekend project ended up taking three or four weeks but all in all I'm very happy with how it came out. The only thing I would do different if/when I build another one would be to put the threaded insert into the bottom of the hinge block instead of the bottom gate rail. 

All in all I am very happy with how it came out.