An Easy Practical Farm Gate

Excerpt from Practical Skills 1985

Hundreds of gate designs have been devised to ease the passage in and out of fields and barnyards. Almost all of them depend on hinges to carry the weight of the gate swinging open or closed. The light aluminum gates today are the nicest but they carry a nice price tag, too. And even these will eventually suffer from the weakness of all large hinged gates — the weight is too great for the hinges. Even with a diagonal brace through the gate and up to the post above the hinge, these gates eventually sag and drag on the ground. To prevent the sagging, an enormously sturdy and solid hinge post must be set in the ground.

The simple board gate shown here avoids the problem and expense. To open, the gate is slid back on its bar hinge to about halfway, where it balances on the bar. Note that it can only open one way. Even if made of heavy boards like oak, the gate is very easy to lift, open or closed. If grease is smeared on the slide bar occasionally, even a child can open it. The most durable wood is rough cut hardwood from a sawmill. Red oak, being the longer lasting of commonly available cheaper woods, is preferred around where I live.

If using softwoods like pine from the lumberyard, paint the gate after it has been left out to dry for a year. Most of the cheaper pine grades of lumber are now so inferior, they will not last ten years without protection. Some of the new penetrating stains are good, too, but they’re somewhat expensive for livestock gates. When using hardwoods, try to buy freshly sawed green wood, especially if the wood is oak, and make the gates right away. After the wood has dried, it is hard to nail.

The gate should be about 48 inches tall, made with five horizontal 1 by 6-inch boards. Nail the boards close together (3 inches) at the bottom if little pigs and lambs are to be penned. The gap between the boards can gradually widen to about 10 inches between the top two, as in the drawing. Uprights holding the boards together should be spaced 4 to 6 feet apart. Each juncture of upright and vertical should receive four 7-penny nails, or 8-penny if 1-inch-thick rough-sawn lumber is being used. Clinch each nail over well on the other side.

Set the gate between the two posts where the slide bar will be attached, raise the gate about 3 inches off the ground, and block it. Insert the slide bar under the second board from the top of the gate and nail it to the two posts.

Place a brick or flat stone on the ground by the single post to which the gate is fastened so the bottom board does not rest on the earth and begin rotting. To secure the gate at this end, a simple chain beats all the fancy catches and bars ever invented. Use a short length of light chain with a spring-loaded catch hook on the end — like the ones on lead ropes for horses. Bathe the chain and hook in used oil before putting them to use so they won’t rust so fast.

If you use two posts at the closure of the gate, instead of the one I’ve just described, both the chain and the stone the gate rests on when closed can be eliminated. The two posts are set parallel to each other, hardly more than 3 inches apart. Nail two short pieces of board across them, one near the top and the other a little below the middle, both boards to coincide with the top and middle horizontal boards of the gate. The gate’s upright at the end next to the closing posts is nailed to the horizontal boards not at the ends, but back from the ends about a foot. Thus the ends of the top and middle boards will slide right on the short boards between the two posts, closing the gate solidly and at the same time raising it off the ground.



Beautiful! I love this sort of thing. KISS!

It took me awhile to realize this is a swinging gate and not a sliding gate. I think if I were to make it and the ground was level enough I’d put a wheel where you have the stone. Then again, it would just be another one of those tires that go flat.

Another advantage of this design over hinge gates is it’s more resistant to wind damage.

It seems I spend half my time begging people to keep gates secured, because a 16′ hinged steel gate, blowing in the wind, can easily destroy itself — not to mention injuring people or animals that are in its path!

Great design! It harkens back to the time when farmers had to be clever, instead of hardware-dependent.

I remember that picture from when you first published the book, lo these many years ago. Some ideas are eternal! I must also confess to a sneaking fondness for the Texas or Portagee gates; great for using up short chunks of leftover barbed wire and relatively straight tree branches… Not so good, however, for keeping pigs corralled, which your gate would do.

I was visiting my girlfriend’s famliy in Holland this May and I saw a style of gate that was only used in a certain part of Holland. The gate has a massive post with a stout pin in the top on one side and a post with a naturally grown fork in the top on the other side. Pivoting on the pin is a trunk of a tree with enough of the trunk past the pin that it counter balances the section of the gate that rests in the tree fork side. The dutch then broadaxe the trunk flat and mortise three or four vertical parts that go from the tree trunk to near the ground. To these they attach some hardwood roughcut and the gate is complete. Some folks had to adjust the pin side and affixed large rocks to help counter balance. I was impressed that these gates could be opened with one hand. I will admit that I want to copy one of these gates and possess all the tools and materials yet it has a long list of things in front of it on my to do list Still it is a cool gate