Preparation and Planning

This past couple of weeks I worked on a porch gates and fence renovation for a friend.  He has goats that can get on his porch which wraps around the entire house.  The porch does have posts and rails but the stiles between the posts are far enough apart that the goats still go through the space between.  There are also openings that did not have any gates.

The solutions: put up some more stiles and build some gates.  My friend wanted to keep the costs down so I suggested putting up some used fence pickets I acquired from another friend who tore down an old fence.  The used, gray weathered pickets matched the look of his brownish red colored (freshly painted) rails.  I also built gates out of the old fence pickets.

woodworking wood gate

The last build includes a sliding gate for a 10 foot opening.  While I needed some new lumber for the rails of this gate the stiles will be the old pickets.  The sliding gate just needs paint finish.

This leads me to the first subject at hand: preparing old lumber.  Old lumber has the wonderful property of needing some extra effort (check out pallet wood projects and

Step One: Haul it, pull nails, and sort according to what is usable or not.  (And there is the extra bonus of finding a snake in the stack of pickets you set aside before the build.  At least this was one that did not make noise with its tail!)

Step Two: cut off bad ends that have rotted or split due to rain and ground contact.

Step Three: measure and cut to length (30 ½ inches).  Now the stock is ready to put up next to the existing stiles.

Step Four: make a spacer block to go between each stile; this is quicker and easier to manage than measuring each space between stiles.

Step Five: Pre-drill screw holes to minimize splitting the very dry and weathered wood. Picking a drill bit smaller than the threads and equal to the shank allows for the screws to fit tight without splitting the wood.  In some cases it is wise to countersink for the head of the screws to resist splitting the wood once the screw sets.   (Only a few of the boards split a little and I replaced only about two boards out of a hundred plus pickets.)

old lumber router bit

This brings up the second matter at hand: planning. While this normally goes before anything else this came here because of what happened with this project as a lesson for future projects.

Step One: pre-measuring gets more than two pickets out of one old picket.  There were, however, many boards that only had enough useful wood for one picket.

Step Two: Cut off unusable wood. This drop-off scrap wood created enough fuel for our rocket-mass heater to warm our house for two more days of cold. The Pecan and Mesquite trees here in the center of Texas are turning green now so the final frost is past.

While old wood costs a lot less (this fencing was free to me!) seeing the drop-off reminded me how much scrap wood I have left over from other projects.  This visual reminder means I need cutting diagrams as well as projects plans (e.g.,

Wood costs grow faster than trees do these days.  So both preparation and planning makes a real difference for woodworking now more than ever.  The time used here saves the other greenery ($$$$).  So until the next blog, good preparation and planning in your woodworking.

By Larry Beck

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