Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Gate

Full disclosure dictates that I be open and honest in admitting that I am no craftsman. I'm a guy who barely passed woodshop in 7th grade by burning my name onto a piece of pine and coating it in varnish.

That's not to say I can't swing a hammer. I have been known to build things from time to time in my life. Functional things, mostly: a stand for an aquarium, shelves in my basement and garage, stuff that doesn't have to look pretty…as long as it works.

I'm getting married in a little more than a week. In addition to my beautiful bride-to-be, I'm adding a rambunctious six year old and two dogs to my household. As such, I decided it was time to work on a few projects to get ready for this welcomed invasion.

One of said projects involves building a gate to keep the dogs in the yard when they go out to do their doggy business. I decide to finish this project first--I already started replacing my deck and that's another story in and of itself--since it really is one that needs to be done prior to said dogs arriving on the scene. I also figured it might be the easiest, due to the fact that my yard is already 90% fenced in and the posts for a gate were planted by my late wife about 7 years ago.

While I may not be a craftsman, I do fancy that I'm relatively good at the maths. I needed to build a gate to span the 94.5 inch space between the previously mentioned gate posts. My basic math brain tells me that each half of the gate can be no more than 47.25 inches wide. As such, said brain decides that each half will be cut to 47.125 inches wide, assuring a 1/4 inch gap between the halves to allow space for opening and closing.

I begin the project on Monday morning and head to the lumber yard to get all the supplies I'm going to need. When I get home, I head back to get all the stuff I forgot the first time. After spending almost an hour preparing my work area, I'm ready to begin. It's now time for lunch. After lunch, I get out my trusty miter saw and start sawing away.

By the middle of the day on Tuesday, I have two gate halves measuring 47.125 inches wide by 48 inches tall; they look beautifully functional, really. I attach the hinges and begin the process of attaching the gates to the gate posts. The first half goes on with no problem and I'm ready to put the second half on its post and call it a day. It's 90 degrees out…again…there's not a dry piece of clothing on my body. I'm already on my third 64 oz. container of water. It will be good to get this gate hung, attach the latch, and head inside for a cold shower!

It doesn't fit. No matter what I do, I can't get the second half of the gate in place. I measure both halves…47.125 inches. I measure them again. Then I measure the space between the posts…94.125 inches. What! It occurs to me that I made my first measurement prior to putting the header across the top of the gate. In that process, I had to pull the two gate posts together so that the outside measurement at the top was the same as that at the bottom…d'oh.

I handled the situation as well as any grown man. I got in my car, turned the air-conditioner on high, drove to Cascades Ice Cream and got a small chocolate cone, returned home, and ate the ice cream in my car while weeping quietly.

I finally nut up and decide to fix this problem like a boss. The simplest solution will be to take the aforementioned header off and let the two posts return to their natural positions, thus ensuring that my gate will fit. I remove the lag bolts from one end of the header and notice nothing moved. Oh, yes, I had held the header up with a decking screw when drilling the holes for the lag screws…said screw having been driven deep enough into the board that I can't "find" it with the drill bit. No problem, I'll get an old fashioned screwdriver and have that deck screw out in a jiffy.

Fifteen minutes later, after I finally found a screwdriver, I inserted it into the hole where the screw was hiding and started turning slowly until I felt it catch. Twist, twist, twist…the header pops off the post drops down and lands on my head. I feel blessed to have been born with a thicker than normal skull at this point. I screw the deck screw back in a few turns and head to the other end of the header to take the lag screws out of that end. In a time saving measure, I already had the screwdriver available to remove the deck screw on that end once the lags were out…twist, twist, twist, and down comes the header board on top of my head. I'm feeling a little less blessed at this point.

OK, the header is down and now that other half of the gate should fit just fine…but it doesn't. The whole thing is still too wide. Well, this just won't do. Where is my mallet? I wedge the second half of the gate in and start whacking it into alignment with the first half. Then I finish screwing the hinges into place. Lastly I add the latch!

I have no idea if this gate will ever open. Tomorrow I'm going to try to build a sandbox. The playground set comes next Monday.