How to Build a Wooden Shadow Box Gate

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For a slightly different approach to an outdoor entranceway, try building a shadow box type of gate. From the outside, the gate will resemble any other of these wooden structures, but once inside, the squarely arranged shape of the box will be visible. This could be just the unique appearance that the outside area of your house needs.

Things You'll Need

  • Cedar or cypress fence boards 3-inch heavy-gauge galvanized builder's screws Galvanized casing nails Circular saw Saw horses Safety glasses 2-by-6 wood stock Gate hinges and a gate latch Tape measure
  • Check the dimensions of your gate opening so that you can plan the construction details. Make sure the support post for the gate is sturdy and plumb. Then check the width of the opening for uniformity. For simplicity, let's say we are going to build a shadow box gate that is 6 feet high and 4 feet wide.

  • Choose the boards for the front of your gate. Rough-cut cedar or cypress is an excellent choice. Lop the top two corners off to form "ears" for each board, and cut each board to 6 feet. Set the boards aside.

  • Build the shadow box with a 2-by-6 softwood such as Douglas fir or pine. Cut two 4-foot pieces and two 5-foot pieces. Make sure all ends are perfectly square. Place the 5-foot pieces in between the 4-foot pieces and screw them together with heavy-duty galvanized 3-inch builder's screws. Use three screws for each corner.

  • Cut four corner braces from the same 2-by-6 stock. Each piece should be 8 inches long and have a 45 degree beveled edge. This cut is made by setting your circular saw to the "45" mark and running the saw across the 2-by-6 in the same manner as if you were squaring off the end. Attach each brace with four of the same-sized building screws. Put two screws at each end. Make sure the box part is square (the diagonal measurements must be equal).

  • Secure the front planking (that's the cedar or cypress) to the front of the gate. Let 2 inches overhang at the bottom. Place one board so that the center of it is exactly in the center of the frame. Be sure that the outside edges are parallel to the edge of the box. Nail this board with #8 galvanized casing nails or special fence board nails. Then continue the boards to the outside edge without leaving any gaps between boards. Put three nails at the bottom and top of each board. The last two boards will probably not fit exactly, so they have to be cut for the entire length of the board. Do this by temporarily securing the board to a 2-by-4 with a couple of nails (be certain to drive the nails all the way into the wood), and then place the two boards on a pair of sawhorses. Next chalk a line along the length of the board at the exact width that will fit into the remaining space. Then make the cut with a circular saw, remove the nails and attach the narrow board to the gate.

  • Add a pair of wrought-iron 6-inch "T" hinges to one side and a latch to the other side. Now the door is ready to be hung and painted.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are not going to paint your door, use 2-by-6's made from cypress or cedar. For the shadow box, it is possible to use 2-by-4 wood stock. The difference is mostly visual.
  • If you want to hang the door from the inside, use exterior-quality butt hinges.

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