Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Curb Appeal : building new wooden gates part 2

I'm just bubbling with happiness today. The gates project has been a big step for W and I, we are both pretty novice at this renovation stuff and I have been super nervous at times that this whole renovation project has been a bridge too far for us to achieve, and that I've bought a white elephant that's just going to drain money and energy. It's been a life dream, I've always had the belief that  I can really redo and grow an old house into an amazing home. Today has been a real boost to my confidence that we ( read that as W) can do it! For real! Happy pirouettes ......and a reminder that sometimes you have to have the faith to jump into a project with both feet, and trust that even if it's super scary, you will make it to the end and feel awesome. Have faith in yourself, folks - follow your dreams!

Let's start with giving you some before pictures. I realized today that once again, I've forgotten to take great before pictures that show you just how bad things are. We've been rooting around in our photo folders trying to find something and found these images. The plus side is you get to see the driveway in spring, when the bulbs are out and everything looks beautiful just before the trees explode into leaf. The downside is that the distance on the photos just doesn't show you the rust, the way the base is falling off & completely gone from  the main gate , the chicken wire holding the body of the iron pattern together. The front gate looks perfect in this picture, again taken in the spring before we bought the house. What you cant see is that when we cut down the giant hobbit-eating weed (growing up here in the picture) the whole side of the gate collapsed, and that the main gate section is jammed shut with sticks, as the pole has slipped sideways.

My English eyes find gates and fences in the Netherlands a little odd looking as they always end in thin air, over the canal. Logically it makes sense - your common burglar or thief doesn't really want to have to wade through a canal carrying their haul of TV & stereo & computer goods that hate water, so you don't need to fence along the edge of the water. It still looks strange to me, but as the years go by, I get more used to it every day. I wonder if it feels equally odd to other non-Dutchies?

W invested in some tools to make this job viable, and this far into the build I think it's fair to say that both boys are singing their praises. We know that we need to do a lot of carpentry as we build out the upper floors so we took time to do research and buy tools that would go the distance with us. The design of the gates calls for a lot of crisscrossed woodwork and spars being attached. Here's one painted up  drive gate waiting to be mounted. Initially we thought we could do the joining with a kreg jig, but soon realised that the Festool DF 500 Q-Plus GB Domino Joining Machine, 240 V was a better bet. It allows the cutting out of the mortice holes and use 'dominos' - little wooden 'chips' to act as the tenons, for mortice and tenon joins. This means no unsightly screws or holes, just beautiful smooth wood.  He also bought himself a tablesaw  (Festool Table Saw CMS-TS 55 Set ) with various attachments. The combination of the tools has really made the whole project way smoother. I am sure you could use a different saw table, but as I understand it, the Domino Joiner is pretty unique in the market here in NL, there isn't a lot of other manufacturers of similar tools. I have to admit my jaw dropped on the floor at the price of all these tools, but the amazing thing is that it's still seriously cheaper doing it ourselves, than having someone else do the gate build. I have made W promise that I'm going to get lots of wonderful wooden projects done, so I'm already spending time surfing for ideas on Pinterest! We have lots of pallets and scrap wood that was jettisoned around the property and inherited with it that we can work with.

The boys have been working hard since Monday on the gates and have made great progress. IDD continues to be a great mentor and teacher, showing us tricks of the trade and facing each challenge as it comes. Tuesday was focused on finishing off gluing and staining the front gate,  then getting all the wood trimmed and ready for the surrounding fence edges. I wanted to carry the cross pattern through into the fencing, but with a little less complexity so that the gates were still the eye-catchers. We settled on one third of the fence area being a giant St Andrew's cross and having a second rail at the base of the fence to give it height and balance. it has a half length overhanging the water, to make it just a little harder for someone to waltz over - they might actually have to climb! The most important person that I want it to slow down is Luca, the woofer - and he hates swimming so I think it may just work!

Today, the boys worked super hard in getting all the fence post holes dug and started to cement in the posts for mounting the gate and fence across the main driveway. It's been a crazy warm day for December - they've been in t-shirts all day and not felt cold at all.. The main gates  have been hung as darkness crept in, but the light faded so fast, they didn't get all the ironmongery fitted, so the gates are held together with bits of wire overnight. Here's a sneak preview in very bad light of the main drive  - I promise much better 'end result' pictures  in part 3!

I just have to finish with one last picture of my awesome W : his halo is obviously a little slipped to one side in this picture ;) but he's looking super after a day toiling in the garden. So proud of him! And just in case you were wondering where I was - well, I have this little thing called a full time job that means I had to be in the office instead of out here working alongside them. At least I pay the mortgage!

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