Monday, August 22, 2011

DIY: invisible gate

One of the things that irritated me at our old house was the gate latch. It was one of those sliding bolt-type locks. It's not that it was particularly hard to use, it was just very annoying trying to reach it and slide it over from the other side and it was even more annoying trying to shut it since I had to line the bolt up into its little slot (and the gate was less than straight). And those few times I didn't line it over completely or didn't put the little handle down, the gate wouldn't close properly and I'd find it swinging open. And I'd never be able to open it with one hand or push through it with my shoulder. Oh no. And can I just mention how terrible it looked? Like, really terrible. Not modern at all. (I'm starting to realize that nothing's ever modern when it comes to things like this. What's up with that?)

Then I saw this post from The Art of Doing Stuff and I really loved the idea of using a magnet as a latch. I thought it was so smart and actually in the realm of possibilities for me. We have a Lee Valley Tools! I don't have to order anything from the internet! (Which is probably the number one reason why this was possible for me. I still haven't gotten over this ordering-online hiccup of mine.)

Of course, I didn't install it myself, our neighbour did. But I did have to explain to him what was floating around in my little brain and I did have to sit back and cross my fingers that he actually understood what it was I was asking, so it's almost as if I did the work myself!

Thankfully, he understood it PLUS he made it even better than how I would have done it.


This is the back or inside of the gate. I still have to find a handle, so it's not quite done yet. Just use your imagination to install a modern looking handle on the right side. I'm thinking long and black. (Oh. There's a "that's what she said" joke if I've ever read one.)


This is the front of the gate. It doesn't look like a gate, does it? I think that's the absolute best part! The original plan discussed with us was to put handles on both sides and cut a little hole out of the wood for a latch or, you know, we could totally (in your slow-mo voice, please) do the string over the top thing, too.

Jaw drops. Speechless. Eyes glazed over. It was pretty much at that very point that I thought, "As scary as it is for me to drive to foreign places (especially foreign places where I know construction exists), I MUST find this magnet. I may not be able to have the super modern cool fence of my dreams, but damn it, I'm going to have a friggin' awesome gate."

So you want to see how it latches?


The top board magically comes apart (ok, not magically), and one piece becomes the latch! This is the part I didn't think of. If you cut the boards on an angle rather than just a straight cut, the seam is even more invisible. Who'd've thunk it?!


The latch is a super-powered rare earth magnet. It's really strong. Before installation, I had to slide the two pieces apart so I could separate them. I couldn't pull them straight off each other. And these magnets come with a warning to keep them away from electrical devices and credit cards. Thank goodness the guy at Lee Valley Tools said something cuz it's so small, I was just going to pop it in my purse.

They don't have this particular style online, so I can't link it for you, but I promise it's at the store if you go (they keep these behind the counter, so ask unless you want to spend two hours of your day looking around Lee Valley Tools -- which isn't a half-bad way to spend two hours of your day, actually. They have some great stuff).

It took me a while to decide to purchase this style over the other since Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff used these, but I liked how the two-piece model was a little more straight-forward for installation (since I wasn't doing it myself and I didn't really want to invite him in and sit him in front of the computer so he could see how it was done).

The best part was that this one magnet cost me only $3! That's it! An entire gate latch for $3 (plus some wood pieces that were going to be used anyway). I love that the most!

So maybe by now you've had a chance to look at Karen's gate (and if not, you should cuz her fence is super cool and if there weren't dumb fence regulations and standards around here I totally would have wanted to copy that, too) and maybe you're wondering why we didn't counter-sink the magnet into the wood like Karen did. The reasoning behind it was that if the gate should shift during the winter or settle, it'd be a lot easier to unscrew the magnet and move it if we had to. Plus it's less work. Less work is always better, right?

the metal striking disc is screwed onto the gate

Now maybe you're thinking, "Hey! Won't you hit your head on that piece of wood sticking out?" And to that I'll quote Idle Husband, "What? Am I stupid?!"

The neighbour brought it up before anything had been built and I had this weird worry dream where all I could think about was how many times I'd bump my head on it and maybe I should think of a better way to install it and oh god! I have to tell him before he installs it and oh man! What if he installs it before I can tell him?! (worry worry) But now that it's there and I've had a chance to walk through it, the wood part is completely not in the way. Unless we were to walk rubbing right up against the house and inch our way around the post, there's no chance either of us will hit it.

The only other thought I've now had is to put a couple hook and eyes on the hinge side so that I can lock it closed or lock it open. I'm still kind of thinking about that. I know that this gate has a tendency to swing shut so a hook to keep it open would probably be really handy. More pondering needs to be done!


So if you were looking for a super simple latch that's easy to install, makes your gate invisible, and is super cheap, this just might be the latch for you!

4 comments:

Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

I was drooling over this gate on The Art of Doing Stuff too! I love that you made your own. It;s such a clever idea.

Stephanie said...

Using an earth magnet is genius!

LaelShine said...

I love it! I can just picture gates all over the country like yours, totally cool idea.

Idle Wife said...

Lindsey: I really loved her gate (and fence), I'm just still so amazed it actually happened. I'm usually kind of terrible at making these little dreams come true.

Stephanie: It's really strong, too. So far there's been no incidents where we've found the gate open accidentally.

Lael: I saw some string-over-the-top latches today. Huge cringe. This is really great. Even if just for the fact that we can push it open with a shoulder.