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Thread: Outdoor frame and panel discussion

  1. #1
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    Outdoor frame and panel discussion

    Hi all. I'm struggling with thinking of a good way to make some frame and panel type gates in an ongoing fence project without creating a place for water to pool on the grooved top of the rails.

    There are 4 sets of gates ranging from 30"H x 48"H to 56"W x 72"H (this will be a double gate) and a double driveway gate spanning a 13' opening (this is a different story altogether but I'd also like to do frame and panel here too!).

    The material is WRC. Gate frames will be 1 3/8"T, and 5 1/2"W and joined with blind M&T. Bottom rail to be 11" W. Panels to be 1/2"T and grooved into frame (with the exception of the questionable areas). Enclosed is a conceptual drawing.

    Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    One approach -

    1) Slope the rail to both sides at the top edge.

    2) Provide weep holes through the groove and out the bottom under each panel board.

    3) Seal the end grains of all panel with a minimum of 2 coats of 2 part epoxy to saturate the end grain. Let this all dry and finish all the interior edges of all your rails and stiles and panel sides before assembly.

    Option #2

    1) Same as # 1 above

    2) Don't groove the rail. Rather use loose tenons to locate and hold the panel in place. Exterior Dominos are good for this. Locate your loose tenons BEFORE you slope the top edge. The tenons can be glued to the rails but set into elongated slots in the panels bottoms. If you elongate the slots in the rails you are creating a water catcher - OK - but don't forget the weep holes.

    3) Same as step # 3 above and include a coat of epoxy in the rail tenons slots if they are elongated - otherwise glue the tenons into the rails as described in step 2/option 2.


    Other comments -

    The mid rails could be "false rails" consisting of a board on either side of the panel rather than a true rail. Easier to build and less of an issue as regards trapping water. I would still slope the top edges.

    I think your panels will be a bit on the light side. Why not 3/4" thick or even 5/8". Also as you will T&G the panels no need to glue the boards together.

    Will be a beautiful gate and fence.
    "... for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers & disbursers of enormous riches."
    WQJudge

  3. #3
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    Option 1 is sounding like the best approach, although drilling weep holes straight through the 10" bottom rail may be a little tricky.

    The biggest reason #2 won't work (and why the panels are so thin at 1/2") is that the 1x stock I have is 11/16, rough one side, and mostly cupped. Even at the modest 1/2" I think I may be pushing my luck and have to encourage some of the boards to flatten out beyond jointing.

    Thank you for your input and compliment!

  4. #4
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    Exterior frame-and-panel structures are problematic. I just finished repairing one in which the entire bottom rail was nearly completely rotted out.

    The last few I've built I used the detail below. Instead of the panel sitting in a water-collecting groove, the bottom of the panel is grooved to accept a tongue milled into the bottom rail. The panel has to be pretty accurately made and installed in order to keep a clean line at the bottom edge, but it avoids the "water trap" issue---better than weep holes, IMHO. I leave a small "reveal" to let the water out (and a little air in, to help promote drying).

    This might not work well with a 1/2" panel, though.

    Also-- I think 11" is a little wide for the bottom rail (adds racking-strength, I know, but it also stresses the M&T joint as it expands and contracts. I would limit the bottom rail to 8".

    Exterior Frame (1-9-14).png

  5. #5
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    After a little more thought, maybe you can do this with a 1/2" panel, if you replace the rail tongue with an epoxied-in bar of aluminum:

    Exterior Frame 2 (1-9-14).png

  6. #6
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    They've been making frame and panel shutters for a few hundred years now and the secret to longevity is not to let any water into the bottom grooves. Just putty/seal/caulk the bottom really well so water can't get it. Are these going to be painted or stained and sealed? If sealing, seal with West Systems Epoxy, if painting, just be sure everything is well caulked/sealed and then paint with a very good quality exterior paint. If your design constraints allow it, go with an MDO plywood for the panel and glue everything in with tightbond III. Then you can embellish the panels with applied moldings in lieu of incised lines. That will give you a rock solid panel that won't have any movement to it.

    I'd stay away from weep holes. All that will do is open up end grain which will suck the water up like a sponge and very little will actually weep.

  7. #7
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    I like Jerry's # 2 option a lot. This should work beautifully though the 1/2" stock is borderline rugged enough. You still need to seal the end grain of the panel boards. Do you really want to limit the success of such a project to using 1/2" panels rather than buying thicker more stable stock?

    Stephen makes the good point that the secret to success is to keep the water out but "putty/seal/caulk the bottom really well so water can't get it" is problematic as doing that effectively prevents the panels from moving and that leads to other problems. I think that saturating the panels ends AND THE GROOVE with epoxy, and let all this dry before assembly, would work very well. The rail to stile joint needs to be tight and well glued though or water will end up weeping into the end of the frame rails.

    The point about weep holes opening up the wood to more rot is valid (
    and yes I would not do that on a 10" bottom rail - sorry I missed that detail). I should have added the qualifier that the weep holes need to be well sealed too - with thin epoxy. Doing this right without plugging up the holes is tedious at best but effective in the long run. You can run a few weep holes through the face of the rail under the panels - like scuppers on the toe rail of a boat. Yes, all this is extra work but your fence and gate will last your lifetime with simple maintenance.
    "... for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers & disbursers of enormous riches."
    WQJudge

  8. #8
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    I do that technique too -- putting the groove up into the bottom of the panel. I do one more thing too. When I'm shoving the frame rails into the stiles, I put a bead of good caulk on the shoulders of the M&T joint. It almost all squeezes out when I clamp the assembly together, but there's some in there still. My hope is that the caulk on the shoulders helps seal that crack, even through the inevitable movement from hygroscopic expansion.

  9. #9
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    Although I like the idea of a floating tenon in the bottom of the panel, I can't machine a nice groove in the bottom of the panel since the wood isn't all that nice and I'd wind up milling it down to something like a popsicle stick to get it totally true and flat.

    The wood will be left raw or maybe treated with iron acetate to accelerate the greying process, so I can't really encapsulate the joint too much (I can stick a little caulking in the M&T joint, though!).

    Weep holes may just wind up being more surface area for water to intrude in the bottom rail.

    Looking to shutters for construction details sounds like a good resource.

    Considering the limitations of the panel I have (will need some mechanical coaxing to get it flat in the gate as well as the boards being thin) maybe an applied molding to hold the bottom edges of the panels with a little weep space on the back side of the gate would work. I'd need to use brads in the molding and in the centers of the panel boards though. The 23ga brads practically disappear and I have them in SS. I also have some 18ga SS that I can try.

    cross section.jpg

  10. #10
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    One more thought in regards to the panels. Unless you are dedicated to the idea of gluing the panel boards together it might be worth considering assembling the panel with loose boards. Who cares on a fence or gate if air gaps materialize now and then? Adding a mid rail (or 1/4 from the top rail) as you are showing if built with two pieces, as I suggest in an earlier post, can help locate the boards by simply adding a center pin through the rail into the face of each board. Most importantly, leaving the boards loose allows you to mill any kind of joint you choose on each board. When you bring the boards together though their edges might not align perfectly the centers will be accurately located. I would add a slight (1/16") rounded edge to all the panel boards to show them as a detail.
    "... for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers & disbursers of enormous riches."
    WQJudge

  11. #11
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    Sam- That's exactly what I was planning to do with the boards that make up the fence and gate panels; locate and pin them in the middle and let them float as individual boards. Each board has a rabbet milled in the opposing faces to take up the wood movement. I like the detail that it gives.

    I may still be able to do the slotted end in the panel. I could clamp the panel into a caul to pull it nice and straight and mill the groove while the panel is trapped. I would likely want to use aluminum vs a thin wood tongue. I could see myself snapping the wood one off.

    On that note, does anyone know how well WRC and aluminum get along? Aluminum is more resistant to acid than most metals but I'm not sure...

  12. #12
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    Can't answer your specific question re: aluminum to WRC but might be moot in any case as you will epoxy your grooves (right?) and so the epoxy will negate the effects of the two. I think.

    But here is a thought - consider using 1" strips of 1/8" plexi as the guide at the bottom. This only requires a saw kerf to accept the plexi. You might be thinking that plexi is to fragile but considering the 1/2" thick panel boards the plexi would certainly not be any more the weak spot in the design. I think one swift kick will break the panel and not necessarily break the 1/2" of plexi sticking up.

    Advantages of the plexi are that: 1) it will only require a TS blade kerf in the 1/2" panel. 2) will remain slippery compared to aluminum which will gall over time. 3) Cheaper and easier to mill. 4) Doesn't need more reasons.

    Just a thought.
    "... for when we become in heart completely poor, we at once are the treasurers & disbursers of enormous riches."
    WQJudge

  13. #13
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    In doing the kerf-in technique (which I may not be able to do due to cupping of the panel… I may be able to use a caul to hold flat while I machine.) I would think that the epoxy used to hold the kerf in place would eventually part ways with either the tongue material or the wood, again leaving a place to hold water.

    If my panel material were thicker that would provide more overhang but 1/2" just doesn't have it.

    Thanks all for the discussion!

  14. #14
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    Glacial progress, but progress is progress

    I made a test piece using the advice given above with the lexan tongue combined with a bird mouth joint for the bottom edge of the panels. It went together pretty well, although a little labor intensive.

    I cut a 14 degree slope on the top of the rail (1 3/8") with the table saw and then cut a 3/32" groove on the router table with a slot cutting bit. On the 1/2" panel I cut a centered 3/32" groove then cut a centered 14 degree slope in the bottom edge with a dovetail bit in the router table.

    My main issue will be keeping the cupped panel material (12" boards) flat to the router table while I do this. I did joint the material to flatten it but I couldn't do it and keep it at 1/2". I can mash it down flat but if I let it up at all it'll wreck the cuts.

    Here are pics of the test piece:

    2014-02-02 16.17.15.jpg2014-02-02 16.19.02.jpg2014-02-02 16.20.10.jpg2014-02-02 16.20.36.jpg

    I was planning on using some off-the-shelf Dap 2 part epoxy in the rail only to affix the lexan. The panles would float on the lexan tongue. Any big danger in that?

    Here are some pics of the progress of the overall project:

    2014-01-21 08 36 06rot.jpg2014-01-21 08.35.07rot.jpg2014-01-21 08.35.37rot.jpg

    Thanks for your help!

  15. #15
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    (not sure if I posted this correctly or not... If so, sorry for repost)

    I made a test piece using the advice given above with the lexan tongue combined with a bird mouth joint for the bottom edge of the panels. It went together pretty well, although a little labor intensive.

    I cut a 14 degree slope on the top of the rail (1 3/8") with the table saw and then cut a 3/32" groove on the router table with a slot cutting bit. On the 1/2" panel I cut a centered 3/32" groove then cut a centered 14 degree slope in the bottom edge with a dovetail bit in the router table.

    My main issue will be keeping the cupped panel material (12" boards) flat to the router table while I do this. I did joint the material to flatten it but I couldn't do it and keep it at 1/2". I can mash it down flat but if I let it up at all it'll wreck the cuts.

    Here are pics of the test piece:


    Panel ready to be put in place.



    Edge on view showing lexan tongue and groove in lower rail with bird's mouth and sloping rail top





    Panel seated, edge on view


    I was planning on using some off-the-shelf Dap 2 part epoxy in the rail only to affix the lexan. The panles would float on the lexan tongue. Any big danger in that?

    Here are some pics of the progress of the overall project:



    Thanks for your help!
    Last edited by Brian Williamson; 02-05-2014 at 4:46 PM.

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