September 2007
Featured Articles
From left, Sambo Henry, John Howle, Jake Howle, Jimmie Howle and John Daniel are proud of the completed gate with “H” braces and six strands of barbed wire.

Get on That Gate for a Solid Pasture Entrance

By John Howle

Going in and out of the pasture on a regular basis is much easier with a gate that has been properly installed. With essential bracing through wood and wire, your gate will serve as a solid pasture entrance for years to come. Tell a friend or family member that you are looking for some quality bonding time, and you’ll have someone there to help dig postholes.

Dig the postholes for the “H” braces using the tight barbed wire as a guide for post placement. A handy way to keep from repeatedly measuring the hole is to mark the post hole digger handles at the three foot point.  
Getting Started

Before you dig the first posthole or nail the first staple, take a list of supplies to your local Co-op and you’ll have everything you need for the job. In addition to the gate, you’ll need gate hinge bolts, barbed wire, staples, wooden fence posts and nails long enough to go through the posts with a couple of inches sticking out.

Think about your future needs before selecting the gate width. In most cases, a 12-foot gate will allow entry with most trucks and medium sized farm implements. In addition, a 12-foot gate is less likely than a 14-foot gate to sag over time.

Setting the posts

If I’m putting up a new fence and a gate, I’ll use the first strand of barbed wire as my guide for where to set the posts. Stretch the first strand of barbed wire tight and dig the postholes for the wooden post "H" braces on each side of the gate. You’ll need a large diameter post for the actual gate post. An "H" brace on each end of the gate ensures stability, prevents gate sagging, and keeps the barbed wire from pulling the posts.

  Use a chainsaw to create a notch to hold the horizontal posts of the “H” brace.
Instead of allowing 12-feet between the main gate posts, shorten the distance to 11 feet and eight inches. This will allow the gate to close against a post instead of swinging free. I dig the postholes three feet deep for the "H" brace posts. A handy way to keep from repeatedly measuring the hole is to mark a notch on the post hole digger handles at the three foot point. Tamp the dirt in tight around all four posts making up the two "H" braces with the dirt removed while digging the hole.

Complete the "H" braces

An "H" brace consists of three posts – two in the ground and the third running horizontal to the ground. After the two posts are in the ground at a width that is less than the length of a post, cut notches out of each post with a chainsaw that will hold the horizontal post in place. Finally, secure each end of the horizontal post with a long nail through each end. Drive the nail through the vertical post into the end of the horizontal post.

Drive a long nail through each end of the horizontal post in the “H” brace.  
The final strength of the "H" brace comes from the barbed wire. Wrap barbed wire around the base of the post on the gate side and around the top of the post of the fence side. Secure this wire with staples driven halfway. Finally, use wire stretchers to tighten the wire, and use a length of rebar to twist the wire in the middle until it is tight. Leave the rebar in the barbed wire and nail it to the horizontal post with a fence staple. Nail the fence staples all the way into the barbed wire at this point.

Wrap up the wire

That first strand of tightened wire used as a guide for post placement can now be nailed in place. I use the length of the hammer handle off the ground to place the first strand. Once the wire has been nailed to all four posts in the "H" brace, you can then cut the wire in the middle of the gate opening and use the excess to wrap around the gate posts.

  John Howle uses barbed wire to create a horizontal wire brace within the “H” brace. Wrap the wire at the base of the post on the gate side and on the upper end of the post on the fence side.
Complete the running of the rest of the strands of wire before hanging the gate. Six strands of wire as opposed to four help prevent cattle from sticking their necks through to graze on the other side. To help in the unrolling of wire, an old set of lawnmower handles with a pipe running horizontally through the end makes the job easier.

Hang the Gate

Set the gate in the entrance with blocks of wood under each end to determine where to drill the gate hinge bolts. On most gates, the hinge sleeves can be adjusted and moved up or down with a simple loosening of the nut. Drill a hole for the bottom hinge bolt. In most cases, a 5/8 inch butterfly bit will do the job.

Tighten the bolt with the open handle hole of a crescent wrench. Complete the hole for the top hinge bolt and tighten it in the same manner. Make sure the top hinge bolt is pointed downward. This way, once the hinge sleeves are tightened in place, the gate can’t be lifted off the hinge bolts and stolen.

Every tool such as hammers, wire cutting pliers and fence stretchers can be purchased from your local Co-op. In addition, they’ll have the barbed wire, staples, gates and gate hardware that you will need to do all phases of fencing and gate installation.

Get the kids involved with your gate installation project, and they will learn valuable construction skills as well as a time honored work ethic from the farm. The experience will make them sweat profusely, eat heartily and sleep soundly. Now, let’s get on that gate!

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.

Once the “H” braces are complete and the first strand is nailed to the posts, cut the strand in the middle of the gate opening and wrap the excess wire around the “H” brace posts.

Tighten the gate hinge bolt with the open hole
on the handle of a crescent wrench.

Old lawnmower handles with a pipe on the
end make an ideal wire roller.

Tighten the gate hinge sleeve with a crescent wrench. Be sure the hinge bolt is pointed downward to prevent gate theft.