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Ideas from Ed: Arbor Day (Part 1 of 2) (Volume 6, Issue 9)

When our house was built (1926-1927), there was a very small back porch. It was something like 5 feet by 5 feet – just enough to stand on and open the door. (I’ve since enlarged and screened it in.) That porch had a wooden lattice-like structure as walls, and even as a door onto it. I’m the third owner of the house, and one of the prior owners removed those panels and stored them in the attic of our detached garage, where they’ve been for at least the 42 years we’ve lived here. We’d seen them, of course, but given their damaged condition, and not knowing what to do with them, we didn’t do anything with them until now. Here’s a picture so you’ll know what I’m talking about:

My wife bought some climbing roses, and wondered if I could turn those pieces into a usable trellis, or better yet, a walk-through arbor at the entry point to her flower garden. Of course, anything is possible with enough time and effort. I didn’t think modifying these would be a problem.

Yes, I know that none of you will be lucky enough to find items like this in your garage, but if you like what I’m doing, there’s no reason you can’t find items like this at garage sales and flea markets. After all, my purpose in writing these articles is to encourage you to take on some of these kinds of projects on your own!

There are actually 4 pieces – 2 wide ones, a narrow one, and a door. I didn’t think I could use the narrow one in this particular scheme, but the wide ones could become ends and the door could become the top of an arbor. Remember, the first step is always to analyze any pieces to see just what you have to work with. The next steps are to come up with a plan of action and to implement it. These pieces needed repairs to areas where they are broken, a few missing parts replaced, and the door needed to be modified so that it was symmetrical.

I began by pulling out a lot of protruding nails.Less damage is done if the nails are “finishing nails” with small heads by pulling them through the wood from the back side. The head will leave a small hole, of course, but that’s better than taking out a chunk of wood when pulling the nail out from the front. I used large adjustable pliers and had no trouble pulling the nails right through from the back, using the head of the pliers against the wood as a fulcrum and the long handles for leverage.

There were a lot of splits in the wood crossmembers. I pried them open enough to squirt some made-for-outdoors adhesive in the cracks and clamped them together while the glue set. I also used some small hot-dipped galvanized finishing nails to give the repairs some extra strength. I made some replacements for the missing pieces and glued/nailed them in place.

The ends were pretty straightforward. The door had some “drop spearpoints” at the top (as do the other pieces) but none at the bottom. If used for the top of the arbor, I would have to either remove the spearpoints from the door top or add them to the bottom. I really wasn’t looking for extra work, so decided to cut them from the top.

The main board across the top of the door was narrower than the one across the bottom, so I also cut the bottom to a width matching the top. I used a clamped-on straightedge to guide the circular saw, positioned offset from the cutting line the same as the offset of the saw blade from the edge of its guide shoe. I also added small pieces of wood between the sections to match the spacing of the spearpoint shafts on the other end.

Since this piece was once a door, it had hinges and knob plates that needed to be removed.

I filled their cavities with small pieces of wood cut to fit as best I could. I used automotive body filler (commonly called “Bondo” from the trade name that made it famous) and filled in any spaces. Once sanded down, those areas will be painted and made unnoticeable.

I started out priming everything using a brush, but it didn’t take long until I realized a small roller would be much more efficient. I would have tried spraying the primer and subsequent paint, but I don’t have that type of sprayer and didn’t want to buy, rent, or borrow one. The roller was incredibly quick but could not get into the very corners, so a brush was needed to complete things.

After painting, everything looked pretty good. I have a plan in my head on how to attach things and get it all installed at the flower garden, but you’ll need to wait for next month’s column to see how it all turned out!

I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!


If you’d like to download a PDF of this “Ideas” column, click here:

Ideas from Ed 2023_September_Arbor_Day_part1
Download PDF • 1.12MB

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