The Cleft Gate Company

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Our gates are made in the way that has been used for hundreds of years. We use the same native timber, the same tools and the same devices. Each gate is hand crafted to ensure the end product achieves our goals of function, durability and above all beauty.

We select suitable trunks from our stock of oak thinnings. These are then cut down to length for the heads, rails and braces. The oak is split first with wedges into halves, then quarters.

The heads are then squared off with the froe. This is a traditional tool with a steel blade at right angles to the wooden handle which is used for the controlled splitting of wood. By applying pressure either up or down it can control where the split runs. The riving brake, a jig of two horizontal split halves between two uprights, holds the wood whilst the splitting is done. If necessary the heads are then axed to shape with the side axe (sharpened on one side only so it can be eased out of the wood).

The heads are then marked out for the mortices, drilled with an auger bit and chiselled out. We do not use morticing machines because they are too inflexible to allow for the twisting irregular shape of the cleft heads. Our method has been practised for hundreds of years and has proven itself flexible - although time consuming.

The rails and braces are split down again with the froe. The bark is cleft off and they are roughly shaped with the sideaxe. They are then smoothed and shaped with the drawknife. The tenons are moulded into long ovals to fit the mortices. This is done on the shaving horse, another traditional device which acts as a vice to hold the workpiece leaving hands free to hold the drawknife. The horse is used in many traditional wood crafts, from besom to chair making.

The rails are then fitted to the heads, ensuring they lie in the same plane for the braces to fit and that any irregularities in the fit will not twist the gate. Traditional rose head nails are then used to fix the rails in place. The braces are shaped to fit then clench nailed beneath the rails. The braces provide support so the gate does not drop, provide a barrier in case there is a stock or dog issue, and a pattern to please the eye.

The gate is now finished with only the fittings to be considered.