Sliding Home: The Front Gate Ready To Roll

The front gate is rolling on its track. I am extremely happy with it as it looks just as I had envisioned it. Although there are more than 300 weld points, the whole gate has the minimalist feel that I wanted. A few people have seen it so far and easily identified the design as cat tails.

This was a fun project even if the welding, grinding, sanding, and painting was quite tedious. I spent a lot of time stepping back, looking at the progress and planning my next move. Actually, I had to plan three or four moves in advance, as in a game of chess, so that I didn’t end up with overlaps, gaps, or clutter that didn’t make sense in the design.

Although I was replicating a wild grass, I wanted order to the design, so I worked from the center out to both sides, fabricating two of every stalk. The left and right sides from center are mirror images.

Assembly: The frame of the gate is made of 2″ x 2″ x 1/16″ square tubing. The two square tubes at the bottom formed a beam once the stalks were all welded in place; the gate doesn’t sag at all. I drilled 1/2″ holes in the beam for the stalks to pass through.  The stalks of the plants are 1/2″ round stock. The seed pods at the ends of the stalks are made from black pipe; half-inch pipe fit well over the round stock but wasn’t fat enough for a seed pod, so I cut lengths of 3/4″ pipe, too. I pounded the smaller pipe into the larger pipe then welded the pipe assembly to the stalks. After I cleaned up all the weld points with the grinder, I applied body filler (Bondo) to most of the joints and the tops and bottoms of the seed pods. Then I sanded the body filler smooth. I topped everything off with two coats of red oxide primer followed by one coat of dark gray. This color may or may not change in the future; we’ll have to see what color the containers end up being painted.

Armando and I were working on the job, and I rounded up two other local workers to help us move the gate from container 3 to its place on the angle iron track. Although the design is very “airy,” this is one heavy gate. I think a gate opener is in order; I can slide the gate but Cynthia pushed on it as hard as she could but it was as if it was welded to the ground.

Here are some photos. Remember, click a photo to make it larger, click the back button to return.

Fabrication underway.

Here is the gate all welded and welds ground out, ready for body filler. I think the design is graceful and has a hint of art nouveau.

Looking out, you don’t feel like you are in a garrison. There is a hint of a family crest in the center of the gate.

Dog tired but happy. The curved stalks are strategically placed so as to strengthen the vertical stalks.

I welded this bracket from metal 2x4s. The wheels guide the gate as it opens and closes. Remember, there will be a concrete hat on top of the columns.

Next, I think I will take some pictures of a small model that I built showing the new and improved one-story design of the house. I’ll post them so you can see the new plan.

That’s all for now.

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17 thoughts on “Sliding Home: The Front Gate Ready To Roll

  1. Such a lovely design – loved the photo of the artist with his art. But really Fred, when are you going to get some new work clothes???

  2. Fred; I have seen some metal art outside restaurants, some have cattails they paint the stem and let the thick end rust, looks alot like the real thing.

  3. Hey Fred,

    I’d like to build a fairly basic two car garage from two 40′ high cube containers. I would have to hire someone to do this for me as I have no idea how to weld or use a cutting torch. My question: Do you think it’s worth the effort compared to just building a concrete foundation, slab and use of concrete blocks and re-bar? Simple roof design. Obviously, I don’t have the same skils as you do and would require me to find someone to do the work in both examples. What do you think? Is it worth the difference in cost savings? If any?


    • Hi Alan,

      I think that the containers would be a lot faster and the security, especially if you don’t cut a lot of big holes for windows, just small ones for ventilation of gasoline/diesel fumes would be superior. But I have a few thoughts: Containers would be wide enough for 2 cars, but would the structure be wide enough with the driver and passenger doors open for getting in and out of the car and unloading groceries, etc.? You’d have to measure your cars widths with doors open. Next, you would be cutting the center walls out of the containers. The container roofs would lose a very significant amount of strength and stability; there would have to be a significant amount of beams welded in to carry the weight of the roof now that the walls have been cut out. The floor would lose strength, too, but I guess you could pour a concrete slab and set the containers directly on the slab. I guess you could pour that slab so that it slopes from back to front so that water that comes in on the vehicles could run out under the doors. Would the wood floors have rot/mold problems from the water? My containers have solid mahogany floors, but newer containers may have more damageable plywood floors.

      You would have to figure maybe $5,000 (I paid $4K, you would have a bigger cost because you are farther away from Panama City for transport and a crane to place them on the slab) each for the containers unless you can get a better deal during the rainy season. You would need a welder type guy to weld the containers together at the adjoining roof connection and down the front and back end connections. He could do the beam work and cut ventilation holes. All in all not a huge job for the welder guy, maybe a week or two.

      When you cut ventilation holes, you should take into account rain driving nearly horizontal and the windows may need some eyebrows for shedding rain.

      There is a lot of heat gain from the sun and the containers are hot hot hot when the doors are closed. High and low ventilation holes could probably help a lot, but you may find that you need additional relief from the heat — perhaps a typical metal roof suspended above the roof of the containers.

      You might want the metal guy to build a porch roof out front to protect you from rain while you wrangle the doors, but it would have to be above the container roof so that the doors would clear.

      My doors were difficult to open initially, but I have lubricated everything and they are loosening up a lot. Still, it takes some strength and it would be a lot to ask for my wife Cynthia to open the doors. The locking handles are fairly low and you would need to squat or bend low to open the doors.

      Finally, I don’t know what a traditional Panamanian garage made from blocks and metal roof would cost. You might have to ask around to find a couple “contractors” and get quotes.

      I’d start by measuring your vehicles width with the doors open.

      Let me know what you decide, I’m always collecting info about container applications.

      By the way, I’m going to eventually build a carport, not a garage, so I haven’t had to analyze this application.

      Regards and good luck, Fred

  4. Hi,

    I wanted to know if I would need a permit / architect to stack 4 40 foot containers and build a house?

    I know the drawing of the plans and stamps part but I build this model for a living and it has no plans just stack on colums and make the inside into a home.

    Lot + 4 boxes + multiple trips to Do It =

    Let me know what you think.

    And a very big congrats on getting your house built.


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