I DIYed myself some invisible gate latches 10 years ago and those invisible, magnetic gate latches are still working perfectly. Here's how to do your own.
10 years ago I was looking for a discreet gate latch. All I could find were big, honking latches that looked like they belonged on the gate of a medieval castle. I do not live in a medieval castle or a country barn so I wasn't too enamoured with the offerings.
I wanted sleek, discreet and cheap but I couldn't find any of those options so I ended up making my own gate latches.
For gate handles I used wood cupboard handles from Ikea because they hit all of those requirements. The only problem with using random objects as gate handles ( twigs, doorknobs, cupboard handles, suggestively positioned Barbie Dolls ... to name a few), is they don't have any latches.
Therefore, there's no real way to keep your fence gate closed. Which is fine and dandy if you're a "come on in" kindda person. I am not a "come on in" kindda person. I'm a "stay away" I'm in my p'jamas lipsynching to Beastie Boys in the backyard at 2 in the afternoon kind of person.
So how to deal with this dilemma? Rare Earth Magnets which are the strongest type of permanent magnet in the world. They are so strong the larger ones come with a warning because you can easily squish your fingers between them.
These have worked so well for me that I used them again for the doors of my modern chicken coop.
Installing a Magnetic Latch
- A drill.
- A Forstner Drill Bit in the same size as the magnet you have.
- Rare Earth Magnets, magnet, cup and washer set. (I used a 1" set)
- Scraps of wood that match your fence.
A Forstner drill bit will drill a cup with a flat bottom into wood. Don't worry if you don't have this type of bit. Neither did I. I just ran out to my local hardware store and bought one but you can buy a kit with 8 sizes on Amazon for what I paid for one of them.
The magnetic cup holds the magnet in place, while the washer is what is used opposite the magnet to attract it and hold the gate closed.
Installing a Rare Earth Magnet
- Cut the scraps of wood to the size you need depending on the width of your magnets. I cut my scraps to 5 inches long X 2 inches wide. The depth of the wood is ⅝ths of an inch.
- Drill your cup hole over to one side of the piece of wood. Not too close to the edge that it might splinter and break. - to make this easier mark the depth of your magnet cup onto the drill bit with a Sharpie.
- Drop the magnet cup into the hole and screw it in place.
- Slide your magnet into the cup being careful not to pinch your fingers.
REMINDER - Watch your fingers ... these magnets are strong and they bite.
Now you have to head outside with your drill, your block of wood and your washer.
5. Screw the block of wood with the magnet on it to your fence (not the gate) aligning it with the top of your gate.
6. Now screw the washer to the actual gate. Line it up so it aligns with the Rare Earth Magnet. I actually set mine off to the side a bit, so only ¾'s of the washer is touching the magnet. I did this because the magnets are so strong I couldn't even open it with the magnets at full contact.
When the gate is closed, from the outside it'll look like this. You'll see the little block of wood.
And from the other side it'll look like this. Completely invisible.
If you have an arbour, or some other weirdness with your fence, you may have to play around with this general technique to get it to work for you. For instance, on one gate in my backyard, I had to use a block of wood as opposed to a strip because of the way the structure was. No big whoop. Adapt and overcome.
The basics are the same. Screw a cup hole into a block of wood as opposed to a strip of wood and attach that to your fence.
Again, the reason for all of this (which seems like a lot of work but really isn't) is so you don't have to have ugly gate latches ruining your nice fence. Big hideous bolts and medieval looking handles that would imply a fair maiden lives here.
As an added bonus, you can push your gate open and kick it closed with your foot if you're carrying stuff and both your hands are full.
Worried about the kids getting out? Don't. It'll do them some good to wander out into the big, bad world. Builds character. Plus it'll give you a break for that half hour before you panic and realize they're gone.
Oh, you like the kids?? O.K. Sorry. You still don't need to worry about the kids. The magnets are actually so strong that young kids can't push or pull the gates open. Sometimes Betty has trouble pushing or pulling the gate open. Which is fine by me. She doesn't need to see me dancing to Beastie Boys in my p'jamas.
No one does.
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