The Magnetic Gate Latch. DIY it in One Hour.

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.

Wood fence gate with horizontal boards surrounded by an arbour with climbing roses.

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. 

You can get the same Rare Earth magnet sets I used here on Amazon or from Lee Valley Tools.

Installing a Magnetic Latch

You’ll need:

 

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.

1" forstner drill bit laying on work bench.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

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.

Magnet cup, Rare earth magnet and washer laid out on paint spattered work bench.

 

Installing a Rare Earth Magnet

Photographic grid showing steps to installing rare earth magnets into wood for making a magnetic gate latch.

  1. 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 5/8ths of an inch.
  2. 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.
  3. Drop the magnet cup into the hole and screw it in place.
  4. 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.  

1" washer to be used as striker for magnet held up by two fingers.

  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.

 

Side by side image of a magnetic latch on a fence seen from the front and the back.

 
 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 3/4’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.

Washer screwed into top of fence gate to act as striker for rare earth magnet.

When the gate is closed, from the outside it’ll look like this. You’ll see the little block of wood.

Modern fence with horizontal boards, a simple handle and magnetic latch.

 
And from the other side it’ll look like this. Completely invisible.

Modern gate on fence with a simple black Ikea cupboard handle and square black hinges.

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.

Block of wood screwed into top of arbour to act as a striker for an invisible gate latch.

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.

Rare earth magnet set into a block of wood screwed into 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.

Photographic grid showing steps to installing rare earth magnets into wood for making a magnetic gate latch.

An Invisible Magnetic Gate Latch.

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Estimated Cost: $25

Make a sleek gate by using modern cupboard handles and this almost invisible magnetic gate latch.

Materials

  • Rare Earth Magnets, magnet, cup and washer set. (I used a 1″ set)
  • Scraps of wood that match your fence.

Tools

  • Drill
  • Forstner Drill bit (in the same size of magnet you have)

Instructions

  1. 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 5/8ths of an inch. This is to accommodate 1" magnets.
  2. Drill your cup hole. Place it towards the edge of the wood not in the centre. To make it easier to know how deep to drill, mark the depth of your magnet cup onto the drill bit with a Sharpie.
  3. Drop the magnet cup into the hole and screw it in place.
  4. Slide your magnet into the cup being careful not to pinch your fingers.
  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 3/4’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.
  7. Test the gate and if it holds, you're done!

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

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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The Magnetic Gate Latch.  DIY it in One Hour.

97 Comments

  1. John says:

    Superb Karen. I live in the UK and was looking at buying the magnetic latch from DD Technologies but the price was exorbitant. Your solution is so practical and simple to do. Thanks for sharing

  2. Beth Kowalski says:

    I’m a little confused. I know this is an older post and maybe things have changed, but when I click on your Amazon link it takes me to magnets that are 1.26″ in diameter.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth. That sometimes happens with Amazon. If it’s out of or no longer selling the product I recommend, it shows the closest one possible. Try searching Amazon yourself for 1″ and see if anything comes up. If not, I’d try Lee Valley. ~ karen!

      • Beth Kowalski says:

        Thanks Karen. I’m one of the (usually) silent lurkers who read your blog. I love it, it’s actually the only blog I follow. Thanks and keep it up, you’re my hero.

  3. Jen says:

    This post is how I found your blog when I was redoing my fence in 2014! I have a corner lot, with a gate that opens to the street, at the top of a few steps. It is my main entrance to the house also, as the driveway is at the back. I was searching for a way to easily open the gate with my hands full, and here it was – a gentle knee bump does the trick! And as a bonus, it acts as a lock also, because no one can figure out how to open the gate when they go reaching for a non-existent latch! I have learned so many other tricks and tips from you over the years, too! Thanks, Karen!

  4. Peggy Marchesani says:

    Brilliant! I love this simple, minimalist solution!
    I love rare earth magnets. They are so handy to keep around. I did not want to put curtain hardware on my steel garage “people door” (as opposed to the overhead door),so I used Lee Valley’s rare earth magnets to attach nice, garage-worthy oil cloth “curtains” to hold them on the door frame over the window. (The door came with the house – don’t think I would bother putting in a steel door and a deadbolt lock and then pick one with a big window in it. People can see right into your garage to decide if they want to break the window to steal anything. But the steel made this magnet thing easy!)

  5. Sabina says:

    These magnets are the bomb! My 1950’s era house has steel siding with a patio off the back. One summer I decided to make it a little bohemian room and hung white netting panels from Ikea. It also helps keep the bugs down a bit when all the panels are down. Command strips wouldn’t hold because the siding is textured to look like wood, and the support poles on the awning are round, but it’s all steel, not aluminum! That means they’re magnetic! I ran to the hardware store and bought a set of these, perfect solution! At the end of the season the get put away. No marring of the siding, no remnants of them ever being there.

  6. Robin says:

    Hey Karen,

    I am not sure if this is the right time to comment on this thread. But, I really wanted to salute you on this genius idea and sharing for invisible gate latch.

    Thanks

  7. Beth says:

    Your blog is my new favorite read on the internet. Who needs social networking for entertainment, when I can just come here and laugh and learn at the same time? !
    Thank you for your tips, tricks, and wit.

  8. Janie Sutton says:

    What a great idea, we’re building a horizontal fence and love the magnet closure idea. What is the pull rating on the 1″ magnet you used?

    • Karen says:

      Um … I have no idea, lol. All I can tell you is it’s a really strong magnet and it’s difficult (but not too hard for a grown adult) to open. Kids have trouble pushing the gate open for sure. ~ karen!

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