Garden Arbor that's Easy & Inexpensive
When I checked on the prices of an arbor for our backyard, the prices I was given for an average quality arbor of an average size was in most cases, around $179.00 to $199.00. With me being of Scottish heritage, that didn't sit too well, so upon studying the store bought kind, I realized just how easy it would be, to build something nice myself. Just a note: I took this photo just the other day before the Clematis plant starts to get it's leaves and blooms, so you could see the arbor, because it will be nearly covered with foilage and blooms shortly.
I wanted a design that would be both functional, giving the Clematis we were going to plant at each side, something to climb up on, as well as have a slightly Oriental feel to it. To accomplish the latter, I then decided to cut 2 x 8's for the top, as you see in the photo to the right.
MAKNG THE TOP: The design I came up with may not be authentically Oriental, but it does give a pleasing design element to the project and to me, was more visually interesting than just 2 straight boards. I made a template from a piece of masonite and traced the design onto the ends of two 2 x 8's, and then cut it out with my sabre saw, finishing it off with my belt sander to smooth the edges.
I decided to use 2 x 2's for the uprights, so notches were cut in the bottom of the top pieces, into which the 4 uprights would fit. These were secured at the top by sinking 4" brass screws down through the tops and into the tops of the uprights.
THE SIDES: The sides were made by ripping 1x's into 1" wide strips. From those many 1" strips, I made 2 matching side assemblies, the cross members of which protruded by the thickness of the uprights - for a 2 x 2 that's usually about 1 1/2". These protrusions were attached by brass screws to the uprights of the unit - the means of attaching the side assemblies to the uprights. The design I used for my side pieces is shown later, but your design can be whatever you prefer.
If you want an overhang on either side of your pathway, you must consider this during your design stage. Take into consideration the width of your pathway and mark on your tops, where the notches for the uprights will go, and cut out accordingly. My pathway was going to be 54" wide.
Another consideration is the height. I wanted my clearance to be 7 feet. I therefore started with 2 x 2 x 10' pieces, which were cut to 9' long. I dug 2 1/2' deep holes in the ground for each upright, and filled each hole at the bottom with 6" of gravel, to allow for drainage so the bottoms would not be sitting in overly moist earth. Then I coated the length of the uprights which would be in the ground, with end cut preservative to protect against wood rot.
I did not rip a 2 x 4 into 2 x 2's because I wanted ALL sides of the uprights to have been pressure treated at the factory, to protect as best is possible, against the potential for wood rot. This project is made entirely from pressure treated lumber.
The unit was assembled completely before inserting in the holes. Help is required for this part because of the size of the piece, but the unit is not terribly heavy and will cause 2 people no problem. Upon insertion into the ground, fill the holes with earth making it reasonably square to the ground. Pieces of the 1" strips should be added to the top to allow for more stability to the unit and to give more area for your vines to attach to, or to be threaded amongst.
Brass screws of appropriate lengths were used thoughout because of their resistance to rust.
MAKING THE SIDES: When ripping the lengths of 1x for the side pieces, decide on the width you wish them to be, and rip a whole bunch of strips the same width from some 1x boards you have purchased for this purpose. One inch wide strips were what I used. Then cut them to length, based on your design for the sides. Remember that the cross members of the sides will have to protrude by the thickness of the uprights, to be later screwed to the uprights as a means of attaching the sides to the assembly.
If you have any 1x1 strips left over, you can make a nice trellis for more plants like I did, the edge of one which you can just see to the right of the arbor.
In the drawing just below & to the right, you can see how I made my side pieces, however the actual design is a matter of personal preference, as long as you allow the cross member pieces of your sides to protrude by the thickness of the main uprights of your unit. When they are screwed to those uprights during final assembly, your arbor will have a much neater look to it if they fit properly.
Just decide how much clearance you want from the ground, and from the top, and build it accordingly. Regarding the spacing of the pieces, you probably want about 4" horizontally and perhaps 8" to 10" vertically, to allow for easy threading of your vines through your "trellis type" sides. The spacing is not at all critical. It's purely a matter of personal preference, as long as you allow the cross members to protrude appropriately, for a nice neat fit to the uprights.
So that's my easy-to-build arbor, a nice addition to any backyard. And remember I mentioned about the asking price for a store bought arbor? Well mine is much more substantial and a lot more secure and at a price of $58.00 all inclusive, a heck of a lot cheaper than the price I was quoted of upwards of $195.00. Mine has been up now for 14 years, has never been painted nor stained, and yet, is weathering nicely and showing no sign of any problems.
It continues to amaze me, just how much you can save if you make it yourself!
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