Building a Timber Gate Latch (by hand)

I think the best lesson I have been learning while developing my hand tool skills is that, hand tools can be quite fast for one off projects. Of course, if you want a perfect finish, super strong joints or complex designs you have to put the work in. But the same could be said for power tools IMO.

This project only took 2-3 hours of work and the result was very pleasing. I will repeat again, I am barely an amateur. This project was good to practice some very basic skills and the result served two great purposes: it saved a trip to the hardware store and it used waste from other projects. Please enjoy.

Tool List

  • Hand Saw
  • Chisel
  • Marking Gauge
  • Brace and Bit
  • Router Plane (Optional)
  • Jack Plane


This tutorial will run though how to build a rustic wooden gate latch for your wooden fence.

After what seems to have been years of neglect from various tenants, the old latch finally gave out. Specifically, the mounting block failed. The latch itself was also quite small when compared to the size of the gate and this meant that the gate could often blow itself open as the latch worked its way out.

In any case, a replacement was warranted.

I had a bunch of scrap left over from some practice runs and errors made while working on my Moravian Workbench. I decided this would be a good opportunity to use up some waste material and to avoid a trip to the local hardware store.

I started by blocking off as much material from a failed timber split as I could recover and marking it with the marking gauge to thickness.

I used a saw and chisel to knock as much material off as possible and reduce the amount of planing we had to do.

Once the bulk material was removed, I was able to clamp it in place and run the plane over it.

The result was a nice smooth block that was decently square and straight. Precision is not super important for this project on all faces, however the face with the bolt I retained from the original dressed side of the timber.

I was able to take the block across to the back gate and mark up the recesses so it fit nicely. With the recesses marked, I cut and chiseled the bulk material again using the same process as before.

While we could have planed it flat with the router plane, I chose not to as it was going to be hidden anyway and to save time. Checked for fit and it looked like a nice fit.

Next I moved onto the guides. I took another bit from the scrap pile and cut it in half.

I cut two slots in it with the hand saw ready to create a slot in the piece.

I chiseled out the bulk material and created the rough slide way.

Since this is going to be a friction surface, I decided to router plane the recess smooth.

Once completed I marked it up and cut with the hand saw.

I then checked that the bolt slides correctly. The bolt was made of another bit of scrap that was planed down to size. I also took this as an opportunity to cut the rabbets that the guides would slot into.

With the rabbets marked, I was able to hit it with the chisel. Not the finest work but I wanted this to be quick and effective. My focus was function over form.

I glued the components in place, drilled some counter bores and screwed the guide assembly onto the gate

I used the same process for the bolt retainer, and used the chisel to cut out a small notch to fit the bolt knob in place. This was all glued up using wood glue and allowed to cure before screwing into place.

And that was a nother job down. Overall I was really happy with the outcome. It demonstrated to me again that with a few simple hand tools you can achieve a lot. Even more satisfying is the fact I was able to complete this project just with wood from the scrap pile.

A very utilitarian design, but I think its simplicity turned out quite nice.

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Thanks again!

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