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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello I'm new here and a amateur woodworker at best. I have a big wooden gate that was made a few years ago. I am sanding it down to re-stain. It has some pretty big cracks in it. It also looks like it is separating where the boards were glued together. Looks to be tongue and groove. Any recommendations and what to do and what to use to fill in the cracks?
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David - Machinist in wood
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Welcome to the forum! Nice looking gate. I wouldn't fill them at all because as the wood expands/contracts it will force the wood to split somewhere else besides the joints opening up. Leave it and call it character.
 

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As stated, any attempt to repair it with glue or filler will fail. Your best option is to treat it like any other crack or opening on your house and apply a good elastomeric caulk of the same color as your stain or will accept the stain you apply.
 

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The reason it cracked is you have wood in the middle with the grain running perpendicular to the wood on the face. When the wood on the face shrank the joints failed to releave the stress. Wood has to have the ability to expand and contract.

From where you are I think I would just putty the gaps in the joints and go ahead and finish it. You could machine the joint and insert some strips of wood but it wouldn't help it structurally and would be unsightly. Another option would be to use a router and run a V groove on the joints. Then it would have the appearance of individual planks.
 

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where's my table saw?
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Do not use a filler or a putty or Bondo. They do not have the flexibility to expand and shrink that you need here. Use a caulk instead. There are many colors available and you can reapply without tearing it all out. Exterior finishes like paint and varnish form a thin coating or film on the wood's surface. They shrink and crack with exposure so they don't last long and require almost yearly maintenance. Oil finishes seep into the wood and before like the wood itself, only a different color. They are much better at withstanding the elements. I prefer solid color stains like Woodscape from Sherman Williams and my entire house is sided with Rustic Cedar siding, so it needs to last a long time. About 5 years ago, maybe a little longer, SW changed from oil based to water based and I was disappointed, but in fact the water based is just as good.

I see that the boards are splined together, not actually tongue and groove. This is an easier method to do and makes for a flatter glue up. I would saw them apart at this point. Just sand with 60, then 100 and then stain. Caulk the seams and cracks and call it done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If you use caulk wouldn't you see it? My wife likes the stained look but it didn't last long being out in the weather. Your saying wood oil would be better?
 

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where's my table saw?
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If you use caulk wouldn't you see it? My wife likes the stained look but it didn't last long being out in the weather. Your saying wood oil would be better?
Caulk comes in many colors at Home Depot, I've used DAP brand for years.
The SW stain I recommended will last 5 to 10 years with outside all season exposure.
Oil stain will be limited in colors, at least as far as I know. I used Penofin Cedar on my deck 2 or 3 years ago and now it needs another power wash and stain:
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Caulk comes in many colors at Home Depot, I've used DAP brand for years.
The SW stain I recommended will last 5 to 10 years with outside all season exposure.
Oil stain will be limited in colors, at least as far as I know. I used Penofin Cedar on my deck 2 or 3 years ago and now it needs another power wash and stain:
Excellent. Thank you for all your help!
 

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You’ve got one crack no big deal. Whoever built it did a good job IMO it’s well built for the application.

Leave it alone, it’s doing what it wants, it need to be able to respond to weather changes.

I think you’re wasting your time filling it, and that crack? That’s character.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I think it is important to use a flexible caulk in the crack to keep the moisture out of the interior laminations as much as possible.
Yea I think that is the way I'm going to go. I found some caulk called exact color which is made to be mixed with the stain to get a good color match. I thank you for all yalls help.
 

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What cracks? I thought that was part of the draw of the piece.

In the end, wood grain and all that aside, it' ALL about the wood shrinking. In between shrinking episodes, it's expanding and contracting with the moisture changes in the air.

A good elastomeric caulk is fine, if you plan on ONLY painting it, and realize it's only cosmetic. Remember though, eventually, it will fail too, in time. Anything like putty or Bondo will go south a hundred times faster.

As others point out, water getting in will be a problem. Especially if the caulk holds it in. As such, focus on sealing the top. How you do it depends on what you plan to do to finish it. You could even use poly that has been highly thinned for penetration. Just keep adding, and adding, and adding, and. . .

I agree with others, all the glue in the world won't fix that, absent cutting it apart, jointing the edges and gluing it back together.
 

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In a slightly rustic design like that pretty gate, the cracks are called character. Embrace that and don't try to 'fix" it. Filling those cracks with anything will just draw attention to those small flaws as the fill material cracks and/or falls out. I've been down that road before....
 

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It's beautiful and perfect, it looks like a wooden gate should. It's not "broken" therefore you don't need to "fix" it. Refinish and enjoy. 👍😎
 

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if/when the expansion and contraction changes its cycle, and the boards swell back up, the caulk will be pushed out of the crack, not pretty. get rid of the algae and put a good finish on it. sikkens has high ratings.
 

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KellyCraig got it right. Yours is a natural expansion-contraction phenomenon. The cracks are there to stay and will increase in number and size. To slow that you can use a penetrating epoxy by W.E. Smith, which is designed for this very purpose. The product is clear, does not effect the wood’s size, and gets applied repeatedly until the wood quits taking it up (follow the detailed instructions).

As others have noted, yours is an assembly of parts with joints. Those joints are channels for water to work its way deep into gate’s interior, where it is slow to dry and sets up the conditions for decay. The best hope to extend the gate’s life is to apply a copper strip/cover along the top edge(s). The strip needs to be about 1-1/2” wider than the gate’s thickness on each side so that it can be formed as a cap (by peening or soldering) with 1-1/2” tall sides. The cap can be held in place with either face-nailed copper (or stainless) tacks or nails, but keep them well back from the top edge to avoid splitting the wood, or a spare use of polyurethane sealant along the top of the gate.

It is important to allow any water that gets in to be able to get out.
 

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where's my table saw?
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There are some "cracks" and there are some "seams" where the boards were splined together.... as I see it.
The cracks are a natural phenomenon, just like the seams, which are man made and both are a result of the wood expanding.
Water must be kept out of the cracks, especially if in freezing conditions which will open them further.
It is a great looking gate! The cap strip on the top edge sets it off nicely and keeps the water out of the ends.
A Cathedral Arch which you don't often see on a gate.
There have been the following recommendations:
Do Nothing.
Sand it only.
Sand it, stain it and caulk the cracks and seams. (my advice)
Keep epoxy coating it until it will absorb no more.

There are so many opinions, it may be confusing to the OP.
To follow up on my advice, use Woodscapes, a water based solid color stain like I posted by Sherman Williams because any residual water in the cracks will work with the stain and dry out eventually, and not be captured under an oil film surface. Most caulks are water based these days, I use a DAP product just today in a great shade of dark brown.
They also list Transparent colors if you want the grain to show, but I have no first hand experience with those.
 
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