It’s hard to believe it is time to write our THIRD annual review of our mistakes and favorite gates.  But, here we are again.


Due to the pandemic of 2020, it seemed to us that people either stayed home and spent money on home improvement projects (that included their gate), or they decided to buy a place in the country and wanted a ranch gate for their new haven away from city life.


Either way, our phones continued to ring, and we were grateful.  We count it a BLESSING that we’ve had opportunities to make mistakes as well as make more beautiful custom gates.






If you have been following us, you’ve seen that Jeffery is really getting fancy with his painting techniques.  So, you probably think that I am going to talk about some major fail on an artsy, faux-painted finish.  But no, we are going to talk about our struggles with painting gates black.


Black may be a forgiving dress color, but as paint, it can look pretty darn terrible. Have you ever noticed how glossy black shows off every imperfection?  That is why we steer clients away from that all together.


We love the look of satin or matte black.  It is a lovely, classy finish that makes a statement.  We seem to encounter a struggle on our more modern-style gates.


Modern styles are sleeker and cleaner designs that tend to have larger expanses of flat areas.  The simplicity of these designs make them gorgeous, but that is where our black paint problems tend to manifest.


Honestly, after some time in the sun, the problem goes away.  But, we would prefer the gates left the shop looking perfect.  Or, as close to perfect as possible.  I’m sure Jeffery won’t ever say any of his art is actually perfect. What artist would?

black gate paint problem

“Foggy” or “ghosting” black paint problem.


black paint good

Problem FIXED!


Many hours of buffing, sand blasting, re-priming, painting, wet sanding, etc., Jeffery finally got the black paint to look flatter and more even. Much better!  He documented several ways NOT to paint these gates before being okay with shipping them. What primer, what time of day, what setting for his paint gun and more.  We were really glad to see these gates get on their way to Florida.

modern satin black aluminum gates

Satin-black, modern-style gates complement the Hellstern’s Florida home perfectly.



Next up on 2020’s mistakes list was finding out that seemingly generic art (without a copyright mark) sent from our client could belong to someone.  It was brought to our attention as we were finishing these ranch gates that the original deer-head art (not pictured below) was the copy-righted property of someone else.

faux painted aluminum gate


As artists ourselves, we felt terrible and offered to purchase and give the source credit.  They refused, so we ended up destroying the originals.  Jeffery drew new deer heads by hand, but with a lot more points of course!  The client was happier with the new deer-head art in the end.


It all worked out. Another lesson learned!



We were just so happy to have work.  There are many blessings for being a small shop that didn’t have to shut down last year.  I don’t want to complain much at all about 2020.  We were happy to survive!





I enjoy asking our team about their favorite gates of the year. They grumble because they have to stop what they are doing to think about it.  We are surprised how quickly we forget what we did and how many, so I think it is fun looking back.



When I asked Frankie to pick his favorite gate of 2020, he selected the barn doors we did simply because they were NOT gates.  I could have put this project on our mistakes list because the way we planned to install the doors had to be totally re-worked.


We had to eat double the installation time we had in the budget.  However, I’m not sure if we will ever run into the same issues again, so I didn’t list them as a mistake.


These faux-painted aluminum doors definitely dress up this cutting horse barn.  I can’t blame Frankie for making this project his 2020 fave!

aluminum horse barn doors




He got a little snooty with me and declared that he has not built his favorite gate yet, but I made him pick anyway. He selected this faux-wood painted aluminum gate we did for Dana Even of Argyle.


All of these wood-grain gates give Jeffery’s inner-artist a little challenge to get the paint just right so it looks like the wood that the client wants.  This faux-paint project needed to look like weathered wood.  Dana sent us swatches of wood from Home Depot that were like her wood fence.





The first part of 2020, Debbie was moonlighting for us. While the fellas built the huge, scalloped header at the shop, Debbie welded up the monster ranch gates at home.


The header ended up being about 33-foot wide.  The gates were a total of 20’-wide and over 9’-tall in the middle.  Our client, Jason Darby, had the rock put in later.  Each stone is 24″ x 24″ x 60” and weighs 2,300#. Wow! Right?


Debbie is pretty darn proud of that (as she should be) of these gates. But, because she did these at home, I don’t have any pictures of her working on them. So, I just found a good picture of her happily working on another project.

west texas ranch gate

aluminum gate fabrication

Debbie happily working away …




Last, but not least … my fave!  I have to pick the 3 sets of this contemporary-style, aluminum, satin-black gates that we built for Dale Fowler’s lake house in Possum Kingdom.


I really dig the substantial, yet sleek design.  I also, love the fact we did 3 sets of the same gate for the same home.  Cha-ching! Haha!


At “press” time, I don’t have pictures of these gates painted and installed at their new home because we’ve only got two of them done so far.  We are waiting on concrete contractors to finish up the third driveway.  I’ll update this post as soon as I get better photos.





Which is your favorite of our gates?  Check them out in our gate gallery and let me know in comments section below.  Here’s to 2021!



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