How do I Make Bentwood Trellises, Arbors & Gates?

Written by tracy morris
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How do I Make Bentwood Trellises, Arbors & Gates?
You can create a bentwood trellis using the wattle method. (wattle fence image by Fashayan from

If you look inside the walls of ancient Roman dwellings from London in archaeological digs, you will see that they are composed of bentwood sticks that have been woven together to form walls. These walls were plastered with mud in a technique known as 'wattle-and-daub.' Bentwood sticks have been used in building structures that range from homes to trellises, arbors and gates from antiquity to modern times. Although metallurgical advances have caused farmers and homeowners to largely discard the use of bentwood structures, you can give your home garden a rustic appearance by incorporating bentwood construction into your landscape.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Protective gloves
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • Hammer
  • Branch lopper
  • Pruning saw
  • Wire cutters
  • Willow branches
  • Dried honeysuckle
  • Dried grapevine
  • Cedar poles (with bark), 3/4 inch diameter
  • Oak poles (with bark)
  • 4 PVC pieces, 1-inch diameter, 20 inches long
  • Mallet
  • Ladder
  • Sheetrock nails, 12-gauge
  • 1 box nails, 1/8-inch
  • 1 box nails, 1/2-inch
  • 1 spool black wire, 16-gauge

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  1. 1

    Design your arbor, gate or trellis before beginning to build by drawing the design on paper and estimating the dimensions. The design measurements may be inexact for a more rustic appearance.

  2. 2

    Pull on leather gloves to protect your hands while working.

  3. 3

    Trim the limbs, leaves and tendrils away from the branches, vines and poles you plan to use. Rub the pieces with your gloves to buff the surfaces. This will make the wood easier to work with.

  4. 4

    Cut each upright pole to the proper length using a pruning saw. Use 2 uprights for a gate, 4 uprights for an arbor and 1 to 2 uprights for a trellis.

  5. 5

    Pound one end of each of the PVC pipe pieces with a mallet to flatten them into pointed stakes. Position the stakes over the ground in the location where you want your uprights to sit. Then pound the PVC stakes into the ground with the mallet so that their tops barely stick above the soil's surface.

  6. 6

    Insert the wooden uprights into the PVC pipe in the ground.

  7. 7

    Cut vertical poles to the proper length for an arbor. Lift these poles to the tops of the uprights and nail these pieces in place with 1/2-inch nails. Tack willow branches across the arbor tops with sheetrock nails. Weave grapevine or honeysuckle between the willow branches.

  8. 8

    Create a gate by cutting four willow branches to the proper length for the frame. Nail these four branches together with 1/8-inch nails. Then tack willow branches upright between the top and bottom of the gate frame with sheetrock nails. Weave vines between the branches to create a gate. Hang the gate from the wooden uprights by tying them with wire.

  9. 9

    Weave willow branches between the uprights to form a trellis. Fill in the spaces between the willow branches with vines.

Tips and warnings

  • Bentwood structures generally do not last very long. As the structures age, you will have to secure the wood in place periodically with sheetrock nails. Most bentwood structures last less than 5 years before needing to be replaced.

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