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Sandwich Trellis Boards

This trellis design is incredibly easy to build and just as easy to customize.

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Inspired by the ingeniously simple and stable structure of a sidewalk sandwich board sign, the A-frame trellis has, in one form or another, proved a trusty workhorse for many backyard gardeners. Its basic design offers several advantages. It’s portable, so you can move it between beds and quickly set it up wherever plants need support, as well as store it away for winter. And, like a sidewalk sign, the trellis is hinged at the top, allowing you to spread the two frames any distance you need to fit a bed or accommodate plant growth.

This trellis design is incredibly easy to build and just as easy to customize. Simply change the lengths of the frame pieces to make your trellis taller or shorter, wider or narrower, or any combination to fit your needs. The other optional feature is the material used for the webbing within the frames. Here, jute or hemp twine is threaded through holes in the frame to create a roughly 6½" square grid for supporting climbing plants. What’s nice about the twine is that you can snip it off at the end of the season and compost it with the old vines—there’s none of that tedious work of picking off the dried tendrils from the webbing. Other popular webbing materials that you can use on this trellis are chicken wire and yard fencing, as shown below.

All of the trellis frame parts are made with 1 × 4 cedar boards (or other naturally decay-resistant wood). These can be rough or smooth and don’t need to be high-grade. You can even use unstained fence planks, which come in 6-ft. lengths and tend to be cheaper than 1 × 4 dimension lumber.

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Variation: You can substitute chicken wire for the twine for a permanent webbing. Cut each wire panel to size at 46 × 70", using wire cutters or aviation snips. Center the panel over the front face of the frame and secure it with staples along one stile (use galvanized, stainless steel, or other corrosion-resistant staples). Pull the panel taut and staple it along the other stile, then along both rails.

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Variation: Vinyl-coated wire fencing on a short frame makes a great trellis for melons, tomatoes, and other sprawling varieties. Cut the fencing about 2" shorter and narrower than the outsides of the trellis frames, and fasten it to the outside faces with galvanized heavy-duty staples or poultry staples (U-shaped nails).


Instructions

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    A sandwich board trellis is made with two identical frames held together with simple hinges. The pointed feet in this design keep the main frame parts off the ground (to forestall decay) and dig into the soil for added stability.

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    Cut the frame parts to length from 1 × 4 lumber, using a circular saw or power miter saw. To make the 6-ft. version seen here, cut four stiles (side pieces) at 72", and cut four rails (top and bottom pieces) at 48".

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    Dry-fit the parts of one frame. Set the stiles facedown on your worksurface so they’re about 48" apart. Set a rail across both stiles at the top and bottom ends of the stiles. Make sure the rail ends are flush with the ends and outside edges of the stiles. Check one of the corners with a framing square, and clamp the rail to the stile at that corner.

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    Drill four countersunk pilot holes through the rail and into the stile. Fasten the rail to the stile with four 1¼" deck screws. Repeat the clamping, squaring, fastening process at each corner to complete the frame. Assemble the other frame in the same manner.

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    Cut the four feet to length at 12" each, using the cutoffs from the stiles. At one end of each foot piece, mark the center of the board’s width (about 1¾" from the side edges). Then, mark each side edge at 2" from the same end of the foot. Draw a line between the side marks and center mark. Cut along these lines to create the pointed end for each foot.

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    Install each foot at the bottom corner of a frame so its top (square) end is flush with the top edge of the rail and its side edge is flush with the end of the rail. Fasten the foot to the rail and stile with two or three 2" screws; make sure these are offset from the original screws fastening the rails to the stiles.

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    Mark the hole locations for the webbing twine, 1" from the inside edge of each frame member. Mark the outer holes on each piece about 1" from the adjacent rails/stiles, then space the remaining holes at about 6½" intervals in between. Drill holes that are slightly larger than the thickness of the twine.

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    Attach a hinge to the top rail on each frame. Position one hinge 5" from each side edge on one of the frames. Drill pilot holes and fasten the hinge with the provided screws. Fasten the other half of each hinge to the other frame, making sure the gap between the rails is even.

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    Run the horizontal webbing strings: Cut 22 lengths of twine at about 60". Feed one end of each string through the front of a stile hole and knot it in back. Pull the string straight across to the other stile, down through the corresponding hole, and tie it with a double knot so the string is taut.

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    Tie off each vertical string at the top rail, using a knot behind, as before (you’ll need 14 strings at about 96" each). Pull each string taut and hold or clamp it in place over the corresponding hole in the bottom rail, then mark each horizontal string at the point where it intersects with the vertical string, using a marker. The marks will help you keep the grid in line as you install the vertical strings.

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    Run the vertical strings from top to bottom, wrapping once around each horizontal string at the marked intersection. Keep the string taut as you work, and tie off the string at the bottom rail with a double knot, as before. Complete the webbing for the other frame, following the same process.

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