Frequently Asked Questions2022-11-04T13:12:38+00:00

Click on the subject header links:

Knowing in advance his weakness for social manners, we have gone to polite extremes in securing the presence of Mr. Adlai Means, who knows someone who claims to know someone else, who definitely knows either Ben or Charles Prowell. Mr. Means, hertofore, addresses your more frequent concerns with the aplomb of an upstart savant.

charles prowell
How do they fasten to the posts?2021-12-27T19:35:23+00:00

This is covered in detail on Product Specifications, as well as the Gate Column General Information and Cost Page. The Columns arrive as 3-sided assemblies that are simply slipped around your post, insuring your wiring is fed out at the bottom before mounting the fourth side to the assembly with the provided screws and plugs in the pre-bored holes. Depending on the post size, the inside of the columns are fitted with spacer blocks to insure a semi-snug fit around 4×4 or 6×6 posts. Pre-bored holes are scheduled for mounting screws through the columns, through the spacer blocks, and into the posts.

Shorter Garden Columns arrive with all four sides permanently assembled. The column is lower over the post that is cut to the prescribed length called out in the drawings.

Do we need to stain or seal the panels?2021-12-27T17:24:12+00:00

Not really. Western cedar is blessed with inherent properties that are resistant to bacteria. The finishing industry will of course have you thinking otherwise, but in truth a finish or seal will not prolong the life of your fence one day. This of course is also due to the grade of western cedar. It should be noted that Prowell specs their grade from a mill to deliver clear, kiln-dried, vertical-grain, western cedar with a minimum of 20 growth rings per inch, which insures its maturity prior to harvest. It should also be noted that this is discussed in great, and riveting, detail on A Word About Wood. Seriously, it makes for good reading.

Having said all that, we offer the option of a penetrating pre-finish. Two sprayed coats of WoodRX within a pallet of earth tones with a lifeline of 7-8 years. Fully water repellent (you can wipe fingerprints off the gates), with no chance of peeling or cracking. While allowing the cedar to breath from season to season without the constraints of a layered less-flexible finish. Unlike paint, solid-body stains, or sealant finishes with top coat lusters that will peel and crack if neglected, WoodRX will simply fade away and can be re-finished at any time. By far the best exterior finish on the market.
See Pre-Finish Options.

How are you fence panels constructed?2021-12-27T18:29:17+00:00

The panels are joined, as in wood joinery. Their actual assembly is free of nails, screws, and errant hardware. They are designed to breath freely from season to season for decades, as well as self-draining. They are mounted to the posts, however, with 4″ exterior grabbers. Six screws per panels, within their pre-bored holes located on the property side of the panels. This also provides the small, almost insignificant advantage of being able to quickly remove any given panel by removing the 6 screws from within the property to accommodate passage of whatever you’ve bought that is wider than the gate itself. Such as a ready-made spa.

How are the panels installed?2021-12-27T18:34:59+00:00

Between the posts using the mounting screws set to the six pre-bored holes. For extended fence-lines, this procedure is covered in depth in the PDF Installation Guide, found on the Regarding Installation page. This also accompanies all shipments as a paper copy. Basically, string a line along the fence-line, set the two end posts, and work your way down, setting a post, mounting a panel, setting a post, mounting a panel, etc. The posts are set, at this juncture, in pea gravel, allowing for final adjustment before setting them to a 6″ cap of concrete.
This is also covered, with pictures, on the Example Fence Layout page.
*As a note, there are those installations where the installer prefers to set the posts first, and take measurements once the posts are set. This is fine, as long as the measurements between the posts are the same. e.g. if you have a length of 10 panels called out at 59″ net width and the pre-set posts are set such that we have some at 59″ and some at 58-⅞”, etc, then we can no longer gang-cut  the rails all to the same length. So if the posts are to be set prior to the panels arrival, be sure to use spreaders to insure the distance between each post is exactly the same. 

Do you sell plans for your fence panels?2021-01-06T07:42:58+00:00


Do we need a steel frame for our Driveway Gates?2021-12-27T19:02:14+00:00

Within the Drive Gate Base Costs page there are several options determining the applications.
Option #1 are those overall opening widths that are 12′ or less, requiring no steel frames. An approximate weight per gate of 125 lbs. Created with a system of joints that prevents these gates from ever sagging. Mounting to wood 6×6 posts with the same stainless steel, black ball-bearing hinges as the pedestrian gates, or to wood jambs that are in turn mounted to masonry columns.
Option #2 are those with overall widths beyond 12′ and requiring a steel frame that is visible and exposed from the property side, to which the wood gates mount against. Although on rare occasions we’ll provide the steel frame, the vast majority of sites find it more efficient for the steel frames to be fabricated by their local automation contractor, who does this according to our drawings to insure such frame aligns with the gate’s rails and stiles. These gates typically weigh about 200 lbs each and require either steel 6×6 posts or masonry columns with steel cores.
Option #3 is equipped with an invisible steel frame embedded within the gate construction itself for a gate net thickness of 3″. A vastly more complex procedure with the advantage of eliminating the exposed steel. Typically weighing about 250 lbs each.
Option #4 is for sliding gates, all of which require steel frames. Normally a single frame spanning the opening, onto which the pair of gates mount and operate as a single-gate sliding function.
All of this discussed in detail in the two links above.

Do we need an automation contractor?2021-07-17T21:59:59+00:00

If your gates are to be automated, automation contractors are normally involved. Oftentimes your general contractor understands the process and can manage this himself. And on occasion the resourceful homeowner. Automation itself is fairly complicated. Not just selecting the correct motors and their installation, but trenching power to the site as well as understanding all the options regarding communicating with the house–call boxes, remotes, keypads, overrides, etc.

It should be noted that the Driveway Gates represent by far the most complicated installation of any of our products. If there are masonry columns involved, this more or less insures that a general contractor is on site, scheduling the column construction, the automation needs, as well as installing the actual gates.

Drive Gate Specifications page is worth reading. It has pictures!–for those of you in Turkey or Bombay looking for the same answers as those in the States.

Should we use wood posts, steel posts, or columns?2021-12-27T19:06:11+00:00

For overall widths less than 12′, you can use 6×6 wood posts, steel posts, or masonry columns, to which we provide wood jambs. Our 4.5″ ball-bearing butt hinge with 2-¼” hinge screws is sufficient. For more on setting wood posts, it is important to visit Setting you Posts.

For widths over 12′, you will need to use either steel 6×6 posts or masonry column embedded with a core steel post. This is because you will need a steel frame and the added weight requires the additional support. The vast majority of masonry or stone columns have a 6×6 hollow steel-post core, clad with cinder block and ultimately stucco, or stone. Steel T-Bars are welded to the steel post core that extend out beyond the stucco or stone face and are what welds to the steel frame of the gates, along with the preferred hinge system of your contractor.

Often, our Gate Column Wrap is introduced to bring the entire assembly together as a single aesthetic consideration. These are essentially post wraps that enhance the look of wood posts or steel posts, with the column construction complimenting that of the gate. These are lighted or unlighted. These reduce your overall opening width, by approximately 2-3/16″ from each post. The columns are designed to allow seasonal breathing, whereas conventional wraps of 1x tend to experience checking and cracking once the wood attempts to breath with the seasons.

Swing direction–In or Out?2021-12-27T19:08:56+00:00

If your driveway slopes up, toward the residence, you may need to have your gates open out, toward the street. The alternative is to have the gates set high enough off the drive when closed so they will clear the high point of the rising drive slope when fully open. You can determine this height by laying a flat 2×4 from the proposed gate setting to half the overall width up the drive. Using a level, you will raise the end of the 2×4 at the gate end and measure the distance between the bottom of the 2×4 and the drive surface. It should be noted that with out-swing drive gates, the armature on the motor requires more clearance, robbing the rough opening width by approximately 7 ” per motor-arm. If the motors are exposed, mounted to the street side of the gates, this is avoided, but the exposed view of the motors is a trade-off.   You can also opt for the Viking I-8 In-Ground motors, allowing for out-swing (or in-swing) with a motor that is set below the drive surface directly beneat the gate. In-Ground motors are popular, and are covered with photos on Drive Gate Specifications

Most communities have an ordinance that no drive gate can swing out unless it is set a minimum of 12′ in from the street. Obviously this is to avoid your vehicle from stopping in the street, waiting for your gates to open and allow you to access your drive.

How much do they typically weigh?2021-01-06T07:48:13+00:00

A double gate for a 12′ opening (meaning two 6′ wide gates), at 6′ height, at 2-1/4″ thickness, will weight approximately 125 lbs per gate. For an opening of, say, 16′, with two 8′ gates, will have each gate, with it’s steel frame, weighing approximately 225 pounds. Embedded gates weigh approximately 275-300 lbs

What are the advantages of a wood gate over a wrought iron gate?2021-01-06T07:48:55+00:00

Typically, the benefit of solid panels for privacy. And the aesthetics of wood over iron.   The versatility of what can be done when designing with wood as opposed to the limitations of what can be done with iron or steel.  In addition to complimenting the architectural aesthetics of the residence.

What about Homeowner’s Associations?2021-01-06T07:49:35+00:00

It’s best to provide your Homeowner’s Association with a dimensioned drawing of your proposed project, as well as a printed photo of the specific Prowell product. This insures the association understands the quality of the product you are considering. Otherwise, to them, a gate is a gate is a gate. They will also likely want to see stain samples. Although we do not provide your drawings until an advance payment has been made, we will often move forward with the drawings and stain samples for a fee that is 10% of the total. If the project is approved by the association, the 10% payment goes toward the original cost, with the balance or 40% due that adds up to the 50% deposit required on all projects.

Are the columns solar powered?2021-01-06T07:51:03+00:00

No. After an investment of two years toward research and development of a solar-powered Landscape Lighting Column, we finally arrived at a unit that could provide solid and acceptable illumination even during the length of a New England winter. But, alas, we ran into a roadblock with securing the preferred solar panels from the Argentinian manufacturer. Their inventory was being gobbled up by the German Government. So we gave up and moved ahead with this product, offered as a hard-wired unit requiring low-voltage wiring for an LED fixture rated at 70,000 hours. Had it been the States gobbling up the Argentinians inventory, we would have felt much better. But America appears no more capable of conservation and alternative-minded options than a barnyard cow could be expected to recite poetry. It seems we’re heading backward from our last responsible energy policy way back in the Carter Administration (In the first week of Reagan’s administration, Carter’s solar panels on the White House were summarily removed). Doesn’t it ever occur to you how obscene it is that the notion of poles and wires outside your home have not changed, have not been improved or advanced since Edison wired J.P. Morgan’s home in NYC? By golly it’s time for a change in the national sentiment, away from an oil-based imported energy consumption, away from the minimum nutrition of fast food outlets, from the fertilizers and steroid-fed livestock and GMO vegetables and while we’re at it, from the chain box stores that have homogenized our choices and robbed us of the once healthy, thriving downtowns? It’s scary how this dilemma is not even recognized by so many Americans as a dilemma at all. Why, in Kentucky they are proud of their fast food options and their Wall Marts, while turning a blind eye to the rampant decimation of their once thriving little villages, boarded up for twenty years now.

This was illustrated in the summer of 2005 during a road trip through Kentucky that had Charles experiencing six county seats that had not one sit-down eatery. Not a breakfast diner, nor a restaurant with waited staff. When asked, Charles was proudly directed up to their Commerce Blvd., littered with an endless string of fast food outlets. “Pretty much anything you want, we got down there on Commerce Boulevard” But back to solar:  It is not uncommon that a site will utilize existing solar panels to power their lighted columns instead of a low-voltage source drawn from their local utility provider.  As technology advances, we will revisit the potential for solar power. But as of 2016, the columns, as with most city street lights, are equipped with hard-wired LED fixtures as a low energy option with excellent illumination.

Standard Disclaimer: The above rambling rant is an opinionated offering by Adlai Means and does not necessarily represent the views of the incorporated entity of Prowell Woodworks.

Do we need an electrician?2021-01-06T07:52:08+00:00

Although it helps to have an experienced electrician for anything involving electrical current, the columns arrive with everything in place. The power is trenched to the site and functioned to the column wiring within an in-ground box from the extra stubbed out wiring provided.

Do you provide posts and post caps?2021-07-17T21:54:05+00:00

We do not provide posts. The added cost of crating posts and their shipping weight would have you paying a premium beyond what is available at your local lumber yard.   Most fence posts are western cedar STK grade. Reserving the clear grade for those posts flanking the gates. The STK is a tight clean knotty grade and available back east and in Hawaii by special order.  As stated above, there is some discussion regarding your post material at Setting Your Posts.

We offer only the Prowell Post Cap

Do they arrive fully assembled?2021-12-27T19:47:11+00:00

Didn’t I just address this concern in the above item? So I need to repeat myself. The columns arrive fully assembled, with one face temporarily set in place. This temporary face is removed on site and the column slips around the post and the missing face is re-mounted. The columns are secured to the posts using the provided screws and pre-bored holes. For steel posts, it is necessary to use either wing-bolts or threaded spread bolts set to the pre-bored holes but requiring you to drill through the steel post on site.

Okay, maybe I didn’t cover it quite so thoroughly in the above item. I apologize.

* That’s okay. There must be a lot of stress associated with a custom-build type company that caters to the whole country.

Stress?  I experienced stress once back in the mid-80’s on one of the upper slopes at Squaw Valley in the Sierras during a total white-out blizzard.  Anyone with a brain was down at the lodge, which would explain why I was not among them.  It was so blinding that I could not even see my skis.  I had to negotiate 3 miles of a blue-diamond run in white-out conditions and throughout this odyssey I told God that I swore I would be a believer if only he got me down alive.  This was a hedging assumption that such a God was listening and available to lend a hand to someone who has throughout his life distrusted organized religion and the assumption that man needs an organized religion to steer them toward good and away from evil.  As if Man were incapable of knowing one from the other without the dictum and ultimatums drawn from doctrines such as Bibles and Korans and ranting, fist-waving evangelicals.

Standard DisclaimerThe above rambling rant is an opinionated offering by Adlai Means and does not necessarily represent the views of the incorporated entity of Prowell Woodworks. 

* Well, apparently you survived. So did you keep your promise to God?

Promises of such a nature are less accountable than those between real people.  You are stressed.  You say things.  Fortunately there were no witnesses.  I survived, yes.  A reprieve to live another day, another decade, and for that I am thankful.  But thankful to whom is the eternal question.  Anyway, you’re only allowed one question and you’ve had more than that.  The next questioner, Number 5, has I believe been waiting patiently for some time while you chat away as if we were old pals.

* Hi, this is Number 5 and I don’t mind. Really, I rather enjoyed your story about God.

* Hi Number 5. This is Number 4 and don’t you agree that Charles should just tell stories and forget abut these boring business FAQ’s?

Your last reprimand, Number 4. One question only. Now let’s listen to what concerns Number 5 has regarding the columns.

* How do you know, Mr. Prowell, that is wasn’t God who saw to it you survived the blizzard after all?

I don’t know, Number 6. I don’t know.

Five. Number 5, Mr. Prowell. I’m Number 5, not Six. I don’t think there is a Number 6. Anyway, my question is should we seal or stain the columns?

Sealing the columns is not necessary unless you prefer the aesthetics.. If so, you will probably want to slip out the Plexiglas backing behind the grids before doing so. Also, be certain to give the underside of the Column cap the same seal as the upper, exposed top of the cap. Otherwise it becomes vulnerable to cupping and warping.

* Is that it? How come Number 4 got a whole story with his answer, and he broke your rule about one question per person? I followed your rule and I get no story. Is it because I am a woman? You treat women and men differently?

I apologize, Miss Priss.  It could be because you are assuming to be both Number 4 and Number 5 simultaneously.   Which is it?  Which are you? Because you cannot be both.

* Miss Priss?

Miss Prissy.

* Prissy?

Prissy Bo Bissy?

* My name, for the record, is Rainbow Dove.

Dove.  That reminds me of a little incident in Sebastopol back in the early 80’s when Edgar Edgar and his son Edgar Edgar Jr. went dove hunting in the Laguna behind the Ford dealer and their one shot ricocheted off a no-trespassing sign to carom off the side mirror of a new F-150 and eventually clean through the front tire of little Adlai Means’ new tricycle and you’d a thought it was a gang war, given all the hullabaloo. People over-reacted–middle-aged hippies mostly, with names like Rainbow and Dove–and they boycotted the Ford dealer, who had only the one truck to sell anyway, and they had lots of meetings and basic hippy effrontery that resulted in a sign posted on Hwy 116 that said:

Welcome to Sebastopol
Nuclear free zone
Land mine free zone
Drug free zone
Pesticide free zone
Dove-free zone

Can we use timers for the lights? And by the way, my name is Frank and Mister is fine.2021-12-27T21:06:28+00:00

Are you Number 6? or are we already on Number 7?

* I have no idea.

Well, either way. The answer is Yes. Any 3rd-party timer can easily be installed within the column or any central location to activate multiple columns. If within the column, your access to it becomes cumbersome, as you must remove the cap, remove the light fixture and it’s supporting shelf, to gain access. So it really is far more prudent to simply mount the timer near the bottom of the Column, where it is more or less unnoticed, but accessible.   Or anywhere along the power source line.

The fixtures themselves are Low voltage LED.  If you have low-voltage (12V) to the site, no transformers are necessary. If you have 120V to the site, we provide a transformer within the column. We’ll ask you, with your order, if you have 12V or 120V to the site.

Can we choose a different Plexiglas color?2021-12-27T21:19:43+00:00

Hmmm.  Well, the standard plex is a 60% transparency ‘White Light’. That means it is 40% opaque. The fixture itself is designed to spread 120º and set to a middle Kelvin setting (The color temperature from 2700 warm incandescent to 3,500 household florescent). So changing the color or translucence of your plex introduces a variety of new variables. So, basically, if you want to experiment with various plex colors, such as amber, you can slip out one of the plex panels and take it to a Tap Plastics store and have them make 4 duplicate sizes in the color of your choice and see how it looks.   But before doing to, be sure to test the various brightness settings on the Dimmer button.

What are those light holes in the caps?2021-12-27T21:49:51+00:00

They are a feature whose sole intention is to solicit breathless gasps from your guests who arrive and depart in the absolute darkness. The columns, you see, are invisible in the total darkness. There is only the light splayed through the grid pattern, and the small throws of light escaping through the weep holes in the cap to be thrown against the underside of the cap overhang. A stunning feature that will, in the event of stalled dinner conversations, rescue you with the aplomb of a proud offspring.

* So who designed it? You?

With a handful of exceptions that are duly noted and credited, the products are all original designs created by Ben and Charles. With products such as the columns, there are prototypes and then paying  commissions and with each commission, there continues to be new developments and improvements. The design process is linked inexorably with the methodology of its construction, and yet always an eye toward the field, the ease of installation.  There is no delineating specific credit between Charles and Ben. What would be the point?  There’s a thrill of making one’s way into the shop every day for decades and decades, puttering, absorbed, occupying oneself with the culminating process of creating tangible entities and all to the wafting backgrounds of a familiar opera that helps, in some Pavlovian effect, to disassociate the woodworker from the distractions of everyday life outside the shop how the last thought that would ever come to mind is who gets credit for what. Am I making sense?

* Maybe. You sound troubled. Was it Rainbow who upset you?

Upset?  I’m not upset, per say. Other than I spent most of my round on the golf course this morning pretending to be an Indian scout, foraging in the woods and wading through water hazards while the rest of my foursome chatted and laughed within the civilized scenery of a groomed fairway. I arrived onto each green as a host to crawling insects, scratches, bruises, and an assortment of limbs caught to the cuff of my muddy trousers. No part of my game residing on the fairways but the sound of my grunting expletives penetrating the canopy to reach the groomed cut like a detestable limp. A detestable limp.

*So you play golf while Ben works. . .

Is this you again Number 6? Are you back? You keep breaking the rules. One question per visitor. Don’t you have anything else to do but break my rules?  I suppose Rainbow is with you?

* It’s Number 4, not 6, and so what if it is m.? And yes, Rainbow’s with me now. We’re an item, as they say. A couple. And we’ve formed a new company, together. We’ve been in line long enough to do that. We’ll be stealing everything of yours and calling it our own. It’s legal. We checked with a lawyer. 

A lawyer?

* Well, actually. . . I’m a lawyer.

.Well Number 4, you won’t be the first. There are innumerable knock-off efforts, scattered everywhere. Far more knock-offs out there now than there are Prowell originals. It reminds me of the Union Army.

* Union Army?

The Union Army was this procession, this traveling cornucopia, followed everywhere they marched by a veritable city of parasites, of prostitutes and vendors and scavengers, the prostitutes who infected the soldiers with disease and the vendors who sold medicines and supplies to the army at exaggerated prices and the scavengers who scoured the battlefields on the morning after a battle, collecting boots and belts and anything of value from the dead bodies, selling it all back to the vendors who sold it back to the same traveling battalions. A true trickle-down economy. Because there was simply no way to stop this practice–the Union soldiers too exhausted from the day’s fighting to parole the battlefield and guard the dead–it continued throughout the duration of the war. Anyway, one thing you cannot replicate is Sir Teddy.

* Sir Teddy? 

Our once bubbling Mascot, whose photo still adorns the bottom of this page. His cuteness factor was beyond reproach. You cannot replicate him. You cannot bribe him. He’s dead. Immortalized.

What do the arbor assemblies include?2021-12-27T19:28:25+00:00

Most of our Arbor assemblies are designed to ‘seat’ themselves onto the tops of columns or your wood posts.  They arrive with mounting caps fixed to the bottom of the arbor legs, whether it is a 2-post or 4-post arbor.  The mounting cap simply fits over the end of your post.  They are also fitted with either threaded rods inserted into the bottom of the arbor legs, or with pre-bored holes at the top ad accompanied with mounting lags through the arbor and into the posts.  For threaded rod mounts, a corresponding bore must be made into the top of the post.  The threaded rod provides added support for those assemblies that require it.

The same procedure applies to those arbors that are to be mounted to the tops of existing stucco or masonry walls, but without the mounting caps. In these applications we default to the threaded rod only, with the corresponding bore into the top of the wall to be accomplished on site by your installer. The threaded rod is set with epoxy.

Do they arrive fully assembled?2021-01-06T08:02:06+00:00


Does Prowell Woodworks supply the posts?2021-01-06T08:02:55+00:00

No, we do not supply the posts.  Our primary reason for not including posts on all arbors is that posts can be bought or special ordered at any lumber yard by your installer, whereas if we provide them, we must build a larger crate, and add extra shipping costs, resulting in a post that ends up being far more than what it might cost for the installer locally.

What is included?2021-01-06T08:03:47+00:00

The Porch Swing, of course.
For chain options: Coated chain; I-Bolts fixed to the swing frame; Clevis connectors fixed to the I-Bolts; two iron swivel ceiling mounts; and two heavy duty springs.
For Rope Options: All the above with the addition of four brass crimps, which secure the rope when looped around the I-Bolts on the swing.

For Chain options, the swing arrives with the chain already secured to the Clevis Connectors that are linked to the four I-Bolts on the swing frame. This stretch of chain loops to where another Clevis Connector links to a single length of chain that carries to the ceiling mounts. The length that carries to the ceiling mount is the adjustable feature, allowing you to mount the swing to varying heights from the porch.

Are there installation instructions?2021-12-27T21:53:05+00:00

Yes. A printed copy arrives with the swing, as well as the online PDF titled Swing Installation
It is also helpful to visit the Swing Hardware and Installation page on the site for photos, drawings, and text explanations showing you the actual hardware and examples of how to install the porch swings.
And of course captioned pictorials on the Product Specifications page

Can your swings be hung in the yard?2021-12-27T21:55:25+00:00

Yes, of course. For landscape options, it’s best to use the coated chain instead of the rope. We use a nylon  fiber, braided rope that is more than sufficient to bear the load and weather the elements for decades with the added protection of a porch roof. In the yard, however, it’s best to opt for the chain. Having said that, we also offer the Swing Stand Arbor for landscape applications. (See Swing Stand #1).

How much room do we need on our porch?2021-01-06T08:06:03+00:00

You should figure on 14″ minimum on either end between the swing and a railing or side-wall. You should also figure on 30″ between the back of the swing and any railing or side-wall.

How are they made?2021-12-28T18:57:48+00:00

Mortise and tenon joinery in all the primary joints and floating tenons in the seat and backrest joints. The swings are made to last forever,, essentially, baring the neighborhood kids who mistake your swing for, say, a trampoline. or a roller coaster.

* Hi. Can I interrupt for a minute?

Do you have a number?

* Well, no. I lost it. We’ve been waiting for hours and I, well . . . I lost it. But if I could make a suggestion that you simply answers our questions without all the tangential asides, the line would move a lot quicker.

What’s your question? Quickly now. Others are waiting. Those who haven’t lost their numbers.

* We live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Do you ship there?

No. Maybe. Well, we ship to Canada when the project warrants. But Halifax . . . I’m suspicious of anywhere ending in X.

* Is that a yes, or a no?

Offhandedly, a yes. If you drop the X in lieu of cks. Halifa-cks. Next.

* Hi. I’m Number 5 and I still have my number. I asked the original question about how they are made before I was interrupted. We were also wanting to order one of your garden gates and arbor, which would be visible from the porch and of course we wanted that and the swing to sort of match.

Number 5? The Number Five from Driveway Gates? Because he is banned, I believe, for breaking the rules.

* Really? You banned him? Anyway I think he was Number 4. Rainbow was Number 5 . . . of the Driveway Gate category. We’re Number 5 of the Swing category, and Number 3 of the Garden Gate category and technically, since Rainbow and Number 4 have combined, it should free up one of their numbers, to be fair.

So you have asked more than one question. You, too, have broken the rules?

* Technically no, if I understand your rules. As Number 3 from one category and Number 5 from another category, we are essentially two. Existentially speaking.

Do you know Rainbow?

* No. I’m Sunshine.. But Rainbow seems nice.

So you do know her. . .

* No. We don’t. But we’ve been waiting a long time. Waiting for our turn, you know, and listening, or reading, what she wrote.

Where there’s Sunshine, there’s Rainbow. I think. We might need Rain. Do you know a Rain?

* No. But I once dated a Cloud.

Does he need a swing? Or a Fence, or something? Anything?

* He went to jail, my Cloud, for impersonating Martha Stewart. I read that somewhere. So you might say he swings the other way, while also in jail where fences wouldn’t be high on his wish list. He might need a shrink. He definitely needs a shrink. Maybe Rainbow could help him.

It’s almost 5. I have to go.

* Almost? I am 5. Remember?

I thought you were 3.

* I’m 5, and 3, from Tennessee.

I have a headache. I have to go home. That’s all for today.

Do the gates include posts and post caps?2021-01-06T07:22:29+00:00

No. The extra crate size and extra shipping cost would have you paying a premium for a western cedar post that can be ordered ‘special order’ at any lumber yard in the country (Big Box stores excepted.). Prowell’s Post Caps are added as line items to your order. Standard post caps should be sourced by the homeowner.

Who does the work?2021-01-06T07:03:41+00:00

Woodworkers, such as Charles and Ben. As opposed to bricklayers.

Are your products American made?2021-01-06T07:05:01+00:00

Mr Prowell has this genealogical history so well documented it wears like a pendant around the necks of he and his sisters and their sons and nephews and great nephews and great nieces and cousins and aunts and it’s a lineage they’ve inherited. Obviously. Drawing to the 1680’s maternally and the 1720’s paternally as a North Carolina gentry so landed it might be considered a culture within itself. His aunt and uncle recently donated the family silver– buried deep, from Sherman’s marching army–to a dedicated Silver Heritage museum in Charleston. His luminous maternal ancestor William Tennant founded the new colony’s Presbyterian Church and Princeton University, all of it so well documented in the book Light Into Darkness and elsewhere. They are ministers and farmers, with the farmers wrestling control from the ministers and maintaining control right up until Charles–the last surviving Prowell male–left his beloved Illinois farm for the ludicrous liberalisms of Northern California. The legacy of a tuft of rich black earth held in the weathered leathery palm of a Prowell hand ended right then. The very day he left. And he’s been homesick ever since. Crying himself to sleep. Night after night. Decades. Buckets of tears. And the worst is how Illinois, the Land of Milk n’ Honey, God’s Country, Heaven on Earth, how it has gone on to do just fine without him.

I forgot the question. Could you repeat the question?

What forms of payment do you accept?2021-12-26T19:46:06+00:00

Master Card, Visa, Discover, Checks.  No American Express. Nor Chilean pesos. The Chileans once stripped Charles naked and threw him in a cold empty concrete room below the National Palace  for an entire afternoon.  That was Pinochet’s boys. January 1976. And we don’t accept Argentinian Pesos either, where Charles got caught in the Dirty War and lay awake at night in his small room overlooking the Avenida La Libertador, listening to gun battles, to the sound of twin engine props flying not far off the shore dumping drugged bodies into the Atlantic. And no Salvadorian dollars either, where back in ’78, he practically had to wear a bullet-proof vest just to get a little body surfing in. Other than those exceptions, we’ll take anyone’s money.

Will you design something for us?2021-01-06T07:07:36+00:00

It works best to choose one of the existing styles within the galleries and from this precedent we can make revisions and modifications to best suit the originality of both your landscape and architecture. To accomplish this, simply send along jpegs as a reference to our ensuing conversations. But be forewarned: Debtor’s prison is not pretty. You will come to us, repeatedly, again and again, desperate for more. The irrevocable and irresistible lure of ordering and owning a piece of us. We’ve come to recognize those symptoms not so dissimilar to AA or Gambler’s Anonymous. We will seldom if ever visit you in debtor’s prison.

Do the Custom Gates cost more?2021-01-06T07:08:40+00:00

In principle, no. The design work is verbal, or written, as we consider and discuss your specific needs. Costs are quoted throughout this process. Dimension drawings are available only with the acceptance of the advance payment. The ultimate cost may be higher or lower than a similar example on the site, due simply to the complexity or simplicity of the custom design.

Will your work increase our equity?2021-01-06T07:09:38+00:00

Equity?  You are writing in from California, I assume.  Nowhere else are they so concerned with equity as California. To answer your question, I would say that it depends. If you are accustomed to shuffling around the house in a JC Penny’s housecoat and suddenly, in a fit of weakness you purchase a pair of slippers from Sax Fifth Avenue, the ensemble will more than likely tip the scales toward eccentricity rather than elevate the appearance of the robe. If, on the other hand, your robe is from Sax and your slippers from Penny’s, Prowell’s slippers will tilt the scales to the completed ensemble, raising your value, your general worth. When these criteria are met, Prowell’s contribution will in every instance raise the stock of your existence considerably beyond the initial investment. This plays out on an exponential curve–the better the property, the more substantial the gains in appraisal values.

That said, if you hold your home in the same light as shares to be flipped in a bull market, it might be best to keep quiet. The projects, from the first cut to the final assembly, are linked as much to the homeowner as the home itself. Knowing in advance that our patron is a passing entity somehow dulls the embedded pride of a woodworker driven to please you as an individual.

Are you available to the public, or trade only?2021-07-17T21:19:38+00:00

We welcome inquiries and commissions from individuals, associations, municipalities, and trade alike. But bear in mind, we are not a company with a product line inventoried in a warehouse created by a legion of semi-skilled employees and therefore we do not offer discounts to the trade. Our only discounts are what we now and again post as something we call the Basement Sales. Located among the links on the left margin of the Home Page, the Basement Sales were originally conceived as a portal for those products where we goofed, building something to the wrong size, or applying the wrong finish patina or suffering a minor blemish. The Basement Sales offerings are typically about 30% of full retail.

Can we visit your showroom?2021-01-06T07:12:45+00:00

Being open to the general public and wanting to meet the general public is like expecting the vaudeville performer to interact personally with each and every member of the audience. And although Charles and Ben are not vaudeville acts, they are nonetheless available for your visits to the shop in Cotati. Please call or write first simply to insure you don’t time your visit while they’re off having lunch. Normal business hours are from 10:30 to 5:00. Here you’ll see the process and most likely whatever is in flux at the time. As well as a number of completed works mounted to the shop walls. A working showroom, so to speak.

How are your products shipped?2021-12-26T19:55:22+00:00

Shipping is through various common freight carriers.
Pick-ups are also acceptable.
Further explanations are available on the Shipping page.

Do you sell plans to your designs?2021-01-06T07:16:01+00:00


Do you provide pre-finishes?2021-12-26T21:31:41+00:00

As of 2010, we have returned to offering a range of penetrating finishes with the development of a non-solvent product from Inseco. Following several years of our own field tests in every climate, this product alone meets our requirements for a finish option that surpasses all other exterior finishes on the market. Professionally sprayed and back-brushed by our talented and knowledgeable Jorge Palacido and his crew. These options can be reviewed on the Pre-Finish Options page.

The cedar is born with a genetic code developed over a millennium in the temperate climate of British Columbia. It is logged and milled in the Pacific Northwest–more or less the same climate. It is shipped to the somewhat similar climate of the Prowell shop in northern California, where it remains housed under a roof as inventory. Eventually it leaves the shop and is delivered or shipped to be installed and exposed to the full exposure of a regional climate that is often vastly different. Consequently, during the first few weeks of this acclimation, the cedar breaths at a greater degree than before or after this initial exposure. As it expands and contracts, absorbing stains go along for the ride without consequence. Paints and any finishes that are not ‘absorbing finishes’ tend to be less willing to stretch with the same pliability as the cedar and often, in a percentage of cases, will crack or bubble in protest.

The cedar will breath less so following this period of acclimation that lasts anywhere from 10 days in temperate climates to 3 weeks in areas of high humidity, where the heat and rainfall present a more dramatic change.

It is therefore important, for those wishing a painted finish, or a semi-solid or solid-body finish, or any finish requiring a 2nd sealer coat, to wait 3 weeks, while bearing in mind that our products cannot be compared to a front door, or a garage door, or the siding fixed to the side of your house. All of which are insulated on one face, and covered by overhead structures. The gates and fences, etc are all fully exposed to the weather and are more accepting to absorbing finishes than bodied finishes.

Once again, more on this by visiting the Pre-Finish Options page.

How long will it take to weather gray?2021-01-06T07:34:44+00:00

Two full seasons. Meanwhile, we offer an ancient and organic solution that prematurely oxidizes the cedar to a weathered gray. This is a slightly distressed finish comprising of a mixture of hard cider and steel wool. As this finish wears away, it gradually exposes the cedar such that one day the natural weathering patina has fully replaced the pre-weathered finish.

How much does it cost?2021-07-17T21:39:16+00:00

Yes, of course, the cost. The costs are listed on the Base Cost Table. Certain designs will obviously be more, or less, than others. The link to each gate design’s percentage above or below the Base Cost can be found just above the first image on any given gate page, linking you to the Price Tables.  To the gate cost is an added cost of a gate latch and the recommended bronze ball-bearing hinges, which by the way are the best exterior hinges on the planet.

Purchasing your latch through Prowell Woodworks is not a necessity, but we would prefer you utilize the hardware options we offer rather than a less reliable product that may reflect unfavorably on the gate’s performance.  We do not bore for latches sourced elsewhere.

Where are you located?2021-01-06T07:02:38+00:00

Prowell Woodworks (PW): After 28 years, the California shop in Sonoma County moved 7 miles down the road from Sebastopol to a new location in Cotati. This occurred in January 2012, both to accommodate Ben, who returned from his two years at North Bennett Street School of Woodworking in Boston, as well as the convenience for UPS Freight trucks, the crating shop, the finishing shop, and the easy proximity to the Hwy 101 off-ramp. The bookkeeping and mailing address remain at the same location in Sebastopol.(PO Box 785, Sebastopol, CA 95473) But let’s be honest, the new neighborhood is not some slice of paradise where they open the shop doors in the morning to the unfurling expanse of the Pacific or the rolling hills of west Sonoma County. It’s an industrial park, harbored by convenience.

Will the gates ever sag?2021-07-05T15:58:26+00:00

No. For goodness sakes, if they sagged we would be falling short on the most fundamental criteria. The pedestrian gates and the drive gates will hold their stature as the homeowners themselves grow shorter and more vulnerable to the general ravages of the passing decades. The gates do not sag. Ever.

Do you provide installation?2021-12-26T21:33:32+00:00

Please visit Regarding Installations. Patrons within the general San Francisco Bay Area enjoy the availability of Brian Van Rheenan’s Provident Construction. Fully and completely versed in the products, Brian for 15+ years has represented the tremendous resource of insuring what leaves the shop is met with a level of installation that is affordable, thorough, and of an irreproachable quality. Beyond the bay area, installations are performed by a variety of skill levels sourced by the homeowner. Any installer is welcome to call for explanations or assistance, before or during the installation. Steps-by-step installation guides are available at the above link, as well as accompanying all orders as a hard-copy printout.

Can we pick up the gate ourselves to avoid shipping and crating costs?2021-01-06T07:25:37+00:00


How does the gate arrive?2021-12-26T21:38:19+00:00

Shipped gates via common freight carrier, delivered  at the foot of your drive. Cross-country shipments are commonly packed in a durable wood crate or ribbed cardboard crates
Any circumstances that prevent the driver from accessing your property or off-loading your gate are the homeowner’s responsibility.
More information can be found under Shipping.

Note: Although there have only been three occurrences of damage over the years, it is always advisable to have someone present during delivery. If there is obvious damage to the crate, make a note of it on the driver’s delivery receipt. You will have 5 days to report a claim with the carrier, followed by a site inspection by the carrier’s inspector visit prior to honoring your claim. Without the notation on the delivery receipt, or a claim filed within the time frame, claims are still possible, but involve more red tape and with less certainty of success.

Should we hire an architect or contractor?2021-12-27T17:04:01+00:00

It depends. The scope of certain projects are improved with the presence of contractors and architects. It is common, in these cases, the contractor who provides PW (Prowell Woodworks) with the necessary dimensions and discussions regarding site issues. If your architect makes first contact, which is also common, we concern ourself at this juncture primarily with the designs and general needs of the architect’s patron (you) before being relegated to the field dimensions and specifics provided by the contractor or carpenter. Discussions toward the majority of the smaller orders–single gates or gates with flanking panels, etc–are managed between PW and the homeowners. The Installation Guides are available on the Client Site Page as well as delivered or shipped with the products as hard copies.
(The Site Page is a password-protected page created to review your statement and drawings for review).

Do you discount to the trade?2021-12-27T17:19:06+00:00

We do not offer discounts, per say, to the trade.

Because we are a build-to-order business of custom products, our discounts, if any, are dished out sparingly and relegated mostly to the native sons and daughters of those regions we simply seldom hear from. Such as Mississippi. And North Dakota. And Wyoming. There is not, to date, a single Prowell product existing in any of those three states. They exist, along with a bevy of other regional economies, that remain apart from the more common Prowell demographics. Or from those figures representing a purported federal GNP index. They represent an essence of American working life Charles and Ben both understand and appreciate. Massachusetts mill towns, eastern Maryland fisherman, Mississippi secretaries, Kentucky farmers. Those who understand public schools, working class municipal golf courses, modest reliable vehicles, conscientious budgets, in-state tuition.

Do we need to stain or seal the gate?2021-12-27T17:52:51+00:00

Not really. The finish industry will have you believe that you in fact do need to apply a seal coat.  But Cedar is not fir, or any other species for that matter; there are inherent properties that make cedar a desirable exterior wood. Particularly the grades spec’d by Prowell (clear, kiln-dried, vertical-grain, with 20 growth rings per inch to insure a mature harvest). This and our construction methodologies make applying a finish a purely aesthetic decision which will have no impact or prolonging the life of your product.  This is all discussed on the Recommended Finishes page.

With that in mind, however, many folks do in fact prefer a finish, whether by us as a pre-finish in the spray shop, or on site. Site finishes of any penetrating, absorbing quality can be applied immediately upon arrival. Layered finishes, such as paint, solid-body stains, or any finish with a 2-part sealing top coat must allow the gates to acclimate to the local climate–usually about 3 weeks.

*Is this really Charles answering these questions, or Adlai, whoever that is.

Mister Means. Please. Simply Adlai is a tad too informal.
Anyway, I don’t understand why people would be surprised in the event it were Charles himself. You think he’s above answering the phones or emails? Above taking the time for those posing their FAQ’s?

*Don’t you have any hobbies? You should write a book about . . . you know, about building a business and all.

Hobbies: Charles, of late, has taken up competitive ironing and finding some relish in the progressions and accomplishments of this and how it’s similar to competitive lawn-mowing: the smooth plane of what’s been accomplished, to the creases and wrinkles of what rests ahead. There is physical poetry in the smoothing action of an unruly crease.

Regarding the business, well . . . the affection is relegated to what tomorrow offers and not reliving yesterday . . . so a book on building a business is best left to someone who has stopped building their business and actually has the free time for such an engagement. Someone who prefers rehashing the past over furthering the present.

Not to mention words. Books require words. There are sooo many words. Have you glanced at a dictionary recently? Culling from such an offering to build a sentence, and then another, and yet another.
Take, for example, the word Set. This word alone has 430 different meanings.

Moreover, there exists this little dictum: Interfering with a process ultimately alters that process. This is an eternal truth, thumbed I believe by someone like Nietzsche or Camus.  How being too aware of the yesterdays distracts from the todays. Being too aware or self reflecting on the moment will in turn alter the moment. Taking too many photographs on your vacation will leave you with a memory of those photographs, instead of the actual vacation.

*So you answer the FAQ’s instead of taking photographs?

Charles owns a camera, housed to the left of the chop saw in the right corner of the top drawer beside a medley of seldom used tools–folding rule, calipers–fitted at turns into the shell of those hands belonging to Charles’ step-father George, and his father Wyman, and Wyman’s father C.E. when the tools were new back in the 1880’s. The camera, sidled up to this history is a latter-day impostor with more functions and settings than words in a dictionary, which by the way is an Oxford English Edition stashed in that same drawer. Belonging to Charles, who loves rummaging through this dog-eared paperback stuffed with sooo many words. The camera. Well, the camera was once new and is now very old, outdated the day after it was bought as a digital innovation way back when. Today, the cameras are the domain of Ben, whose latest purchase weighs in at the cost of a small economy car.

Returning to words, Charles and Ben have developed a keen eye for the very very rare example of literacy in the general public. Living for these beacons of civility, scouring your letters for the faintest hope of an elevating trend in the general, abbreviated slop that passes for sentences and thoughts. So for the most part, a staff member reads the week’s questions to Mr. Means, who culls the more readable excerpts and dictates his answers to Ben’s daughter Faye who approaches the keyboard as if it were a child’s toy piano. Data entry. One letter at a time with frequent breaks to tie scarlet-ribbon bows in her father’s hair and in this fashion, entire afternoons can be lost without a trace.

*I can imagine you in an armchair, a shawl draped over your feeble knees, smoking your pipe, an understudied disciple at your side.

Huh? I believe you’re only allowed one question. It’s been four or five questions already. You’re getting me confused. This isn’t how it works. It’s supposed to work different and now it’s not and . . .

*How do you know that? I could be four different people.

I think I have to go now.

*Jeeze. How old are you? Are you like 90 or something?

I want to go home now.

How do we calculate how many panels we need?2021-07-17T21:44:30+00:00

There is an Example Layout guide on the site, situated like so many useful links along the left hand side of the Home Page. This serves to explain just exactly how to calculate your costs prior to contacting PW. But basically, translate your given fence runs into inches and divide by 65.5 (maximum panel width plus 5-1/2″ if using surfaced 6×6 posts) to get the number of panels required.  With this count, go to the Base Cost Table and calculate the cost per panel, remembering to add or subtract any given percentages associated with any given fence style. You now have a panel count and cost for the product itself and can inquire about shipping or delivery costs.

The ideal commission provides us only with an index of panels, their style, and net dimensions. But we will also gladly do the math to create equal width panels over each section of fence-line.  This will be exemplified in your dimension drawings in both elevation and plan views.

Can the panel designs be modified?2021-01-06T07:36:30+00:00

Yes. If you have a defining feature or architectural element worth noting, please refer to a specific fence style and send a jpeg of what might be considered upon approaching your fence-line. We will look to incorporate this into the fence panels and in this manner, your fence will serve to enhance and compliment what exists, rather than upstage it.  There is no charge for this customization beyond the cost of fabricating the modified design itself, if in fact it involves more work or materials than the standard fence style from which it was modified.

What is the maximum width of each panel?2021-01-06T07:37:13+00:00

60″ for most panel styles.
However, there are certain grid styles, such as #19 and #21 and #4 that do extend beyond 60″. This is due largely to the principle of the joined grids acting in concert for a combined strength that can extend, in some styles, to 84″ net width.

Do you have any privacy fences?2021-07-17T21:49:18+00:00

From both a designer’s point of view as well as that of social protocols, privacy fences are uneventful and unneighborly. California is the ultimate culprit in this regard–they love their solid dog-eared fences closing off tiny little front yards in neighborhoods of tiny little lots, which makes these tiny lots seems even tinier.

If you consider a part of the country known for it’s sense of historical community, as in Vermont and New England, you will see almost no front fences and very very few backyard fences. Fences are barriers;  they distract and segregate.  And yet, being in the fence business, it is understood that certain fences, of inordinate beauty, can overcome this dictum.  Designing a solid privacy fence of inordinate beauty is a tall task.  And yet there are obviously extenuating situations that require and request solid panel fences. The proximity to high-trafficked streets, for one, where you may have an issue regarding the safety of your children, or the sound levels that prevent normal conversations in your front yard. We offer only a few solid panel styles . . . and yet we often accompany the dozen or so solid privacy gate styles with matching fence panels. We will also commonly reduce the normal 1-1/2″ spacing between the upper pickets down to 3/4″ to provide more privacy while maintaining the aesthetics.  If you prefer a solid Privacy Fence, we will make it for you and it will be a work worthy of the kudos and comments of your neighbors that otherwise never reach your own ears simply because your neighbors do not have access to you. You have distanced yourself from them with the erection of a solid barrier fence.

How do we set our posts?2021-07-17T21:51:38+00:00

There is a link on the site to Setting Your Post that will illustrate the preferred method for setting your posts, and make the difference between a post that last 30-40 years and a post that begins rotting the moment it is set into the ground.  Your installer will likely object to this method.  But then your installer will also be one who recommends pressure-treated posts, laced with arsenic and poisons that distract bacteria and rot from getting a foothold.  But, logical minds understand that anything that kills bacteria is not exactly healthy to humans nor the ground water tables it slowly infects.  Nor your children running their hands against such a post and then their hands drawn to their mouths and then a flurry of young budding white blood cells called into action to fight off the threat to the young body’s good health.  Just follow the suggestions we offer for setting your posts and remind your fence contractor that he is working for you and you have no interest in setting posts that need to be replaced several times over the life span of your prowell fence.

Charles’ Rule:  Comedy is best delivered when least expected

Our once illustrious mascot, Sir Teddy, shown below. Who many years ago, at 90, wore himself out with his damnable weakness for carousing. A big shot, with his own house across town, overrun with cute poodles and adoring Pekingese. Below, Ben arriving years ago, as every morning, to fetch Sir T for another day at the office and of course Sir T insists on driving, even though at the time he was near 80 and had had his license revoked repeatedly for thrusting his head out the driver’s side window, while driving, barking at oncoming traffic.


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