prowell art deco graphicLong ago, when it was fashionable to offer letters of recommendation to prospective patrons, the artist accumulated a portfolio of references that were as vital to his working career as the work itself. And if there happened to be, among those references, a King or Queen or member of the royal court, one stood a good chance of plying one’s trade for a reasonable stipend that, in turn, allowed one to continue plying one’s trade.

To continue plying one’s trade. Isn’t it odd to consider a career in this light? As a privilege. In the old days one carried a photo portfolio when arriving at a patron’s home and from that portfolio, they reviewed the possibilities and departures. This in building up a patronage one family at a time until there were about 30 families in the San Francisco / Marin County areas who were considered the core of Charles’ career.

It’s been 25 years since Charles stood with a potential client and reviewed a portfolio, and a dozen years since he possessed a standard business card. There is a catalog, replacing the old portfolios, but with hundreds of products now and designs changing and modifying as often as the wind changes, the catalog itself seems pointless.

One thing that doesn’t change is the sheer enjoyment of interacting with those who call and write in and the few Ben and Charles have been privileged to meet in person. Maneuvering their way through the process of insuring customers are rewarded with what’s right for them and their property. Once inside this process, customers are forever remembered. The lasting social graces of being rewarded with their patronage .

Now and again they will write in with kind words. A few write who have no intentions of making a purchase, but feel a need to simply reach out. And a few–perhaps the most enjoyable–write from a perspective of having parked themselves on the site for weeks, foraging deep into the nether reaches of the web site. Some–far too many actually–wrote in regarding an elaborate tree house once posted on the site. The Tree house has since been removed, for this very reason, and yet we’ve included a few of their comments below for no other reasons than they seem to fall within a tone-of-voice or airy stratosphere apparently relegated to lovers of tree houses. There are also a number of other areas once on the web site that have since been removed. What fell under a heading titled “Pointless Pastimes’, buried deep and not so easily found and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Prowell products. These are occasionally referred to below by those with an intrepid curiosity and an appeal for humor. Perhaps someday we’ll re-post these offerings, as the loss of their resulting correspondence is certainly missed. Read until you are bored.

GENERAL COMMENTS (in no chronological order)

May 1, 2023 12:36 P.M Tony Badger wrote:

Hi you guys!
I just thought I would drop you a line to tell you how much we enjoy and appreciate the wonderful gates, fences, tables and benches etc. you created for us. Everyday they continue to nurture our lives. It is better than vitamins or other health food supplements! Everyday they give back to us all the care you put into making them. In this day of profit above all, I have to tell you that what you gave to us is beyond today’s economic values and model. What you gave us is true craftsmenship of the highest order! THANK YOU.


Hi Tony,
We should print your letter out and frame it. Devote several walls in the shop to such letters. It simply reminds Ben and I why we keep at it. We have to pay our bills, of course, and earn a living, but knowing we can do this and look forward to every day in the shop, seems unduly fortunate. Possible, I’ll add, by an audience such as you and nancy that make it doable.

Ben has decided I need a day off each week. So I randomly chose Tuesday, and for the first time 50 years I have this free weekday at my disposal. I have coffee down the street, I swim, I read and fall asleep, I take a ride on my new Vespa, and ultimately get over to the course for a few holes of humility. But one day a week is plenty and by the following morning I’m longing for a return to my routine.
Thank you for your kind thoughts.

May 3, 2023
Hi you guys!

I just thought I would drop you a line to tell you how much we enjoy and appreciate the wonderful gates, fences, tables and benches etc. you created for us. Everyday they continue to nurture our lives. It is better than vitamins or other health food supplements! Everyday they give back to us all the care you put into making them. In this day of profit above all, I have to tell you that what you gave to us is beyond today’s economic values and model. What you gave us is true craftsmenship of the highest order! THANK YOU.

Tony Badger

Hey Tony,
Thanks for the kind words, and the photos of you and the bench. Leisure at its best.

August 31, 2023 9:15 a.m.

Hi guys-
You have been so helpful with our project. I think you could publish your web pages as a book and people would buy it. I just love the writing.
My dad was in the wood business and he would have loved to meet you and my mom (the english major) would appreciate all of this.

Hi Carolyn,
You’re still a few projects backed on the job board; we’ll give you a heads up as we get close.
English majors and woodworkers: You come from good stock.
And a book has it’s advantages, seated on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar bookstore and not subject to the ever-changing technology, which brings me to another letter that arrived yesterday offering suggestions on a more phone-friendly format and my thinking was, we try, but in reality experiencing a 600+ web site on a 2×3 screen is like reading an abridged version of War and Peace. How would Tolstoy react to the realization that a third of those sentences he labored over had been edited out for the sake of a proportion of impatient readers.

On Nov 27, 2022, at 12:03 PM, Liberty Naud wrote:

Happy Sunday!
I have been following you for a very long time, dreaming up projects for your incredible craftsmanship and creativity that have been on the back burner for a while. And also sharing your website for the highly amusing written content.

Now that I have a very curious nine-month-old on the moveI can FINALLY request a few custom gates an. I can’t wait to hear back from you if this is a project you would like to take on. We have a stunning contemporary craftsman home. There is quartersawn oak wood panelling everywhere and details in the picture rails I would love to capture.

There is one incredibly unique area between the living room and kitchen that is 112.5″ and runs between a bar and a half-wall. The floor is hewn slate so we can’t mount into it. I’d also love it if there was a way to slide the gate off of it’s mount for when we don’t need it. Saloon doors maybe? Unsure but I’d love to do a video walkthrough if your interested.

I provided pictures so you can get a rough idea of what the space looks like. I hope this is something you would like to take on!

Liberty and Baby Verity
desert view property with wood gates

Hi Liberty,
Thanks for your interest and wonderful comments. The photos of the house are wonderful and what one would deem a contemporary Craftsman.

Unfortunately we’re currently scheduling about 6 months out, which would put your 9-month-old nearly beyond the need for baby gates.

On November 28th, 2022, Liberty Naud wrote:

See Charles. This is one of those really annoying moments that I kick myself because when I was pregnant, I said to myself, “Self, we should contact them about the baby gates.”

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

I would like to pull two of those back burner projects to the front then. I need two gates for an outside area that I can somewhat cordon off now. I’m going to sneak pictures into this email and I would love to know your thoughts.

Please feel free to send me a consultation bill of I’m taking up too much of your time.

Hi Liberty
Thinking of 9-mo-olds and how any time now—from 9-months to 18-months– they’ll start walking and at that point everything changes. They become different people. The best phase of all, from first steps to when kindergarten begins and you begin to lose them to the world. So . . . the best time of your life is about to begin.

So many features on the house. The stone perimeter pony wall is extraordinary, as is the chimney and columns on the courtyard. The roofline of that, with its flared coppola is so striking that, well, it upstages the house itself. Were they built at the same time? I’m going to stab a guess that the house was first and a ranch style architecture. So. Cal?

Some thoughts on the two gateways. The circular stone columns appears very short, so the gate would also be very short, as in 2’ or less? Double gates on both openings I’d assume, but we’d need that opening stone to stone. Normally we’ll mount cedar jambs to stone columns and if the stone is irregular, it’s cut back to the block core and the jambs are mounted to that, at a thickness that is proud of the outermost stone by 1/2? But I doubt there is any block core on these, so this might be difficult, mounting the =jambs to the irregular surface.

I’ll be out of the shop tomorrow.

On Nov 29, 2022, at 4:01 PM, Liberty Naud wrote:

Good Afternoon Charles!
You nailed the house’s locale. We’re on a 1.5 acre orange and avocado grove in Riverside. The house was a 1966 rancher, but went through a massive renovation and addition. You have a good eye. The columns with the to-die-for-view come in at 28 and 26 inches with the opening about 114 inches. And I am fairly certain you are correct in that these two are just a perimeter of brick and stone with no core but the soil. I feel like I would trip over a two foot gate. I don’t know why. It’s like walking on a sidewalk curb. I can mostly keep my balance but raise it just a few feet off of the ground and I can barely take a single step without falling. But better my vertigo than the munchkin finding her way down to the beehives (I’d like to make it difficult for her to do so but kids find a way eventually).

I super duper appreciate your time. And you are too right about losing them the minute they walk through those school-room doors. I hardly recognize my 5-year-old sometimes.

I’d love to move forward if you think it’s something truly worthwhile. In the meantime, I’ll keep following your IG and drool, figuratively of course.

Wonderful views. Wonderful property.
A few issues here: Rule #1 is that we prefer the gate widths not be more than their heights, as it places an undue stress load on the top joints. Rule #2 your perimeter gates are located on a step. A Universal Building code that requires a 32″ landing area on either side of any door or gate, so you’re placing a liability on yourself if someone trips.

I appreciate your patronage over the years, the interest in the web site and its contents. It means something to hear from you, that the sentences and graphics aren’t wasted but in fact experienced to where you’ll actually write in. Long long long ago I read a story published in California Quarterly by a writer in Minneapolis. I wrote her, much the way you wrote me. It was her first published story and she wrote back. Later that year the story was chosen for the publication Best American Short Stories, and I wrote her again, congratulating her. She replied saying she had now received two letters, only two fan letters in her life, and both from the same person. Ha. She’s gone to publish multiple books.
Are there birds in the neighborhood? I’ve been wanting to play around with a condominium-style bird house design for some time. Or a neighborhood lending library. I recently did one of these and it only opened up the endless possibilities. Both being something the munchkins might take an interest in. Just me thinking aloud.

On December 6th 2022 Liberty Naud wrote:
Hello hello!
I envision the previously mentioned author pulling those long ago letters out of a special keepsake box, the creases worn and delicate with years of folding and unfolding. Words from a stranger are sometimes more powerful than a confident inner voice.

We have a great many birds here at the orchard, but none that seem to want to reside nearby. Our fountain pictured in one of my previous photos is a very popular meeting spot for hummingbirds to bathe, gossip, and get up to general shenanigans. The occasional oriole will drop by. Finches also seem to find time to take a dip but more often than not they are after our peaches, apples and figs. We are looking at doing wooden solitary bee homes at some point. I have two boxes of honey bees, but they are very poor pollinators. Did you know that honey bees have special pouches on their hind legs to “scoop” pollen, whereas wild fluffy solitary bees tend to be covered by pollen all over their little bodies like glitter on a preschooler (honestly preschool teachers who send children home with glitter art are sadists). At any rate, we are looking forward to scattering a few of these around the avocados, grapefruits, and cara cara oranges (remember those back burner projects I mentioned?).

I love reading. My children love reading. We, and this is not an exaggeration, own over a thousand books. And I have always wanted a neighborhood library. It is one of the few things I resent about living in a rural area on a dead end road, surrounded by horses and camels. Yes. Camels. My neighbor to the south has two of them. I caught wind of their stable one day and was infinitely grateful that we tend to have west to east winds and not south to north. They are fun to look at and that is about that. I don’t think they like to read books either. Pff. I do wonder if a unique neighborhood library would gain a bit of a following during our u-pick and picnics that we hold from December to May though. We usually invite hundreds of families onto the farm throughout the year; many return month after month. I would like to think it is my winning personality, but we all know it’s because our oranges are the best on the planet.

What about…what about a fruit stand! Something with a little box to collect funds, a place to put up an online payment sign, five or six compartments and a shelf for the honey! I can just see the Sunsets and Citrus emblem calling for them to take a closer look. Something that people can’t help but stop to admire (because let’s face it, everything you make is worth stopping to admire). it would draw them in and they’ll think, “Only the best fruit would come from such a clever fruit stand.” And then in fourteen years, I’ll make sure the children write to you about their ability to pay for college thanks to the fruits of your labor and ours (hardy har har).

I hope you are having a beautiful evening and that you were able to work on something that spoke to your heart today and not “just another order.” Liberty

Sept 8, 2022 1:33 P.M

Hi Charles, the gates arrived while I was traveling last week. We’ve unpacked them and they look even more impressive than in the photos. We could not be happier and appreciative of your crews craftsmanship and for the experience we’ve had from start to finish. You really have a remarkable product and service rarely found these days. Both our landscape and interior designers have asked for your information for potential customers. I hope this turns into additional opportunity for you.

Many thanks,
Jeff and Sally Decker

Hi Jeff,

So glad everything arrived, and nice to read your kind comments, the sort one might expect to see scribbled in the back of a high school yearbook.

Looking forward to the finish photos. Couple of fun gates to build.


On April 27, 2013

Dear Mr Prowell, I’m sitting in my little farmhouse in rural Quebec, outside of Montreal, my kitty asleep beside me looking like I taped her upside down to the cushion. I need to dig holes and set some fence posts, and have a stack of heartwood in the barn, inherited when we bought the place. I know it’s not the perfect wood, but it’s all that I got.

So I’m googling this, and googling that, trying to get a sense of what needs to be done. All very practical stuff.

I just want to say, Mr Prowell, that I landed on your website and the course of my day has changed as surely as if an ocean wind suddenly died – dropped flat! – and my ship is now adrift. But I’m not worried. I’m going to sit back and read every single word you have written here. Not only that, I have read so much of it aloud to my partner that she finally put her newspaper down with gentle resignation and said, ‘OK Leila, you can read me everything‘. Mr Prowell, your wit, your words, your writing is just marvelous. I am so enjoying every single thing you say. The beauty of passion and poetry is all the more beautiful still when unexpected. If you ever write a book, please let me know. I’ve got dibs out on the first signed copy. So that’s it then. All the very best to you.
Leila Marshy
Quebec, Canada

Well, Madame Marshy, you’ve written me the most pleasant little letter. The loveliest thing, and in a voice with all the entrails of having spent perhaps too much time digging through the site for the hidden asides that exist for the likes of you. Some written with a meager sense of purpose and having something or other to do with the subject at hand and some that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything at all beyond a compulsion for words and the rhythm of words and the nether reaches of a wayward mind.

I have visions of your cat and how my own, an adopted kitty at 6 months and now 9 months who insists on splaying himself out on the bed before bedtime, on his back and his big fat belly exposed like a water balloon, absolutely insisting on having that tummy rubbed. He’s a character. Recently, after weeks of failed attempts, he’s figured out how to climb the tree in the front yard to reach the lowest branch, where he lays perched like a lazy lion watching the world go by and the crows all freaked out that a cat has commandeered their tree and the dogs walked on a leach along the sidewalk going ballistic. His name is Mister Spots and he has stole my heart.

Warm regards,


On March 2, 2012, Kathy writes:
I came upon your site almost by accident. I am trying out ideas for a simple gate that I can build, but after realizing that your work was above my “pay grade” I was about to move on, yet something drew me in. And in, and in! Your story with the Basement Sales page, the best run on sentence I have met in a long time.

Your work is gorgeous, illustrations superb and you must be a lot of fun to work with.


Kathy Hartzell
President, Inverness Garden Club
And general rabble rouser

I like how that reads, Kathy. “. . . yet something drew me in.” Maybe it was the run-on sentences, which skimp on the normal syntax of periods that serve, if nothing else, as a convenient place to dismiss the ho hum and the boring, allowing us to move on to new content, elsewhere, with those proper period thingies. Those dots.
* The now-famous prowell run-on sentence can be experienced by clicking here

On Sept 18, 2018
Hey Prowell,
If this puppy doesn’t convince you to connect with me – I am at my wits’ end.







Well ok, Mellissa. You’ve broken through and caught our attention. We’ll reach out this afternoon.


Hello Fellas. I was looking for minutiae on the correct size for gate posts. I found your description of installing fences lyrical. I was so happy I think I laughed out loud. I just wanted you to know how appreciated your knowledge and delivery are. You made my day. Maybe my week. Carry on.
Best, Mindy

Thanks Mindy for taking the time. Your letter made me smile. So we’re even.

On March 5, 2022:

Dear Prowell Woodworks,
You sirs, are remarkable. Beautiful work. Your website amply demonstrates your aptitude from thinking to building.


Hi Max,
Nice words. Thank you.

Jan 5, 2000
Do your gates have a re-sawn face? Is it more typical of a typical clear cedar fence and gate to be a little rough? Are your gates acceptable looking for a nice finished front entry to a house?  I apologize for so many questions the last few days.  We’re just having trouble making up our minds.

A re-sawn face is something you will have seen commonly. I would imagine all carpenter fences are of re-sawn stock. Slightly rough, as opposed to sanded smooth like a tabletop. Our gates and fence panels however are not re-sawn.  They are surfaced and identical on both sides. As to whether the gates are acceptable to a house entry. . . well James, I am not aware of any homes whose general aesthetic and economic standing has been denigrated by a Prowell gate. I would imagine it works the other way. Now enough of this re-sawn talk. You’re letting the pragmatist walk all over you. If the gates move you, if they affect you in some pleasant way, then it’s as simple as imagining that pleasantry repeated every time you enter or leave your house. So if you have an argument with Ms James and you leave the house in a huff and get to the gate and through the gate your attitude suddenly changes, softens, and you turn back, and going through the gate a second time you’re left as sappy and soft as a puppy and because likely it was Ms James who insisted on the gate in the first place, she’ll be standing at the doorstep, tapping her foot on the landing with her hands on her hips calculating the cost of having gates scattered everywhere.

Sept 18th, 2008
Sending along a photo of the gate that I thought you might appreciate.  Showing the remnants of last week’s Hurricane Ike, where our fence (not one of Prowell’s, unfortunately), and half the garage are completely missing.  And yet your gate remains standing, practically unscathed.  Amazing!

Tyler, TX

Unbelievable, Bill.  And thank you for sending these along.  They would make for great marketing, toward those crazy enough to actually live in a hurricane zone.   On another note, I am truly sorry for what losses you have sustained and wishes for a speedy recovery.

On May 3, 2010
We live in Seattle and do all of our own woodworking and construction on our house.
We are currently building a fence with new gates and were looking at your site for inspiration.
We LOVE all the pictures with the superimposed monkeys and people-figures (and even the one of you with the nose glasses).
Plus, we really enjoyed the interludes of quotes and images of you working. Great style! You can tell you’re really living out your passion – your work is AMAZING – and we’re so glad you shared how much fun you have with it on your web site. Just wanted to say thanks and let you know that we really enjoyed your site.

On Dec 15, 2016
Happy Holidays from Minnesota. Your product is holding up beautifully. This will be the 5th winter since it was installed. Thanks for featuring our home on your fence website
Lin and Dick Bleck

Hi Lin and Dick,
Thank you for sending along the seasonal photos. I think this may be the first as such with site photos showing both snow and Xmas ornaments. Seeing these and we/re surprised no one has done this before. Crystals and peace wreathes and garlands and one gate in DC decades ago where we designed an accessible frame with the gate to allow the homeowner, a landscape painter, to display seasonal paintings. But until now, no ornaments.
Holiday cheers to you
Ben and Charles

December 10, 2009 3:39:14 PM PST
Dear Charles:  Remember me?  You  made the Craftsman porch swing for our Coronado home several years ago.   We still love it!    I thought you would enjoy seeing this lovely note I received recently.  See the attached scanned copy.  I can relate to the writer, because that is how I felt when trying to find “just the right swing”!
I will give her your info and I just bet you will have another customer!

Hi Stephanie,
It’s always nice to see your name in my in-box.  Although not something that happens too often, actually.
 How nice to have someone take the trouble to write a note and leave it with you, and that you have passed it along.  I hope we do hear from her, as it will be a continuing link to you.

Sent in May 2007
Wow, you’re designs are fabulous. I can’t wait until I make enough money via garage sales, selling my husbands old golf clubs, bowling balls and, well heck, my husband, to be able to buy a garden gate of yours. They are things of beauty, to be sure.
The road trip story made me laugh out loud . . . am anxiously awaiting the next installment. PLEASE keep writing, you are a much needed breath of fresh air!!!!!!!!!!

–Garage sales, bowling balls, golf clubs . . . and husbands; I’ll be waiting forever.

June 26, 2007
Your site is truly wonderful. I live in Los Angeles but was born and raised in Sebastopol. I stumbled across your site it looking for gate designs to steal ideas from for one I’m making myself. This is a funny question, but I just thought I’d ask: Are you single?
Your a handsome guy with creativity and a sense of humor and I ask because my Mom (a very attractive, sweet, fun lady ) lives in Sebastopol too! If by any chance you are single and looking I’ve would love to fix you two up !
Write me back if you’d like more details.

–Dear Tanya
I just realized that I never got around to answering this one.  But now that I have, I am at a loss for words.

On Feb 27, 2021:
Having just read your discourse n Pre-Finish Options (I have never enjoyed reading educational materials more than I have your discourses.
Rob Greer

–Educational discourse. Ugh. College was sooo hard for me. Reading and rereading chapters that any normal student grasped the first time. So I decided to write informative gunk so it can actually be read.

May 21, 2014
Hello Charles,
Our gate arrived yesterday in great shape — no shipping damage at all. The packaging was very good. We unpacked it and placed it between the jambs for sizing and it fit perfectly. The gate looks very, very nice and is obviously well constructed — thank you so much.
Gordon and Stella Chamberlain
Decatur, Georgia

Hi Gordon and Stella.
Good to hear everything arrived on time and in one piece. We’re looking forward to some photos of the final installation. A few days ago Ben and I were having our lunch break. He was reading yet another catalogue on rock climbing equipment and I was doing a crossword and he says as if talking to the wall that wouldn’t it be nice if the world were populated by chamberlains.
Chamberlain. Georgia?
If the whole world were like them, it would be a different world.
Very different. Better.

On Feb 19, 2022:
Your garden gates are gorgeous! Do you know if they last long?
Or will they warp and crack (since they are left outside).
Thank you,

Hi Dana.
The gates are designed and built to allow the cedar to breath freely with the expansion and contraction of the seasons, as well as full mahogany mortise and tenon joinery throughout. Because the wood is clear, kiln-dried, and vertical grain, they will never warp or cup. Because we specify 20 or more growth rings per inch from the mill—insuring the tree is fully matured at harvest– the stability of the cedar itself is fully resistant to bacteria and fungus—no wood rot–as well as your salt air from the nearby coast.

So, if you are in your 30’s, they will last your lifetime. If you are in your 60’s, you may want to consider which of your grandkids are among your favorites.

Long reply to a simple inquiry

Feb 20, 2022
I welcome the long reply. In fact, I love the little jokes and humor that’s in the answer on you FAQ. 😊

Your gates are not “cheap” by any means…but the craftsmanship and quality makes it a worthwhile investment. I am in my 30s so I really hope that this will last me a lifetime. You get what you pay for, right?

Another question if you don’t mind. I do know that Cedar is great but what are your thoughts on “Ipe”? Pros and cons compared to Cedar?

Hi Dana,
Ipe is not, as is largely assumed, a sustainably harvested species.A contributing part of why the Amazonas is disappearing at a rate that I would no longer recognize it, were I to ever be crazy enough to return. It is also extremely dense, or heavy. Gates are gravity-based, as opposed to, say, a deck, or fence. The stress load of the top hinge joinery against the sheer weight of the Ipe gates would ultimately lead it toward a sagging end. Ipe is also a bit too dense for joinery, in general. It burns the cutting tools and bits. And lastly, it’s dust filaments—when sanding, etc— are not so great on the lungs.

The advantage to Ipe is that, yes, it’s as resistant to decay as the Larch pilers that have held Venice above water for 600 years.

You’ve now added three benches to our former order , nearing completion, that includes practically every product we offer.

My thinking on three benches: If you’re a reader and in good weather hope to spend some time reading in the garden, you might relegate a specific book to one of the benches and the next book to another and so on such that over time, years, your sense of each bench spreads to Bench #1 with the heated scenes of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Bench #2 with the page-turning absorption of Doer’s All the Light We Cannot See, and Bench #3 w/o a backrest, relegated to the lighter side of Ogden Nash’s short little ditties. If you’re not a reader, well . . . you should begin the day your benches arrive.


June 6, 2014
Hello Charles and Ben,
First of all, thanks for your very nice comment. We were going to reply as soon as our other fence project was finished — we thought in a few days following your message — and here we are just now at that point! Dealing with this other vendor and their supplier has been a comedy of incompetence and errors of epic proportions. I don’t really intend to start a “mutual admiration society”, however, on a scale of 1 to 10 this other group would get a 0 and CPW would rate an 11. It’s ironic that we’ve encountered two such diametrically opposite qualities of people in the same time frame. We wish that all craftsmen and suppliers in the world would be like CPW!

Have a good weekend,

July 1, 2005
First of all, what a great website!
The most complete website with some of the greatest designs I have seen, including, accessories, technical data, and care, thanks so much. I have read your very complete installation instructions, and for the life of me, I can not seem to picture how I should go about the installation.
I may be over my head on this project, but I thought I would ask an expert before calling one of your local installers to my Thousand Oaks
Thanks for one great website of some beautiful wood work by a true craftsman.
Happy holiday, enjoy.
Thousand Oaks Ca.

On Apr 7, 2010, at 11:36 AM, Ted wrote:
Hey Charles,
My wife wants a fence, and so I am looking around the Web for ideas. So far yours are the coolest, and I like your site so much that I’m going to mention it on my blog at Remodeling Magazine. Would you have a few minutes to talk about your designs and your construction methods, maybe? That would make it easier for me to steal your ideas, hrrm hrrm, I mean, it would make my blog more interesting.

Seriously — your designs remind me of traditional indoor wainscoting — I think my riff for my blog is going to be about how in California, where the weather is so mild, people tend to blur the distinction between their house interiors and the outside world, but then they need to make their fences more substantial in order to set apart their outdoor space as still a private space. So you get a formal fence, but with sort of an “outdoor room” decorating thing going on too, not just a blank wall. Type of thinking. California does have some really cool fences (and decks and gardens) — I noticed it last fall when I was visiting my sister in Fairfax, north of San Francisco.

But from the standpoint of actually building something for my wife, myself, I am curious about how you evolved the way you put these things together. I see where you had a story in Fine Home building back in the previous century — I haven’t read it yet, but I’m about to. I think she wants to buy one of yours for $80,000 (my wife does, not my sister), but I told her I could do it for $75k if she will fly me out there to watch you doing it first. And we can use the difference to sponsor an African child.

Anyway, if you are interested in a conversation, let me know — I would enjoy talking with you.

Regards, Ted

Hey Ted,
Interesting letter. It must seem odd, but blogs are something I’ve yet to experience. My patience Online is almost nonexistent. Maintaining and posting revisions to the web site for 17 years takes up 99% of my allotted allowance in that arena and as a result I’ve grown to avoid browsers like the plague. But I’m back from a couple weeks of traveling and if you were to pose questions, I’ll make an honest attempt to answer them and we can explore what’s worth exploring. Charles

On Jan 10, 2020, at 5:25 PM, Joanne Huie wrote:

Hi Charles,
My custom gate you built us in 2003 is holding up well except for some damage to the lower panel.
Hope you’re doing well and glad you’re still min business.
Happy New Year.

On Jan 15, 2020, at 5:25 PM, Joanne Huie wrote:
Thanks for your reply & reminding me that it is mortise and tenon joinery. We thought it would be easy to pop out. Sp in that case . . . my husband asks if it would be easier to bring the gate to your studio for you to repair.

Hi Joanne,
Sounds like a good plan, and you won’t have been the first to bring their ailing gate back home for a little minor surgery. The two large massive dobermans clawing at their gates for a decade, or the teen learning to ride his new moped, or the brother-in-law and former rugby player considering his sister-in-law’s gate as the goalpost, and on and on.

What we do is cut away the vertical stile on the hinge side, remove the existing damaged panel, make a new one, and a new hinge stile, re-mortise the rails and stile, and assemble everything back together. The new stile and new panel will be unfinished cedar, so you’ll need to re-finish the gate.

The changes in methodology since your original order in 2003. 1) The bottom horizontal rail will have new drainage holes thru the rail such that any water—heavy rains—drains down and thru the rail to release onto the ground. The top and bottom end-grain of the new panel will have a lifetime seal of emulsified liquid wax, preventing it from absorbing moisture through the end grain. 3) vertical grain cedar (as opposed to face grain, or figured grain, which is less stable.). 4) Long/wider more durable cedar tenons. 5) The top and bottom end grains of both the new and existing latch stile sealed with the same emulsified wax sealer. And once she’s all sanded and ready for the trip home, we’ll have her say her goodbyes to her new friends, the young gates in the shop who’ve yet to be released into the world at large.


On Feb 19, 2022:
Your garden gates are gorgeous! Do you know if they last long?
Or will they warp and crack (since they are left outside).
Thank you,

Hi Dana.
The gates are designed and built to allow the cedar to breath freely with the expansion and contraction of the seasons, as well as full mahogany mortise and tenon joinery throughout. Because the wood is clear, kiln-dried, and vertical grain, they will never warp or cup. Because we specify 20 or more growth rings per inch from the mill—insuring the tree is fully matured at harvest– the stability of the cedar itself is fully resistant to bacteria and fungus—no wood rot–as well as your salt air from the nearby coast.

So, if you are in your 30’s, they will last your lifetime. If you are in your 60’s, you may want to consider which of your grandkids are among your favorites.

 Long reply to a simple inquiry

Feb 20, 2022
I welcome the long reply. In fact, I love the little jokes and humor that’s in the answer on you FAQ.

Your gates are not “cheap” by any means…but the craftsmanship and quality makes it a worthwhile investment. I am in my 30s so I really hope that this will last me a lifetime. You get what you pay for, right?

Another question if you don’t mind. I do know that Cedar is great but what are your thoughts on “Ipe”? Pros and cons compared to Cedar?

Hi Dana,
Ipe is not, as is largely assumed, a sustainably harvested species.A contributing part of why the Amazonas is disappearing at a rate that I would no longer recognize it, were I to ever be crazy enough to return. It is also extremely dense, or heavy. Gates are gravity-based, as opposed to, say, a deck, or fence. The stress load of the top hinge joinery against the sheer weight of the Ipe gates would ultimately lead it toward a sagging end. Ipe is also a bit too dense for joinery, in general. It burns the cutting tools and bits. And lastly, it’s dust filaments—when sanding, etc— are not so great on the lungs.

The advantage to Ipe is that, yes, it’s as resistant to decay as the Larch pilers that have held Venice above water for 600 years.

You’ve now added three benches to our former order , nearing completion, that includes practically every product we offer.

My thinking on three benches: If you’re a reader and in good weather hope to spend some time reading in the garden, you might relegate a specific book to one of the benches and the next book to another and so on such that over time, years, your sense of each bench spreads to Bench #1 with the heated scenes of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Bench #2 with the page-turning absorption of Doer’s All the Light We Cannot See, and Bench #3 w/o a backrest, relegated to the lighter side of Ogden Nash’s short little ditties. If you’re not a reader, well . . . you should begin the day your benches arrive.


Wednesday, August 31, 2006 1:21 AM
Thank you for your entertaining website. You do beautiful work. I wish I could commission your group to build my fence on my modest estate, south of SF. Alas, your quality of work would stand out like a work of art announcing my high tone tastes to my neighbors.

This would get in the way of our chats as they focus on HOW MUCH DID YOU PAY? I’m just looking for regular, run of the mill fencing but was wondering what you would do for a dog house? I’m imagining something akin to the treehouse, something that would charge up my Spanky to want to run and play in his own house (and leave mine alone). Just a thought and feedback on your web-page.
Marie Ochi-Jacobs

Well, Marie, not always a bad thing to announce the state of your tastes to your neighbors, and as a result possibly, with this new change of high-class events– the turn of conversation will veer away from last night’s telly to , say . . .the opera, or whatever high-class folks discuss with their neighbors.

So Sparky needs a charge and preferably one of his own and not your own house. Will he be inviting local Sparkettes to his new home and are you okay with this? Or will the new doghouse require sound-proofing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 1:00 P.M.
Aloha to all at Prowell Woodworks, As the saying goes, too often, when we see a beautiful garden we do not stop to see who the gardener is.

As a fellow woodworker and carpenter I’m captivated and intrigued by your exquisite products and brilliant writing.

Although I’m certainly just “A student at the feet of Masters”, please allow me to point out a possible error in your web site text. Not for self aggrandizement, but because I feel you might appreciate being made aware of it, opening the way to editing it if you wish to.

Here’s where it is:

On the home page of “Garden Gates”, below the heading “Prowell’s Signature Wood Garden Gate Designs”, 5th paragraph, 3rd sentence…. between the words (with) and (significant) I believe the word (YOU) should be the word (YOUR).

Thank you for indulging me.
Best Wishes, Rick Kikta

Aloha Rick,
Your watchdog role is in fact much appreciated, and as close to any editor we have. The ‘you’ for ‘your’ would of course be beyond the stretch of spell-check, but even more interesting in glancing at those paragraphs I found yet another goof: a few lines further down. ‘. . . your left as soft and sappy as a puppy dog’, with the ‘your’ subsequently fixed to ‘you’re’. So thank you.

We’re better off for you(r) keen eye and shared fondness for the written word.

January 13, 1998 8:06:15 PM PST
Just stopping in to say that your work is extraordinary

I just needed to tell you a few things . . . First, your Fence #1 is just the fence I have been dreaming of. However, my budget at this time is strictly, as you say, “JC Penney”. But I will wait and save until I can build a “Sax” fence similar to your Fence #1. Do it once and do it right is my motto. Second I had to tell you your FAQ section is fantastic. It is the first and only FAQ section that I have ever read purely for entertainment purposes. Thank you!

October 2008
Living in Houston, and wondering if you have had any feedback from customers on your fences and how they hold up to hurricanes.

By the way, I love your FAQ’s and agree with others that you should write a book. Perhaps not a reminiscence of building a business (which would be of interest mostly to boring MBA types), but something of a cross between Douglas Adams’ work and a travel log. Even if you have nothing much to say (which I doubt), it will be told with an extremely enjoyable wit.

I cant really say how the panels will hold up to 140 mph winds. We stand by them, barring the obvious distractions such as meteorites with an uncanny likeness to bing crosby hurling down upon your house, or the front bumpers of a bulbous SUV. Or a boat buoyed by flood waters.

The building standards of Houston are like those of Vegas and Phoenix and Orlando. Three cities I tend to avoid. With Houston being fourth on that list. Markets that are simply against my architectural grain.  And yet these places, Houston among them, in spite of my objections, are appratemtly peopled with wonderfully pleasant folks who continue to place orders.

Book: Folks assume I have oodles of time. That I play golf and body surf and ski and take daily naps followed by a daily swim and have my afternoon coffee with a crossword puzzle downtown and in the evenings read voluminously, all to fight off a nagging boredom.  When the truth is that I am a working man.  I work.  Writing is not work.  And writing a book even less so.

Hi Charley,
I hope you are doing well and still building beautiful gates.  Our next door neighbor had a new fence put in and the builder asked if our gate was a Prowell gate!  It still looks great, but needs a little cleaning and oil, or something.  Hope to get to it this summer.
Take care.

Hi Robin,
How wonderful to hear from you. And how nice that your neighbor’s contractor recognized your gate. You belong to a club, of sorts.

July 2, 2007 3:57:41 AM PDT
Hi Charles,
While browsing the Internet for couple of garden panels I came across your “works of art”. I cannot call your products fencing for they are beautiful pieces of functional and decorative outdoor art.
Now the problem and solution….
I live in Massachusetts and the closest you come to us is Chicago.
Have you thought of expanding to the East Coast? There is a market for your products (I still want to call them “art”) here!

Thanks Alexandra.
We just lost our Baltimore shop a few months ago, as he found himself head-over-heels in love with a woman who happened to live in Portugal and decided to throw it all up in lieu of love and move to Portugal. Last year, as a recompense I took an apt in Andover, Mass for 5 months in an effort to bridge up our New England commissions.. What i discovered, however, is that this is an area dominated by colonial architecture and vinyl fences owned by people with a dress code from the 1950’s. It was also a shock to me, Massachusetts, from the tranquil existence of Northern CA Sonoma County to the dense traffic and high RPM of that area. The sharp disparity between the affluence of some areas and the almost old-world factory mentality and economy of the rest of the state. Believe it or not, it was my first experience of having ever seen an actual factory building, and although they were all long-ago boarded up, the culture of these little towns seemed rooted by generations in this factory culture. It was both fascinating, and depressing at the same time.
In the end, I gave up and returned home, which by the way made for a lovely month-long road trip on the blue highways.

June 28, 2007 8:06:24 AM PDT
Mr. Prowell,

Beautiful work; one gets the impression your fences are a piece of furniture that just happen to be fences. Even in pictures it’s clear they’re not the usual fence.

June 2, 2006
Dear Charles,
Thanks for your ideas on the porch swing.  How do we proceed?

Dear Steffanie,
I am thrilled by this project. Offering subsequent patrons a modified style suitable for a scene right out of To Kill a Mockingbird. So we would press you for photos.

July 19, 2006

Hi Charles,
I enjoyed the reference to To Kill a Mockingbird! I spent every summer of my childhood visiting my grandmother in Ohio. Most nights we had 7-Up floats while swinging on the old porch swing, talking to the neighbors – soon I’ll be able to do the same here on Coronado Island! I think you will have several subsequent patrons wanting this swing design. I have been searching for such a swing for 6 months – new or antique, and there is nothing out there! I even have an architectural salvage firm in Pasadena keeping an eye out for me!

We’ll get started and I’ll have the fellas wearing slightly disheveled cardigan sweaters and a somewhat distant, weighty bearing to themselves all to invest the swing with something of Mockingbird’s Atticus.

Jan 18, 2007, at 2:22 PM

Hello Charles – Surprise – the porch swing is FINALLY being hung today! It should be up when I get home from work today!! I will send  photos shortly. I am very excited! It had to be drilled through a stucco arch, up into a supporting beam,  etc. and my contractor finally had a few days to send out his exterior carpenters.
p.s. He was very impressed with the design and construction and may refer some clients to you. (Lorton Mitchell Custom Homes – Coronado)

Yippee! And I’m glad to hear it’s being installed with all the safeguards to insure a long life span.
A photo 1) of the swing in place ,2) of the swing and the porch to show it’s natural setting,and 3) one of yourself, in your swing, appearing contemplative and dreamy all at once and I promise we’ll put that one on the site. You’ll have legions of anonymous admirers.
p.s. Your contractor Lorton Mitchel has reached out to us regarding a new swing design. Thank you.

November 6, 2003 5:42:24 AM PST


Dear Jacqueline,
I’m afraid I don’t understand. A beginner’s catalog? We do not run a school or apprenticeship here. We are practicing woodworker.s

April 26, 2004 8:11:49 PM PDT

I have a chain link fence with metal posts set in concrete. I wish to replace this with a wood fence. Can I bore out the 4×4 posts to go over the metal posts and reuse them? If so, how much of the metal post is required for stability?

Dave Rose

Good Lord, Dave. Are you serious? First of all, where are you going to find an auger bit long enough? How are you going to drill a straight hole? The 4×4 will check and crack once you have a hole through the center, and how can you adhere it to the metal post. You better bite the bullet and jack-hammer out your metal posts.


March 14, 2007 4:24:40 PM PDT

I live in Australia and have just done a Google search for gates.
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your site. There were lots pictures to look at.  The gates are all beautiful.
It was nice to see such a well thought out web page.
Thank you and have a nice day.

New South Wales

Thank you, Gillian.
I only wish we could ship a single gate to Australia, as it would certainly warrant a trip to oversee its installation.

March 17, 2007
Charles if we win the big Lottery this week, I will ORDER one from you and when you install it, I will fire up the BBQ and throw a few Shrimp on the Barbie. Guess we both would like for my ticket to be the right numbers…….

Have a nice day

Congratulations on the pictures of your beautiful gates and fences being selected for what appears to be a very lovely book. Its great to see our gates included. Thanks for sharing!!
Best Regards,


May 3, 2007, at 1:24 AM

Well Mr. Prowell,
I just spent the last hour or so looking at your beautiful work on your website. Just amazing!  I really admire your talent. I am a lighting designer and have bookmarked your site to show one of my clients. Anyhow just thought I’d let you know that you have one more fan.
Thanks for the wonderful pictures!
Valerie Ash

Thank you, Valerie, and a pity how a single hour serves only to break the surface, to cull you into the nether-reaches of a 700-page entreaty given as much to design, as a life lived.

Lighting design and a whole host of needs come to mind. My fascination with light and how the physics of it confounds me. So many new products these last couple of years limited because neither myself nor any of those in the various shops are lighting designers. I wish I knew a lighting designer. I wonder how one meets a lighting designer. Where do they hang out?

Dear Mr. Prowell:
Built a new house in Oklahoma and have a brick pillar very much like your G-20.  Looked and looked for help on a gate.  Got nowhere, then, your web site.  Couldn’t believe it.  Initial reaction was, wow are these beautiful, then decided they are works of art.  Every now and then one discovers a truly superior product, and your gates are definitely superior works of art.  Magnificent work sir, I keep this site on my favorites, just to peruse your gates.  The work is so good it affects me like a great painting.

Unfortunately, I spent the formative years between 6th grade and 10th grade in Oklahoma City, moving from our beloved Illinois farm to this strange land which I never did grow fond of. Fortunately we returned to southern Illinois before I was damaged beyond repair.

May 27, 2005

Looked at your work and I think you are one of the greatest
Kevin in Atlanta

Thank you, Kevin.

Sept 2, 2008

Oh Charles,
Your poetic sensibilities are over the top, but greatly appreciated.  We peaked in the crate today and as anticipated the screens and gate are works of art. So beautiful – they will have a happy home here.
Andrea Francesca of Reno

**Note:   A series of gates and decorative panels were shipped to a residence in Reno, NV in 2008.  With the shipment en route, Charles sends the following note to Andrea Francesca of Reno:
“She sits on her porch in the biggest little city in the world, staring into a sky as blue as a cerulean swatch, waiting. As it draws near, she can smell it, sense it, and when it arrives at the FedEx dock across town the anticipation threatens her. But she waits, watching her clock, waiting for their call to schedule the arrival at her home, and that night she doesn’t sleep, overwhelmed with the fritters of being united with what is rightfully hers.”

A year later Charles made a trip to Reno, to play golf and photograph the site of the above project, and attend a dinner party at the same address that night.
In attendance was a the hostess’ mother, a woman of 88 from Prague who spoke of living in Prague when Hitler arrived, and compared this to five years later, when Stalin arrived.  Also present was another women about the same age who spoke of her and her husband who worked on the Vegas strip in 1954 as a Spanish dance act, and years later, performing in Havana in 1959 on the night Castro came down from the hills to overthrow Baptiste.  Oral histories at their very best.

March 28, 2005

Hi. i saw a beautiful garden gate in my cottage living magazine. it was on page 53. it was the middle picture on the right side of the page. i didn’t see this gate on your web site. i would like to know if i could purchase one like this. thank you .

I know nothing of Cottage Living Magazine and must confess that the gates occasionally appear in various publications without anyone from that publication bothering to give us a heads-up.

March 20, 2005

Very, very impressive. I live in Penngrove, have been a carpenter for 16yrs, but have never seen nicer gate and fence designs


**Note: For years, years ago, we posted a Prowell treehouse. The volume of inquiries regarding this treehouse far far outweighed all the other products combined. And because we are not actually in the business of building treehouses, it was removed. And then, recently, returned to the web site as an act of nostalgia. The simple odd-ball comments, but also requests to design and build treehouses from all over the world and to include a 4-star Four Seasons resort in Indonesia who wanted 12 single-room treehouses set in the mangoes with counter-weighted lift and all the amenities that would warrant 4-star prices. The Treehouse was a labor of love, and remains in working order somewhere within Sebastopol.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
I would like to live full-time w/ 2 cats in a treehouse, somewhere in Northern California. I don’t have land yet. I don’t need a big house. Do you build them? Is this doable? How much will it cost?

Dear Betty.
Is it the law, or Texas, that has you opting out for this fantasy life? In Northern California, we do not do Bush, and the law, well . . . the law bends like straw in a hurricane. Life in a treehouse would put you more or less squarely within the median expectations.

Oh, your question: No, probably not. It is doable, and permits are available, but designing and building treehouses is, for me, something more of a pastime that an occupation.

July 19, 2004 6:26:36 PM PDT

I found your site while looking for a cool tree house for my 4 1/2 yr old son.  He loves Swiss Family Robinson. Wanted to let you know,Very impressive tree house!
Carole Carole

A s a kid, I was in love with the movie Swiss Family Robinson. I thought if I could manage a shipwreck, and enough tools and supplies, I  would be close to heaven. So nice that there are still boys out there with a similar vision.

October 4, 2004 10:22:42 AM PDT

Dear Mr. Prowell,
I came across your work on the internet. You are an artist with wood,   and your work is a pleasure to the eye. Loved the tree house. Thanks for the visual delight. Sincerely,

Thank you Tiiu,
It is odd how many acknowledgments I receive on the treehouse. A playful, rather funky little project that seems to have caught the fancy of so many visitors. The treehouse itself has become, over the years, a haven for budding young hormones with the neighborhood kids as they move through their teen years. What they do up there—well, I don’t want to know what it is they do.

October 8, 2004

Dear Charles,
Glad to hear the treehouse is being put to good use. I guess treehouse fantasies never die. It’s nice that in this day of technology and fast track living, some things continue to inspire a sense of child-like wonder and longing.
All the best,

Well, just so much response on this silly, albeit elaborate tree house that I’ve considered reasons why
a treehouse appeals to both young and adult alike:

1) Elevation.
We like to be raised from the day-to-day goings on. Not as in a second story house, where the second story remains connected to the real world by a ground floor, but suspended and cantilevered over the ground and often with the only access controlled from above. Here, we have a retractable ladder and a counter-weighted carriage to provide us with a true sense of being beyond reach. Perhaps today more so than ever, surrounded by cell phones and internet and all the various forms of staying in touch and keeping informed, there is an appreciation for being out of touch.

2) Whimsy
The playful architecture of a treehouse departs from the more serious grounded surroundings of everyday life. Things are done differently. Rules are suspended. (Thatched roofs. Tree limbs penetrating through the floor,. Turret ceilings. Functional and multi-purpose furnishings and interior design more similar to the escape-mode of a sailboat .)

3) Inventiveness.
Together, the above features combine to inspire a departure in behavior and thought. You don’t take your laptop to work on the annual sales spreadsheet, but more, perhaps, to write a story, or a poem. You paint, you play card games, you meditate, you smooch, you read, you think. You escape.

September 24, 2005


Dear Annie and Dave,
Let me see here, you are asking for fridge face plates in clear pine. These, as I recall, are simply 1/4″ pine plys cut to size. Surely someone more local to you can manage this.

Something about a 1972 tree house, presented to me in a sentence so butchered and ill-conceived that I can make no sense of it whatsoever. The tree house exists and you want ideas for embellishing what exists? The tree house itself, if it exists, must be interesting, as boat builders are a breed apart.


March 10, 2005 1:58AM PST

Looked at your gates, casework, etc. Really, really nice work! Also read your interviews. Your interviewer, Guy Beiderman, seems to be missing some gray cells… many, many gray cells. (Just my impression.)

Nothing else. Congratulations to you for very fine craftsmanship and wishes for much prosperity. I’d enjoy meeting and talking with you… about gates and doors and mantles.. other stuff too. Over coffee of course. But I live in Oregon (near Ashland.) Still, if you should find yourself around here sometime, give me a call. I’ll buy the coffee. A muffin too, if you like pumpkin/chocolate chip.
See you (hopefully).
PS — Just curios. That picture of Frank Lloyd Wright. What’s he reaching for in his pocket? A tape measure? A gun? A muffin perhaps?

Well Matt, one man’s gray cells are another man’s golden eggs. Biederman’s talent, I reckon, lies in the tomfoolery of a misguided genius that manages to have me saying things I might later regret, or deny.

Always on the lookout for coffee/cookie company and went to Ashland two summers ago for Shakespeare that put me to sleep instantly and forced to walk the streets of a town suffering from fatal quaintness.

Frank Lloyd Wright, like Somerset Maugham, lived and worked into his 90’s and claimed to be ‘active’ to the end. Whereas Maugham returned to Switzerland every year for a blood transfusion he was convinced was responsible for his ‘active libido’, Wright, on the other hand, was forever searching for the inspiration of a hard geometry. But for billiard balls, as he simply liked how they rolled; this made for easy pickings, as we often walked down to Palace Billiards after a long day of hard geometry and he systematically overlooked the purpose of the game, far more fascinated by how they caromed off the cushions than anything to do with pockets,

March 10, 2005 2:12:04 AM PST

Geez!  I just realized I forgot to mention Bucky Fuller!  What a guy, huh!  Amazing man.  I once attended a lecture of his at the U of Washington.  He spoke for nearly six hours.  Not one single person left even to go to the bathroom.  Gawd!  I loved the guy.  I took him literally when he said all of Nature was constructed of equilateral triangles.  So I invented a unique kind of Mobius Band… made from nine equilateral triangles.  It does strange things.  Played with it for seven years.  Didn’t tell anyone.  Then one day some guy on Johnny Carson is demonstrating “Executive Playthings.”  One of them is my Mobiius!  Said it was discovered by some guys at Princeton.  Bullshit!  I found it first!  So it goes.  Fame and fortune–lost forever.

Had a good friend many years ago too, who was Fuller’s Western Region World Game Conference Director (back in the early seventies… my hippie days).  My friend since died.

As I said, just forgot to mention this in my first message.  No big deal.

Oh yes, an amazing man . . . who never showed up for class and when he did wouldn’t take questions or hardly even talk to his lowly students and if he inspired you it’s probably more because you were absolutely desperate for someone to lead you somewhere, anywhere. At a time, I should mention, when as a fledgling hippie, I needed direction.

March 9, 2005
Awesome designs.  Wish I were rich and could have you do my fences and gates.  have to go with the mundane.  Thanks for something to shoot for.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”

Thank you Louise.
I like your signature motto. I wish it were possible to do it right the first time. But life is fraught with mistakes and reactions to mistakes. Maybe a dogged resiliency is the best motto.

March 8, 2005
Mr. Powell –
As a longtime fan of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, you woodwork is the best I’ve found that matches the spirit of his works.

Just to let you know, my contractor read your installation guide and found it to be the best all around instruction on putting in and staining a fence he has ever come across.  Just thought you would appreciate hearing that.
Oh, and the gate and fence are getting all sorts of compliments from the neighbors.

Thank you Bob.  That your contractor actually read it–this in itself is a milestone.

August 20, 2020
So it has been over three years since you guys made my door. We have been in the house for about 2 1/2 years now and my favorite thing about the house is the wonderful door you guys built for us!! I want to reach out to you and let you know how wonderful your door is and that we get so many complements on your work. I have attached two photos of the door, feel free to use them if you think they are worthy of a spot on your website. 

Thanks again for the amazing work!!!!

Thanks for the pics, Doug. And the feature-film-length video! Posted on the gate style #29 with speakeasy style #2.

November 6, 2004

I came across your website looking for ideas for a gate.   Your work is simply amazing. You are very talented.
Thanks for the inspiration.

Thank you Tracy. Where would we be without inspiration. There is always something or someone to show us an otherwise unknown dimension.

Hello Mr. Prowell,
 I want to thank you for your website. Your designs are proof that fences and gates can truly be works of art and craft. Your work has inspired me in my own thinking about fences and gates for my property.  We’ll certainly be ordering soon, just not sure of the combination of gate/fence panels yet.

Thanks Joel, and good luck with your projects.

June 2010
My name is Bella. My dog-parents love your company’s fence panels and gates. They are young professionals buying their first home. While we are not poor (they feed me high quality food), they are not able to afford your fencing given their need to fence in an acre of land for me to roam. However, please consider contacting them with a price quote and pictures should your company have a sizable array of seconds or a canceled order that is built but not paid for. They can at least afford to fence the front part of our house with such nice fencing and should the order be big enough and the pricing competitive enough they would consider more. Thank you for your time and help with building me a beautiful, safe environment. Feel free to contact them here.



October 19, 2004

Hi There,
Just a quick note to let you know how much I wish you were situated in Sydney, Australia as we desperately require a couple of gates that are of your standard.
Love your work. Your workmanship is unbelievable, keep up the great work.

Now of course a gate in Sydney would surely at some juncture require a follow-up trip to inspect the finished installation that would allow the trip in itself to be written off as a business expense, with a night at the Opera House a necessity to ponder in depth the details of the project.

October 2, 2004

While browsing the Internet tonight, I stumbled across your site quite by accident and spent an hour marveling at your creative genius and tremendous output.  Your writing is superb, too.  You are a true Renaissance man.                   
A new fan, Sylvia Hatfield.

Clearing out old emails this morning and coming across this which shows no reply was ever sent. I apologize, as we look to answer every letter that arrives. Thank you for the kind words and I am pleased you found the site an enjoyable stop. Perhaps even more surprising, that you stumbled upon the writing. I so seldom receive any feedback on this so it’s good to hear something.

On May 6, 2004, at 7:37 PM, Mike Hendershot wrote:
Hi Charles,
I own Greenwich Fence Company in West Greenwich, Rhode Island and would like to discuss with you some of your work and ideas. I’m fairly young(23) and really trying to get a niche in my area as the best at what I do. Using mass produced, pre fabricated fence panels is not really my thing and I hope this attitude will help me build my business. Your designs are truly spectacular and no one can touch the work you do. I laugh when customers tell me that Walpole Woodworkers is the best. No way. Mortise and tenon joinery, custom panel fluting and functional fence design is where it’s at. I predict that I will be designing some of the most functional, beautiful and stable wood fences in the years to come. Write me back when you have a chance, I know you are busy. I tried writing you before and never heard back. Hopefully I can talk to you and get some ideas and guidance from a true pro.
Mike Hendershot
Greenwich Fence Company

My apologies for not writing back to your earlier letter. We try to make a habit of replying to all so imagine it somehow slipped away..

You sound like someone committed to a career somewhat more rewarding than what most of our competitors experience. How can I not be drawn to that conviction? The gates and panels were not an overnight acquisition; there were the years of development and endless revisions and costly re-designs and all resulting in various amendments to the methodology to eventually arrive at a product that not only stands up on delivery, but for decades to come. I receive so many inquiries regarding the procedures and techniques on the gates and panels (this week an offer from somewhere back your way from a homeowner wanting to commission a number of drive gates and pedestrian gates and arbors and with that investment would I be willing to explain step-by-step the techniques for the panels so they can hire their carpenter to replicate this over 450 running feet of fence-line. Unfortunately, I had to defer on the offer.).

Your talk on design and business and the art of our shared interest, however, is certainly welcome.

Hi Charles.  Thanks for reminding us of getting pictures to you.  The post caps are the crown jewels of our new fence and gate.

Ed Rawlings
(The above refers to the Prowell two-tiered post caps, as well as Charles’ endless pleas for site photos.)

Crown Jewels? Isn’t that a PBS mystery series? But it reminds me of our family silver, which was buried just outside Charleston as General Sherman got closer and closer. It was recently donated to the Charleston Silver Museum, where it was on display in the main hall, for one whole week. And then stashed away for eternity in the basement. Had we known, well maybe it would have stayed in the family.

Just wanted to commend you on the quality of your work.  The gates turned out beautifully.
Don, Architect
Nadel Architects, Inc.

Sept 17, 2004

Just want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your website.  Your work looks impeccable and your designs are just incredible!  Thank you for providing such beautiful photos and for inspiring me to buy a Prowell fence other than a run-of-the-mill fence.

Nice of you to write and I’m glad to hear you have enjoyed the site

Dear Mr. Prowell,
I saw your website and am wondering if you would be interested in taking on an apprentice. I am a highly motivated and creative individual looking for an apprenticeship with a local woodworker. Please see my resume and contact me at any time at: xxx-398-2383.


August 30, 2004

Good Day to Everyone,
I’m Hanna from Mauritius Island, Just drop to say u that the web site is fabulous and the gate model is out of imagination.

Hello Hanna,
Very nice to hear from someone in your corner of the world and very kind of you to write with a few gracious words about the web site

(*Note: Our Hanna from above continued to write in intermittently, practicing her English. We are so very sorry to report that she succumbed to cancer less than four months after her original email, listed above.)

August 23, 2004

Mr. Prowell:

I just thought I would send you and email and let you know how much I appreciate your thought and sense of design when it comes to fences and gates. I am a Landscape Architect who works mostly on commercial projects but I know a few very reputable high end residential designers who I will pass your web address onto.

I am not sure where you have studied or draw inspiration from, but your attention to detail reminds me of Japanese garden design. I placed a link below to a very good site which has numerous Japanese gardens, it give you an idea someday.
Kylde Kibler

Dear Mr Kibler,
Thank you for your kind words. I followed the link you provided and spent an enjoyable half hour here, making a number of mental notes for future considerations.
Regarding inspiration: My own past draws primarily from a heritage of a father/builder; a grandfather/ furniture-maker; a mother who was a fine artist/ illustrator; an uncle who was an architect; and five years at Southern Illinois University studying architecture, art, and eventually design, under Buckminster Fuller. Somehow that all gets thrown in the wash, as you surely know, to whatever it is that defines us presently.
Best Wishes

July 2, 2004

Oh charlie- the gates are incredible- what a work of art they are!!! we are truly happy and don’t you worry, you will get lots of pictures. we have cleared away the tree that was in front of the house, unfortunately it was in the way of the driveway and we could not pull the car in because of low hanging rather large branches, so the gates will take center stage! i cannot wait! we will be moving in a week from Thursday and expect to get a lot of compliments on our gates. we will be sending lots of people your way. i can’t thank you enough for getting them done so quickly, i am soooooooo happy!!!!!!!!!!! ——- annie

April 4th, 2011

Hi Charles,

Peanut butter man here.  Last summer you were kind enough to help me over the phone with my own project here in Lexington, Kentucky.  You were very helpful. In fact I was really impressed with customer service and your technical assistance, knowing it was just a homeowner who couldn’t afford your products.  Enjoy the peanut butter.

HSE Coordinator
J.M. Smuckers, LLC

Hi John.

You sent me four jars of peanut butter.  Arriving in the mail today from someone who in all honesty, I cannot remember. Finding your email address on the attached card and wanting to thank you and glad to hear your project went smoothly. I should add that although my preferences for peanut butter vary, my jelly does not.  it is always Smucker’s raspberry preserves. So congratulations on working for such a great company.

On Dec 3, 2011, at 8:51 AM, Mike Spinosa wrote:

Dear Mr. Prowell: I am researching some best methods for constructing an exterior gate for my back yard and I found your website and felt compelled to write you a note.

While the methods you employ are way beyond my capability level I have to thank you for making the information available.
Your website is well written and It did exactly what you hoped it would do:
“And yet, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed yourself and the bar of your own sightedness has been raised in a manner that has served to excite you. Inspire you.”
Thanks again for a great experience!!
Mike Spinosa

Thanks for taking the time to send along a note. Good luck with the gate and if you find yourself whistling, well . . . that’s not a bad thing


July 6, 2004

Hi Charles
 I am currently looking for several items including driveway gates, beds, mantles, and other  furniture.
 I have looked on your site and like the items I have seen. How do I go about getting a price for buying and shipping some of the items to the UK. Do you have a general price guide, or do I need to specify each product?
 Look forward to hearing from you.
Regards, Debs

It is currently practically impossible to secure an order. If you persist, however, we will get you prices on the specific gate your prefer, as well as the mantle and bed, etc. Plus shipping once an order is established.

July 1, 2004

Hi Chas,
looking for inspiration for my mother  in laws gates and wasn’t sure if i would find you again. I live in the San Diego area and sent you pictures of the gate i built for my house, …but, doesn’t everyone send you pictures of “their gates”?  How could you remember?
But your work is so wonderful. I wish that I lived next door and that I had your fence to gaze at rather than the ones that I look at. My mother in law lives across the street so that is why I want something “friendly”. We are having her home renovated and I have to pic out stucco, paint and trim colors, I want something rich and classy in this old 50’s neighborhood,,,i just don’t want to make a mistake, Any suggestions on colors?  I am leaning towards a rich grey-brown with taupe accents and white.
Hope everything has been fine with you. Keep making the world a delightful place to look at.  thanks
honestly basking in the light of your talent and genius I stand,

My apologies but the name calls up only the faintest recollection. Unfortunately, i don’t hang on to old emails much longer than three months. Are you asking for advice on colors? I’m afraid i don’t recall the house or the pics you may have once sent, so I am of little use to you on this. And please don’t bask in the light of anything or anyone but your own talents.

See attached picture of gate that we would like to find out what it would cost to have made.
Thank You,

We are into an arena of ethics, which most Americans seem to have lost track of beginning somewhere around Reagan’s first term. You have sent us a photo of a gate, with the logo of it’s original fabricator stamped in the corner.  We will not quote on this, and the ethical approach is to commission this from it’s original fabricator.

Dear Charles,
I would like to know if a cat can climb these fence panels.

How would I know, for goodness sakes? What size cat? Are you harboring lions in captivity?

On May 5th, 2010,
You may wish to correct the spelling of “information” several places at the end of your website. It may well compliment the precision exhibited in the writing that precedes it. Thanks! –


August 1999
Beautiful work, I have been building fences for 12 years and have never seen such great work,

Thank you for the kind words

May 15, 2004, Alexandria Hobbs
The crate arriving yesterday . . . I am stunned..
Wow…stunning gates …stunning designs. you are quite a craftman. absolute genius…fantastic…beautiful..amazing.

Dear Alexandria,
One might assume you’ve composed the lower passage with a thesaurus in one hand and an alter in the other. And yet I’m flattered and will begin my day, this Saturday, buoyed by your kind words.

May 10, 2004
Mr. :Prowell,
I’ve been looking at your amazing work on your website. I’ve never seen anyone make a gate or fence with such beauty and creativity. I’d like to know, is cedar your primary choice for gates? Do you dislike redwood for a reason?
Thank you.
Pamela Mahon
“The wisest men follow their own direction.”

Thank you.
My aversion to redwood is drawn primarily from it’s environmental standing, in addition to the fact that the shop is flanked by two favorite friends: on one side a lovely palm tree with its fronds silhouetted against the blueness of the sky, and on the other side a 600-year-old redwood rising so far into that same sky that it seems to transcend it’s earthly origins. The Redwoods, in my town, are the treasures of our heritage.  They’ve been around for thousands of years.  As trees, and not gates.

For more on redwood and why it is no longer the redwood of my 20’s. Click Here

On Mar 31, 2010
Dear sir,
 I just spent the last hour looking at your craftsmanship. These are absolute works of art and I am amazed at the diversity of design.
 Regards, from a fan,
 David and Nancy Swetz

Hi David,
Taking a moment to see you’re just out of school, and transplanted from Mass to SF with the timing of a terrible recession.  In school at Southern Illinois, where I suffered under the tutelage of Buckminster Fuller, I also finished in a recession (1972), and debated right up until the week before graduation on whether to relocate to SF or Boston.  Both being areas with a patronage that could appreciate and support innovative approaches to design and craftsmanship.  Obviously I chose SF, and the odd thing is my youngest son has just moved to Boston to begin his 2-year program at North Bennett St in Fine Woodworking and reports after two whole months that he is never returning.  Hmmm.  We’re off to visit him over the Easter holiday.

But I remember something he taught us back then–Fuller– about the talent, and the bits and pieces of inspiration drawn from others that feed that talent and eventually round out a recognizable, or signatory look.  How it builds from bits and pieces drawn from others and bringing them together like a scrapbook.  How that scrapbook segues into the concept drawings and if you had graduated in the boom years, there would be absolutely no time to develop this.  Spending an hour on a site such as Prowell’s in the heart of a recession is, I think, exactly what he was referring to.  

April 2008
I am designing for Holiday Inn and Hilton and many more..
Please send me a catalog..
Thank You

Prowell’s products and designs are in constant motion, while the work itself is approached by single veteran craftsmen. Providing the designer for Holiday Inn etc with product quotes in line with global vendors is asking too much from us. We are not manufacturers and therefore seldom enter into the competitive circles of supplying our products to chains and the comparative costs of out-sourced manufacturers.

On Tuesday, April 20, 2000, Rachel Ramirez wrote:

Mr. Prowell,
I have spent many an evening gazing at the beautiful work you do via your website. I have a list of questions to ask before proceeding forward. A big step for us, but we are committed on your work. Should I call or write?

Thank you Rachael. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, the phone or email is fine. We’ll be here.

Mr. Prowell,
Just wanted to thank you for your excellent craftsmanship on my two pedestrian gates. They came out great. Currently I’m the envy of the neighborhood because I decided to not go with the standard vinyl or rod iron gates. Once again thank you for a job well done, Hopefully I can drum up some business for you.

Gates did arrive in Honolulu via boat and the hardware showed up Friday (4-16-04) regular mail.

Hi, I just had to take a moment to tell you what a wonderful website you have to show your absolutely beautiful products!!! Wonderful design, construction and imagination. Bravo. Anita

Well thank you, Anita. I am always surprised how visitors take the time to extend the pleasantries of a simple kudo.

From: john@ . . .
Subject: Designer garden gate #203
Sent: May 14, 2010 7:12:46 PM PDT

I really like this gate, being a fellow wood worker, not quite as good as you, i understand the time and effort that goes into a piece like this. While surfing around the web last night i came across this web site ( which strangely was selling the exact same gate as the 203? even the pictures on the web site were the same as yours. Maybe I am wrong and you have given them the rights to copy your work?

Someday I hope to have one of your pieces, one day, keep up the great work.

Thanks John. Very kind of you to pass this on. The photo you refer to is most definitely a photo copied directly from our web site. Of course we have not authorized anything regarding #203 so I made a call to this company, The Scottsdale Art Factory, and pretended to be an interested buyer and was told it was one of their most popular gate styles and that it had won the ASID award for 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, etc. I asked, in my most humble voice, what exactly ASID stood for and the salesman (who informed me he was an architect and an lawyer and a woodworker) said he wasn’t actually sure, but that it won all those awards. I then asked if I could see it, as their site mentions a showroom in San Francisco, but was told that showroom was temporarily unavailable and to see it I would have to travel to Scottsdale, AZ. And it was then when my salesman, an architect/lawyer/woodworker, mentioned that if I paid in advance I would receive a 3% discount.

Upon repeated calls, The Art Factory did eventually remove our gate #203. This website continues to this day, which is unfortunate. A massive endeavor of stolen rights and bogus claims.

By the way, ASID is Association of Interior Design.

 I’ve been searching for fence panels or even a fence design like yours for years!  Do you have a distributor in Canada?
 Thank you.
 Carole Saint-Laurent

No, and while I’m on the subject; shipping to Canada should be as simple as one state shipping to another.  But not so.  The US has made trading with Canada so wrought with legalese and extraneous paperwork, in addition to untold tariffs and duties, that only the persistent, such as yourself, are candidates for American goods.

I was browsing your website and found all items “Artistically Beautiful.”  May the Lord continually bless you to build, exhibit and share your magnificent works of art!
Bless you,

I think this must be a first.

A letter from Charles to the long-time installer for Prowell Woodwork’s bay area projects

On Jan 29, 2020, at 6:19 PM, charles prowell wrote:
Hi Brian,
The H on my laptiop stopped working effectively. It’s driving me crazy.

But, Matt Davenport called me—while I was on the golf course. We worked a few things out, based on your visit, and I’ll send him a revised quote tomorrow.

But more importantly, I said I was glad Brian got out and he replied that he had met with a lot of people in his time, and tradesmen too, and brian is the best. Brian, he said, was wonderful.

So, with that in mind, thank you for all you’ve done over thhe years for us. Having you out there, roaming the field, is a gift from above.

Damned H’s.

Brian writes on Jan 30, 2020
That one brought me close to tears. Thank you. That is the best thing that has happened to me all week.


Hey Charles,
We finally completed the landscaping and other accouterments around the gates, so I’ll take one this weekend and send it along. Note that the gates survived our Hurricane Ike. Trees all around snapped like twigs. To give you an idea of the forces we had, the Sun Valley latch holding the double gates together was bent like a banana,

Hi Elliot,
Just wondering if there is any chance of a few photos of the completed gates, as survivors of Hurricane Ike?

Hi Charles,
I am surfing the web looking for fence/gate ideas. Just thought I’d let you know I love your work and am impressed by your web site. Your web page is one of the best I have ever seen. It really works for you and the customer. What talent to be proficient in the oldest and newest tools known to man.

I guess I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before. The oldest, and newest. Neat!

July 11, 2003
Hey Chas
WOW!!! That is all i can say. Your work is absolutely incredible. Just wanted you to know that your work is greatly admired. I love to look at your web-page.
Have a gr8 day

Well Jeff, we’ll classify this one as a ‘raving review.’

July 2, 2003
Wanted to thank you for sharing your beautiful gates on the web. They are gorgeous!  We will be finishing our landscape in a month, or so I’m lead to believe., and then ready for your work as a final touch

Thank you, Carlos.  We’ll be here.

May 30, 2003

Hi Mr. Prowell –
Your gates are beautiful ! I found your website on a internet search for “wood gates”. Yours are by far my favorites – and well made too and your website is great ! Do you think cedar is okay for a southern Florida climate?  it is very humid here.  If so, we are ready to order #33, which I love.

January 31, 2003,

i am in awe of our amazing work. my name is Matt and i live in Laguna. i build outdoor structures and have recently been messing with a plunge router. do you ever need help? i would love to visit you and to learn from you. you are doing all the types of work that interest me. your work is spectacular! i am a photographer and wannabe woodworker. i have done some shop work for a contractor in Berkeley building cabinets. my father is a landscape designer and i have built many thousand feet of fencing, typically boring, but some cool designs. a couple of other interesting structures. anyway, if you ever need a hand i have a flexible schedule. i would assist for free just to learn from you. i don’t currently have a computer so if you want to reach me please do so at 555 555-5555  thanks, Matt.

Hi Charles,
The gate was installed today and looks even better than I had imagined — it seems to add a sparkle to the house. I can tell you that if I ever move I’ll seriously think about taking the gate.
Talk to you soon.

December 11, 2002


December 2, 2002
Hello! I am a carpenter here in rural NJ and stumbled across your Webster. Just wanted to take a moment to write and express my appreciation for your work. Great designs and your execution is super!

Steve Rodemer
All Square Carpentry LLC

Dear Steve,
Thank you for the kind words. That you are drawn to the web site tells me you’re something more than a carpenter. Perhaps a carpenter of note.

August 16, 2002

I just visited your web site and it is gorgeous, just like your work. Excellent designs, information and photos. I wish I could afford to have a fence put in by this company. The fence would probably last longer than my brick house! The people in California should appreciate your efforts. Congratulations on your talent.
Knoxville, TN

I too wish there was a way to provide our products at a price everyone could afford.

June 25, 2002

Hi. My husband & I live in S. Cal. in a small Craftsman bungalow, and I just wanted to tell you that your fences are really beautiful.  We have just completed a two year remodel and are now ready for a long-awaited Prowell fence.
Have a good one.
Karen Cini

Thanks for the photos.  A lovely home and grounds and we are honored to be a part of the final presentation.  We’ll have your drawings posted within a week.

June 13, 2002

Your company must be very proud. I am so impressed with your designs. Your work is the most beautiful I have seen. I would love the bowling ball arched arbor. Unfortunately that is impossible at this time, but I shall keep Charles Prowell Woodwoorks in mind, and direct people to your company.

Thanks, Sandy. Always nice to hear such lovely comments. The bowling balls will wait.

July 19, 2005

Your work is beautiful. promise me you will live a long and healthy life. I cannot buy one of your tables today, but hopefully, maybe as soon as next year, I want to. Thanks again for the information. take care,
David Flanagan.

We’ll be here, David
(**Note: The above refers to one of our trestle dining tables. We removed the Prowell Home Furnishings from the web site in 2008. Because we were commonly scheduled out on our furnishings approximately two years, we have simply dropped the line. Which is a shame because it includes hundreds of original designs of the highest order, and yet managing both a furniture line and landscaping furnishings catalogue makes for all business and little woodworking. We will return with this at some juncture, but most likely as a stand-alone web site and not part of the current Prowell product line.)

October 10, 2005

While researching builders and fence designs, I came across your website and I can only hope there is a craftsman of your caliber in Durham, NC. I was amazed by your designs and impressed by the thoroughness of your website. Although it is logistically impossible for you to build my fence, I wanted to congratulate you on a fine site and thank you for the ideas you provided.
 Best regards,
Durham, NC

Thanks Scott.
We ship to NC frequently. And most projects are designed by way of sent jpegs of the site and specifications to almost any site plan. Don’t give up so easily, Scott.

Oct 10, 2005

Dear Charles, We live in Boulder CO. We recently bought a home here. There is a new fence on our property. While driving around I spotted a fence that I love. We checked with the owners and it is one of your fences. In your photo gallery it is #13. I certainly would have bought a fence from you, but since the fence is new its not an option. But, ours is not stained or sealed yet. This fence is beautiful grey with hints of pink and blue coming through from the wood. Would you be able to tell me what stain was used,and did you do it or a local person. The house was recently sold so the new owners do not know. Thank you in advance, Suzanne Carrington

November 16, 2005

Absolutely beautiful work! I must have looked at every page and love the creative and playful presentation of your website.
All the best,
Bernie Wire

Thank you, Bernie. The result of too many idle hours spent tinkering when I should have been in the shop, working.

Dear Charles,
I have been perusing your web site for several weeks, admiring your work when I stumbled onto the Pointless Pastimes.  I absolutely laughed out loud over the Road Trip. The funniest thing I’ve seen in years.   And the Contributor’s Garden is unbelievable!  I love how throughout the site there are these wonderfully delectable comic reliefs, like the Gate Checklists.  And the Impostor series.  What fun you must have. 

Feb 26, 2008, at 7:12 PM
I am a home owner in the process of building arbors, stringing wire, along with standing picket fencing. I came across your web site and was blown away with your product line.

The level of craftsmanship and beauty succeeded in lifting my project and thinking to another level. Great site!

Well I reckon how there are levels of inspiration to all of us, but available only to those who walk with their eyes on the next bend in the road and not the ground at their feet.  So good luck.

March 15, 2008 6:45:43 AM PDT

I just saw your new projects using plastic rods and you continue to amaze me. You were/are my inspiration to start in the gate building business here in Long Beach.

I have admired your work for many years and I couldn’t wait any longer to tell you how impressed I am with your creativity and workmanship.


Well, thanks Lee.  For not waiting any longer and for the wonderful photos.  The house is absolutely gorgeous, as well as the recognizable gate and fence.  But also the white house next door looks to have some interesting architecture.  I think I appreciate architecture the way I appreciate people, in all their varying forms and styles.

February 7, 2010 4:49:19 PM PST
Dear Mr. Prowell,
What an amazing website you have. Your work is that of a true craftsman. The best work I’ve ever seen.
I am simply awestruck.
Does your company ship to Canada?
Best regards,
Enrico Patafie

Thank you Enrico.
s Canada the one to the north, the civilized country with the National Health Care plan?
Yes, we ship to Canada. There are various duties/tariffs that are paid by the consignee(you), but otherwise the shipping cost via UPS Freight is the same. Your project would ship from either the Portland or Chicago shops, depending on what part of Canada you reside.


On Mar 9, 2010, at 1:30 PM, Bill Barnes wrote:
You have a terrific web site and your products are beautiful. Your web site is interesting and very easy to get through.

Thanks Bill.  Nice of you to take the time to send a note.

On Oct 21, 2010, at 11:01 AM, Thomas Turcic wrote:

You have a very good and easy to use web site, and I even appreciate you dry humor-
However, you have defeated my efforts to discover the type of wood you use and I see no choices given. I have no doubt it is there somewhere, but I am recovering from hernia surgery and can’t sit here any more searching.

I am interested specifically in Garden fence #3. We are planning to use it to screen a couple of ground level HVAC condensing units serving an 1888 Landmark Chapel on Roosevelt Island (Chapel of the Good Shepherd). The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved that design. Just dying to know the species and resulting potential longevity.

Hi Thomas,
Regarding surfing the web: You have a plausible, medical excuse for the amount of time you’re willing to expend. My own excuse, however, has less to do with anything beyond a lack of patience.

Roosevelt island. Anything Roosevelt is currently of great interest to me, as I just finished The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and starting the 2nd in that series: Theodore Rex, and awaiting the final in the series, due to be released next month. I am neck deep in teddy.

The link to Wood selections can be found along the left margins of the Home Page. <>

On Nov 12, 2011, at 3:30 PM, Jonathan Parra wrote:

Looked at your website and just wanted to say nice work. Also that you are a hater. Do you know what that means. It means you spend time pointing out what others could do better when you should just be focusing on yourself. I was interested in your comment in the driveway gate section about turning your head when the contractor shows up with a suitcase of battery-powered tools. I work as a General and the comment didn’t bother me it’s just that my mentor, (also a general contractor) blows doors on your designs. All around you would get ruined. We have a shop as well as skill saws and you should have a contest with us on who can build a better looking and functioning piece. What do you say. You’re the best right?

Hi Jonathan.
You’ve written what reads like a fairly angry letter. But in reading it through and mulling it over, I think you’ve stumbled upon some humbling truths. Reading through the text you refer to and seeing that I am guilty of what I’m being accused of. Because I deal with so many contractors, spread all over the country, and for decades and decades, I am confronted time and again with how the level of workmanship and shortened apprenticeships have changed the trade from what it once was. The countless projects that are shipped and bungled on the other end by licensed contractors who simply don’t have the experience or the knowledge or the tolerance for what should be a level of workmanship that’s an accepted given. A trend that began in the mid-eighties and was furthered by a generation opting for tech careers in the boom 90’s and gradually culminating in a blight of qualified tradesmen in the field. I don’t expect these installers to be designers or artists or businessmen or woodworkers, but I do assume they are competent, reliable, and accountable. Because so many of them I come into contact with fall short of this, we finally quit offering referrals or accepting their letters and calls to be listed as referrals in their local areas. We do this now only in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have personal relationships with the contractors over a period of years and that makes a huge difference.

But more importantly, you had the courage to write an angry letter that was drawn from an undeniable truth. Calling me out on a small-minded characteristic or personality flaw that was allowed to leak onto the page following, I would imagine, a bungled mishap on a site somewhere that had the homeowners complaining to me about a site installer who we had never met or even spoken to or even referred. I have edited that text and everywhere else that shows this not-so-good side of myself and am reminded that there is enough hate in the world as it is. Corrections and adjustments in character as we age that are thankfully pointed out by absolute strangers.

So, in a twisted rebuttal, I believe I’m thanking you for making the effort to write what was on your mind.

On Sep 27, 2016, at 11:52 AM, Joan Peterson <> wrote:

FYI, I came across your site nearly five years ago when I was researching the best way to set a mailbox post. I liked your way of setting fence posts mostly in gravel with concrete at the top, so I saved a hard copy of it. Now we’re setting fence posts, so I found my hard copy, revisited your website, and here I am now, ordering the gate. So you never know when somebody might actually convert into being a real customer.

I do get a kick out of reading what you’ve written. Just my kind of humor. Will look forward to receiving the gate.

Hi Joan,

That’s neat, that you were there five years ago, and are now making use of the post-setting info. Perfect. And thank you for the kind words on how that page was presented. Making a not-so-interesting topic a little more readable.

On Feb 21, 2012, at 2:36 AM, Neil Chauhan wrote:
Hello Charles, Just a quick note to let you know that we received the panels and everything looks great! We will take some photos of the installation once complete but I know you would appreciate the design of our house so I am attaching a picture of it. Thanks, Neil

Ah gawd, Neil. I love it. I love the low slung wall and how it mimics the roofline eaves. Sicklerville is not an area I’m familiar with. Is the house typical of Prairie revivals in the area? Or is this an anomaly? It’s really wonderful and I look forward to the final photos. And what is it those windows all look out upon? For years we had a shop in Ocean City, but alas it’s long gone.

Hi Charles, The house was one we built ourselves in 2007 and we modeled it after FLW’s Isabel Roberts house. There are a lot of Prairie / Arts & Crafts / Mission details inside the house too. As far as the view goes, our landscaping is still a work in progress but something my wife and I wanted to do ourselves over a number of years rather than have others do it. There is something more fulfilling about watching things that you plant yourselves grow in parallel with your family as opposed to having ready made landscaping installed :-). We saw your website and from then on, there was little thought given to obtaining fence panels from anywhere else. We plan on creating a small bird bath area and the two panels will be between 3 stone covered posts in an L shape with the bird bath in the center and plants surrounding it. I will be sure to send you some pictures once complete. Thanks, Neil

Ah. So you’re a Chicago neighborhood fan. The very best city in the country for urban hikes, and particularly Oak Park and River Forest. I know the Roberts house and I last did that neighborhood on a rented bike two years ago, which is also crammed with all these wonderful compounds from the 30’s gangsters. The Godfather sort of spreads. This has got to be one of the most idealistic little hamlets in the country, with it’s wide streets and canopies of elms and deep front lawns and solid residential architecture. I go to Chicago every year or so, as there is the shop there, and always stay at the old historic little Write Inn in Oak Park, which I love.

I like your approach to your landscape. It’s not a horse race, and much much better if it becomes a pastime, over time. But all too often folks want it all done pronto, with a flurry of contractors and schedules and stamped out in what always ends up becoming a stressful experience for the homeowners.

On March 23, 2012 Beverly Russell wrote:
We’re thrilled with the panels and gate. All the preliminary planning really paid off, and installation went very smoothly. Brian’s suggestion that we tear down the old fence, then install posts before doing final measurements was critical in allowing us to get the design just right. It was not a big project, but a little tricky with the two levels to the deck. Anyway, thanks a lot. We’ll really enjoy our back yard this year!

Hi Beverly,
I guess the below kudos rates a place in the Prowell Testimonials, which goes on for pages and that I suspect no one ever reads. And who will I write to with my idiotic ramblings now that you’ll be otherwise engaged with the endless deck parties of a social gadabout?


On April 16, 2012 Cathy Murphy wrote:
I so really appreciate your support of my work Charles. You are someone who takes this so seriously. You have a great product that will be a highlight of my yard, yet you have a value set and customer service – truly meeting me where I am… that has already resulted in me giving 2 people your name (and website) within the past 24 hours….. Thanks again. Cathy

On May 24, 2012 Di Skaggs wrote
I’m an architect in Seattle that came across your website via google. I’m strongly considering specifying your gates based not only on the beautiful designs but the responses to the FAQ section pretty much seal the deal. Nothing beats some interesting and fun reading.

On Sep 26, 2012, at 2:18 PM, Sydney Minnerly wrote:
Charles, Thanks. Everything looks fine as corrected, noting that the slots will be rounded as in the first image of gate #79. What is next step?

Thanks Sydney, The next step is to wait. Sit on your hands, whistle, do the daily Chronicle crossword, take long walks, and within a month or so I’ll send you another email with the news that your new offspring is ready for delivery.

On Mar 22, 2013, at 10:31 PM, Linda Mansell wrote:
Just wanted to let you know .. I was looking thru your website at Garden Gates (they are gorgeous!) and I noticed a problem with trying to display “Garden Gate #30″….. when I click on it for more info I get a screen full of gobbly-gook! You might want to take a look at that one.
all the best,
LInda in Healdsburg

Thank you, Linda. All fixed. What would I do without the help of those like yourself. And to have missed out on #30 would be tragic, as Adlai reaches his limit and is about to do something exceedingly foolish. <>

On April 3, 2013
Cathleen Shea writes,

Dear Mr. Prowell, Thank you for sharing about your designs on the website. I’ve visited many times over the past few years to gain inspiration in figuring out how to improve the looks of my front yard fence and gates.

The guys at the local ACE Hardware store taught me about pocket hole joinery which seemed stronger than a basic butt joint and understandable enough for me to execute. I’ve been happily experimenting with my Kreg pocket hole jig ever since.

My homage to your gates (attached photo) has a ridiculous number of pocket hole screws placed into it, in addition to a boat load of cedar wood plugs mind-numbingly glued into place, then sanded down flush with the back side of the gate. The purpose of the gate is to keep my ever creative Blue Heeler out of the rumpus room/cat room. I figured out how to make a passage way for the cat only and keep the design in balance. I was trying for an Art Deco and Craftsman type style. The wood is cedar from the stack of #2 fence boards in the yard at the local ACE.

I like that you showed the photo of your hand and stressed that after all your years of woodworking you’ve still got all your fingers. I’m the proud owner of my first (entry level ACE store brand) table saw… birthday present last fall. I tell people who marvel at my bravery… “I count my fingers before work, and after. If I’ve still got the same number of fingers, I’m doing it right.”

Thank you for the affirmation and inspiration to keep finding focus in my life. I’m not capable of traditional jobs anymore due to severe PTSD, but by some quirk of the brain it’s opened up a whole creative side that sat dormant before. I just felt compelled to write and say thank you for keeping me inspired and focused on the positive aspects of life… and carpentry.
Cathleen Shea Lincoln City, Oregon

Hi Cathleen, and thanks for taking the time to write such a memorable letter. I am more than a little impressed with what you’ve done by means of pocket-hole joinery. I’ll confess that I don’t have much experience with that. And although it’s common with cabinetmakers who often join their face-frames this way, it’s seen less often in general woodworking shops. But what a versatile joint, and perfectly adaptable to the panels such as what you’ve created as a partition. I was thinking the jigs leave more of a tapered hole and wondering how they are plugged. At any rate, you mention the mind-numbing process of that and that has me thinking how so many of the processes in the shop fall into that category. The mind-numbing category and I think, after decades of this, I’ve developed this compartmentalized corner of my brain that, when immersed in those tasks, I seem to settle into this state that accounts for the only time of any given day when my mind is actually empty. There is something about repetition that appeals to me and has me thinking of when a kid on our farm, one of my earliest chores was to mow the lawn of our sprawling front yard. The endless back and forth, with what I had done clearly marked behind me and what was yet to do clearly in front of me and in the interim this mental blankness, kept from wandering off into an endless daydream by the need to mow a straight line. So to me your pocket-hole process makes for an ideal opportunity to languish on the process and without thoughts of an eventual result. You are lost in that state of process.

A first table saw is such an exciting advancement. Suddenly, the versatility of that and all that it can do with jigs. Ben recently improved our Unisaw by creating a new blade insert with a wood riven, in the interest of safety. It was a simple improvement, but one that will virtually eliminate kick-back due to the boards closing back up on the far side of the blade. I may take a photo of it; I was impressed. So just follow the rules and never do anything that feels awkward and never ever allow yourself to feel rushed or pressed out of your normal pace.

I’ll tell you I have almost no experience with PTSD other than what I or anyone knows from a distance. Some friends, so many, actually, of the Vietnam era who have only recently been experiencing this with a delay of 40 years! The economy put them out to pasture earlier than expected and suddenly things from long ago are resurfacing, brought up, I’m told, by this idleness that’s such a departure from the years of careers and raising families, etc. They don’t sleep, have nightmares, and a few have sought out help. None of them, not a single one of my many friends who were over there, ever sat down and actually told me what it was like. Their experience of soldiering. They wouldn’t have known how much I wanted to know, and consequently to this day there is this pocket that’s never been discussed, in detail.
Warm regards,

On April 12, 2013
Cathleen Shea writes,

Hi Charles,
People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. This wisdom has been consistent for me. I believe we move through various roles in a lifetime.

My role here — moved to write a thank you for inspiration gained in your work — I’m a fan. You’ve graciously visited all thoughts that emerged and I received something unexpected. An artist willing to share complex feedback. I took two writing classes at the local college… each geared toward honing craft. The feedback: nice; well written; or the inane…”this made me laugh.” So much for learning about flow. In visiting with you… not only did I meet a master writer, you’ve shared valuable master carpenter tips to help my carpentry. Tips suitable to my skill level. I pondered my subconscious the other night. Whether the world ends tomorrow, or not, I’m richer for the gift of conversation with an esteemed man of arts and letters. I continue down my road, pleased with my re-emerging confidence to interact.

On June 2, 2013
Tim Rein writes:

Dear Mr. Prowell,   I have almost red your hole web site and eye sea that you like too play with words as much as you do working with would. Eye have Ben asked to build a gate and wood like too sea if you wood talk sum shop with me on the phone. Not ON the phone, butt using the phone too talk with.

Now that I have your attention, let me introduce myself.  I am a career carpenter working in the Atlanta area for the last 35 years.  I do custom residential renovations, woodworking, trim etc. My list of projects is vast but as of yet, I have never built a gate.  I have been commissioned to build the gate as attached.  The opening is approx 16′ wide total with two leaves.  I am in the process of doing the structural design work; specs. for joinery, possibility of a metal substrate, etc.  

I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions that you would be willing to offer.  

We share some common heritage in history. My earliest ancestors arrived on the continent in 1658 as Presbyterian farmers, ministers and carpenters.  I mention this simply for charm and flattery. But lest you become wary that I am trying to get too close and possibly steal your construction techniques, let me say with no uncertainty that I have no interest getting into the gate business as a regular concern, and despite the philosophies of Buddhists, Native Americans and of course the laws of quantum physics, I certainly hope that we are not related.  

Any help that you offer will not be sold or used for monetary gain beyond the activities of this lone joiner. All fruits will be dedicated to the benefit and advancement of CarpentryKind.  

If available for a brief, say 20 min. phone consultation, please let me know of a convenient time for you.

Tim Rein
Marietta, Georgia

Hi Tim,
You’ve sent off what has to be one of the most inventive and charming letters ever.  I laughed.   I’ll be glad to pass on whatever I might know that can help you with your gate project.  16′ overall opening will definitely require some steel.  2″ hollow tube stock is what would normally be used and such that it lines up with the stiles.  The bottom of the steel frame would be near the bottom of the gate’s bottom rail and the top of the steel would split the width of your middle rail.  Although you’ll get more load if the steel extended in height to the top rail, bending hollow tube stock to that radius would be hard.  Most often the steel is exposed on the property side, with the gate leaves surface-mounting onto that with four stainless flathead bolts per gate leaf. 

I’ll be out of town between late today through this coming Friday on a little hiking venture to Yosemite.  But possibly we can talk after that?
Best, Charles

Sept 5, 2013
Jake Smith writes:
How totally rude! Who would put something like this on their website? Especially if you are trying to sell something.
“Probably the least inspiring site photo we’ve ever received, but it is the only one we have of the Gate style #108. So for that, we thank the efforts of our homeowners in Greenbrea, CA (Marin County)”

Hi Jake,
I want to thank you for writing in with your thoughts on the content to gate style #108. Returning to that page and reading the quote you provided and although it is not written with the same approach to most normal sales techniques, it is in keeping with our own insistence on being both frank and honest. It is not a photo that will inspire our potential patrons if compared to the hundreds of others on the web site.

But I appreciate your thoughts. Are you perhaps related to those who actually commissioned the gate #108? Their son, possibly? Judging from the vernacular, with the use of words such as ‘totally’ and your general colloquial usage, I would place you at somewhere between 17 and 27. An even greater reason to appreciate your letter and your concerns. You were right to send that letter and it was well received.

August 30, 2014
Salisbury, MD
Johm Wesley Wright writes:

Dear Charles, Greetings from the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Salisbury, MD). I have just perused your website for the umpteenth time. I hesitated to write, but it was the reading (this time) of the FAQ page that prompted me. I can’t remember a read equally as informing, refreshing, and entertaining as that! I have a curse, Charles. I am one of those people with an internal magnet to high end, tasteful things, but with an extremely middle end, liberal arts college professor’s budget. I literally LOL when I read the part of the FAQ page that mentioned debtor’s prison. I have often told friends that that is where my other half and I could be found after renovating our home. So, I am writing to see if by chance the Eastern Shore of Maryland might qualify as one of those areas (like Mississipi J) as undeserved and in need of an artisan boost…in other words, a discount. The Eastern Shore, by the way, should not be confused with our Western Shore neighbors two hours away (DC, Baltimore, Annapolis area) where they have disposable incomes and such. We are fishermen, oyster shuckers and chicken farmers here! (Ok, I’m a singing teacher but I’m just saying…J). What am I looking for? Approx. 72 ft of Gallery #3, Garden Fence #15 (as shown, post caps and all and as high as it could come…no trellises or varying heights, etc. needed)…BEAUTIFUL! It fits the style of my home, which is a 1936 Tudor-style home w/ bungalow/art and crafts features, and would be a backdrop to one of many landscaped areas in my yard, as well as the final link to privacy between us and the neighbors. I realize I am probably way out of my price league, but a guy can dream J. I appreciate your taking the time to read this. It is a pleasure to view your work.
John Wesley Wright < >

P.S. I’ve tried this approach only once before when that high end magnet I mentioned in the beginning was in full force and I ran across a website called, a site for purchasing reclaimed bricks and cobble. Knowing that my home screamed for a real cobblestone driveway and would not settle, I pang-fully broke down and wrote the owners…turns out I was the only one from this whole region ever to inquire about their product…it was a successful inquiry!

All the Best, Charles!!

Charles has not replied.

August 7, 2015
Great Backyards Magazine
Amber Barz writes:

Enjoying some of your web copy–which is a breath of fresh air– Love this–“Known locally as the Kent Mansion, the property was recently purchased by a bi-coastal family who occupies the residence for two months a year. A residence that once, 125 years ago, was the cornerstone of the as yet incorporated town known today as Kent Woodlands. A cornerstone that had stood empty and uninhabited for 15 years prior to the recent rescue. An improvement, given that the house was dark and ghostly year round, and is now dark and ghostly for only 10 months a year.
Amber Barz
Great Backyard Solutions magazine
Writing and Editing Services, Inc.

Charles has not replied.

September 28, 2017
Heather Writes:

Hello, Would you please provide me with an estimate and time frame for building the courtyard entrance gate pictured below?

Sat, Sep 30, 2017:
Hi Heather, Thanks for your inquiry.
We’re currently scheduled out about 4-1/2 months.
Sorry we can’t help you, but committing ourselves beyond this time frame results in panic, frenzy, and a peripheral eye down the pike in lieu of what’s on the bench at a given moment.

Oct 6, 2017
Heather writes:

Hi Charles, I’ve just finished reading your entire site. And I must say, I found it captivating. Your short thesis on Renewable Harvest should be published in The New Yorker. That being said, I now have no choice but to wait for you to build my gate for me. If you don’t care for the gate design in my initial email, I am happy to change the design if it means I can count on you to build my gate.
Please let me know if you can accept a commission from me, 4-½ months from now.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Cheers & best ~

Oct 9, 2017
Hi Heather, You’re among a rarified few to make such a claim. A big site, with lots of hidden pages of unexpected content. I’m flattered.
Meanwhile we woke early this morning in our little neighborhood in Santa Rosa to 20 different fires surrounding us. Half the neighborhood has already evacuated. Ash is raining down everywhere. Like idiots, we’re holding out.

* It should be noted that this was written on the first day of a fire that ultimately destroyed 6,200 homes and buildings in Santa Rosa. Miraculously, Charles’ neighborhood was spared.

On May 3, 2016
Matthew Lubic wrote:
I’ve watched, loved and admired your gate designs as well as your craftsmanship for many years now. It’s about time I got around to telling you so. I’ve never purchased any gate from you simply because I’ve never lived in a house to which one of your gates would add to its architectural style. It’s a regret that is simply a part of my life. I wish it were otherwise.

I’ve taken the liberty of sending an architect friend of mine, John Alt, your website. He, like you, also does beautiful work and perhaps you will enjoy viewing some of it as I’m certain he will enjoy viewing yours.
Anyway, I wish you all the best and a continuing of much success.
Be well.
Matthew Lubic

Hi Mathew,
Nice words and worth mentioning how most of us fail to make the effort to let even the gardener know when his work merits a kindly nod. The social graces of that simple act.
Meanwhile your friend’s work is stunning! I sent it to several architect friends who would appreciate his eye and innovation, as well as the scope. Just stunning work. So thank you for that glimpse.

Jan 8, 2018
Adam Skipper wrote:
After googling the internet for garden gates, my wife and i came across the perfect garden gate. Prowell Woodworks was the maker, and I soon realized that this isn’t an off the shelf gate. Not only is it custom made, it is hand made and it takes a few months because of that. Charles communicated through the entire process (very responsive) and sent photos after they completed the gate. We were so excited to receive it because the photos were beautiful. They sent it via UPS freight and the hardware, which was stunning, was sent separately. We opened the box and the pictures didn’t do it justice. Once installed, magnificent. We now get compliments every time someone see’s the gate. I am so happy I found Prowell Woodworks. I look forward to many hours in our new garden, highlighted by this wonderful handmade gate. Charles will be the first person I call for the next project involving wood and beauty.
Take care

Most excellent. We’ll be swamped!
Ben Prowell

November 4, 2018
Tim Krasnansky wrote:
Having seen your feature in Fine Home building #258 . . . Your gates are expertly crafted, functional art pieces, and I can appreciate the many hours of intricate work that they require. I would truly like to have one in my garden; regretfully, they remain beyond my budget.

Please let me know when you’re having a two-for-one promotion!

Again, thanks for the reply, and I apologize that I won’t be ordering one just yet.
Keep up the beautiful work.
Sincerely, Tim Krasnansky

Thanks for the kind words, Tim. Although we’ve never offered a two-for-one sale, several times a year, for no particular reason, we will post random gates on our Basement Sale page. These are heavily discounted offerings in the range of $400 per gate, and in the spirit of a true basement sale. <>