Recently I decided I was fed up with the mailbox post I bought from the Home Depot when we moved into this house in 2004. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but I wanted something just as rugged but with a bit more style.
The post we had was made out of 4x4 material, and I suppose it was pressure treated, but it weathered fast and it was always subject to twisting in the heavy winds we get here in North Texas. Violent twisting at times. My version was likewise constructed of 4x4 pressure treated lumber, with the addition of some 2x pressure treated stock for bracing.
Of course, as soon as I was done with my new mailbox post my neighbor saw it and asked me to build one for her as well. Since her house is almost directly across the street from mine I elected to change the design slightly just so they didn't look exactly alike. And in this post (and a couple to follow) I'll explain how I built them both.
Starting with an 8 foot section of pressure treated 4x4 inch lumber, I then cut off a 31" section for the crosspiece. This is a bit oversized from the final dimensions, and it also leaves the upright portion oversized.
I'm not too terribly concerned with minor defects in the wood I'm using because our neighborhood lends itself to a rustic look. Also, the interior of our home has a slightly rustic look to it, and will become more rustic as we begin redoing all the rooms, one-at-a-time.
Step two is to simply run both pieces through the table saw with the blade tilted at 45º to bevel the edges. I set the fence at 3 1/8" so the blade takes off a thin strip from each corner of the 4x4 material, which actually measures 3 1/2" on each side. I do this now instead of before step one because it's easier to handle the shorter pieces of wood in my small shop, but you could do this first if you have room. It really makes no difference.
The next step is to create the joinery for the crosspiece to mount on the upright. In this case I'm creating a half-lap joint by removing half of the material on each piece where they will meet the other piece. If I were building fine furniture I would use a different technique for this joint, but this will be sitting outside and, as I said earlier, rustic is fine.
So, my procedure is to simply define the shoulders of the joint, then make spaced cuts between the shoulders leaving about 1/8" to 3/16" between each cut. Afterward I can simply break the waste pieces out of the joint by hand and then clean it up with a sharp chisel.
This method saves a lot of time and results in a perfectly fine joint.
The original post I'm replacing with this new one had a similar joint, but the dados were more than an inch wider than the post, so the only strength in the joint came from two 1/4" lag screws. That's not the best configuration. I'm making sure the joint I'm cutting is just tight enough to stay put after sliding it together.
Following are the photos depicting this procedure. In my next entry I'll bevel the ends of each piece and join the pieces together.
Be sure to check out my Etsy shop, where I have lots of items available to accent your décor. And I have just listed (you guessed it) a Mailbox Post you can buy and put together yourself in a matter of minutes.