Torii Gate Instructions

We didn't take pictures of just the gate itself or of its construction, since that wasn't our focus - getting it ready for my wedding was all that mattered at the time.

I've reworded his directions to give more details to see if that will help those who would like to make their own gates.

Please scroll down to see pictures of gates made from his instructions.

If you have any questions about the gate or its construction, please email Vance.

The gate was made of plywood, concrete form tubes, 2x4s, cardboard, drywall screws. The gate is actually two parts, upper and lower.The lower part is a 4x8 sheet of plywood, with two tubes. The tubes are screwed in place with small blocks of 2x4. The upper part is two tubes, 2x4s. A small plywood piece on edge forms the ridge. The shingles are just cardboard, painted and stapled in place. The tubes were cut out to allow the cross piece to pass through. The upper and lower parts are screwed together with longer 2x4 blocks inside tube.The cardboard soaked up a lot of paint, so it required several coats. Since it was made in two pieces, the gate would fit into my 1/2 ton short bed pickup when disassembled.
I built and painted the gate at home. Then with it split into two parts, transported it to the reception site. There I reassembled it and touched up it up with paint early in the morning of my sister's wedding. After the wedding, it was donated to the Redding Bonsai club, since they had brought their trees to serve as table decorations. Some members of the Redding Bonsai club later used it in their wedding and the club also used the gate for their Spring Bloom and Fall Foliage exhibits, until it deteriorated to the point that it was thrown away.

Here's the extended version of Vance's instructions, with more details:

<<The gate was made of plywood, concrete form tubes, 2x4s, cardboard, drywall screws. >>

Concrete form tubes are large, round, hollow cylinders that are then filled with concrete to form solid pillars. The ones we used were made out of a very heavy cardboard or other paper based product. There were four of these tubes - two were attached to the plywood sheet to make the base of the gate. The other two were used with the crossbar and roof of the gate. We didn't pour concrete in them, just used the tubes themselves, since they are very sturdy.

<<The gate is actually two parts, upper and lower.The lower part is a 4x8 sheet of plywood, with two tubes. The tubes are screwed in place with small blocks of 2x4. >>

A 2x4 is a piece of wood or lumber that measures approximately 2 inches by 4 inches and can be a variety of lengths. Vance probably had scrap pieces of 2x4 that he used, as well as some 8 foot lengths that he bought just for this project. A 4x8 sheet of plywood is a four feet by eight feet, 1/2 inch thick, flat piece of wood product that is normally used in house construction.

He used little blocks of wood, just scrap pieces of 2x4, set in two circles on the plywood to match the inside measurements of the tubes. Then he set the tubes over these blocks, after they had been attached to the plywood. He made sure all the pieces were firmly attached to each other to create the base of the gate. The tube walls weren't thick enough by themselves for Vance to attach them directly to the sheet of plywood. He used screws instead of nails because the gate would have to be moved several times. Nails tend to pull out much more easily than screws.

<<The upper part is two tubes, 2x4s. A small plywood piece on edge forms the ridge. The shingles are just cardboard, painted and stapled in place. The tubes were cut out to allow the cross piece to pass through. >>

For the upper part of the gate, Vance cut vertical slits in those tubes that would allow a 2x4, about 8 feet long, to pass through both of them. The slits are located about one foot or so, down from the top of the tubes. The little vertical piece on the gate is a scrap of 2x4 attached to the middle of this cross piece. I think the roof of the gate was made of 3 of the 8 foot long 2x4s and some scrap blocks of 2x4. He would have placed several scrap blocks between two of the 2x4s, spacing them along the length. At least one block should line up with the little vertical piece in the middle of the cross piece. These scrap blocks would have measured almost the same length as the width of the tubes, so when the whole thing was set on top of the tubes, it would cover them and allow other scrap blocks to be used to attach the roof to the tubes in the same way that they were used to attach the other tubes to the sheet of plywood to form the base. The third 2x4 would have been set on top, in the middle of the scrap blocks and on edge (so it stood 4 inches high). The shingles are just rectangles of cardboard (from packing boxes or shipping boxes), attached to the 2x4s with a electric stapler using heavy duty staples. They are overlapped just like you would see house roof shingles. This would create the angled roof that you see in the picture.

<<The upper and lower parts are screwed together with longer 2x4 blocks inside tube.>>

Around the inside of the tubes that are attached to the sheet of plywood, Vance attached several, about one foot long, pieces of 2x4, leaving half of length of the 2x4s sticking up out of the top of the tubes. Then the top half of the gate could be placed over these 2x4s, matching the tubes to each other and sliding the top half down to match the bottom tubes, creating the complete gate.

<<The cardboard soaked up a lot of paint, so it required several coats. Since it was made in two pieces, the gate would fit into my 1/2 ton short bed pickup when disassembled. >>

Vance brought the paint he used along with gate to the site of my wedding. After the gate was put together on the site, he painted any scratches or other places that needed it, so the gate looked perfect.

I hope these descriptions will help with the construction process.

Another question that has come up in emails is what religion created the Torii Gate design and the answer is Shinto, a purely Japanese faith. As for the red color, Vance used a red barn paint that I chose from a paint sample card, along with a flat black. My only concern about the color was finding a red that would work with the red brocade that was used for the ladies' kimonos, so they wouldn't clash. A helpful email from a visitor to this page has suggested that Vermilion or China Red is probably the more authentic color - his main reference being an article on Wikipedia that he found with a search of that site using the word "vermilion". There are American made paints with "vermilion" in their color name, but how authentic any of those shades of red would be to a "true" Japanese red, I wouldn't know.

The first people to use these instructions to make their own Torii Gate and send me pictures of their wedding is shown below:

Bryon Bay, New South Wales, Australia

May 4, 2003 Wedding

From the wedding of Shane and Naomi Granger of Australia. The gate was made by Ray, Naomi's father.

Here's a view of the beach at Bryon Bay, just at dawn, with the gate set up and ready for the wedding.

If you use these instructions to make a gate of your own, please email Scarlett a picture of your gate and it will be added to this page. Please send a picture from your wedding or other event where the gate was used, so others can see how it looked for that occasion.

Since so many people have asked about the kimonos and how to wear them, I'll recommend The Book of Kimono as the best reference book that I found for learning about kimono. Please visit my Amazon estore at Scarlett Recommends for Sewers, Quilters & Crafters to purchase The Book of Kimono and other books about Japanese crafts.

Return to Index