The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Unpowered gate opener

unpowered self opening mechanical gate opener

One of my favorite movie biographies is the inspiring story of Temple Grandin, whose autistic innovations helped to improve the cattle industry and people's understanding of autism. 17 minutes into the film you get treated to a demonstration of an impressive looking unpowered mechanical gate opener.

I'd like to make one someday for our ATV/chicken gate, but there's not much information available, which is why I captured some images of that scene to study.

Figuring out the counterbalance weights and pulley placement might take some trial and error. I'd love to hear comments from any readers who may have seen one of these in action.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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In her own words:

Well, actually there are some gate openers-- I'd recommend getting one of the solar powered ones. You see,I remember back in the 1970's you didn't have solar powered gate openers. The thing in the movie works, but it's very cumbersome, you have to pull on the gate really hard to get it to open. Now you can do that with solar panels. In the 60's there weren't solar panels, and I had no way of getting electricity to that gate. There are some commercial gates with solar panels, and I would actually recommend something like that. The trick of the gate opener was to fasten the cable close to the hinges, it had cables and pulleys on the ground. It worked. And what they showed in the movie is accurate. But with solar power now there are things you can get online that are better.

Comment by Roland_Smith Thu Feb 20 16:29:06 2014
The one that sticks out in my mind is from the movie "Babe". Where the gate has an opener that appears to wind itself back up for the next opening. Well, best as I can remember it anyway!
Comment by M Thu Feb 20 22:29:33 2014
A swing gate in our area of Ohio would be a big problem for our driveway during the winter because of the amount of snow that would have to be continuously cleared on each side of the gate. I believe a lift gate would be the way to go for me using a DC linear actuator and a large counter balance spring. I realize this would cost more than most people could afford, but a ambitious, resourceful, individual could build one and operate it on a battery/solar power system. Linear actuators are available on the surplus market for reasonable cost and can also be used for opening and closing the chicken coop door. Some actuators have internal limit switches which could be adjusted to limit the travel of the gate or door.
Comment by zimmy Fri Feb 21 13:57:37 2014

impressive looking unpowered mechanical gate opener.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as an unpowered gate opener. Without energy input the gate won't move. If the only action to power the gate is to pull on the rod, that will have to supply all the necessary energy.

In your case you could use a couple of hinged plates on both sides of the fence. If the gate is closed, the plate is lifted on the unhinged side forming a ramp. Driving the ATV up onto one of the plates (from the hinged side) would push the ramp down. Attach the moving end to the gate with a spring (to store energy), some rope and appropriately placed pulleys and the weight of the ATV would open the gate.

Comment by Roland_Smith Fri Feb 21 15:14:47 2014
Can you suggest me some good residential gate opener? (under 1000$)
Comment by Robby Fri Mar 27 09:54:02 2015
Robby, check out this link. It is a list of ~100 gate opener models (basic specs and prices) available on US market.
Comment by Dan Wed Apr 8 03:18:38 2015
Hi, I'm searching for a simple unpowered gate. I found this which is not quite what I'm looking for but thought I'd post it on your page in case someone is looking for this kind of solution.
Comment by Hugh Cartmill Tue Aug 11 01:18:18 2015

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