Unpowered mechanical gate opener, part 2

Energy & Sustainability
Unpowered mechanical gate opener, part 2



Now here’s a perfect example of why I love the MAKE community. In response to my earlier post about the possibility of modern mechanical gate openers, reader MichaelLubke went out and took these photos (1,2,3) of a real live working mechanical gate near his ranch. What’s more, he ran down the original patent on the gate’s design! This patent, US number 3,163,947, was issued to Mr. Alvin E. Gandy of Eden, TX, in the year of Our Lord nineteen-hundred and sixty-five. His invention, known as the “Gandy Slide-A-Way,” is activated by the weight of one of your vehicle’s tires on a short steel ramp built into the driveway right in front of the gate. I wonder how many of these were ever made?

40 thoughts on “Unpowered mechanical gate opener, part 2

  1. dZed says:

    And what a great name — The Gandy Slide-A-Way. I bet ol’ Alvin had dreams of the Slide-A-Way taking over the greater Texas gate market, with plans for gate-centered expansion across these United States.

    I wonder if Mr. Lubke would be interested in getting a video of this thing in action. If it’s been there for 40 years, presumably, and still works, I’ll be very impressed. I’m curious how high off the ground that horizontal cable is, tho’. Don’t want to clothesline the UPS guy.

    And in regards to the folks who commented on the prevalence of the bump gate down South in the last entry — I’ve seen plenty of horses and cows knock against gates. Horses, especially, seem to know all about opening gates up with their heads. If you’ve got a gate then presumably you’re trying to keep livestock in — what’s to stop them from opening a bump gate.

    I sure know the Gandy Slide-A-Way wouldn’t have that problem! If only I owned a driveway, I’d remake this gate for sure.

    Great post. Thanks!

    1. MichaelLubke says:

      I’ll be there again this weekend… If the gate isnt locked I’ll try it out and make a video

      1. dZed says:

        Awfully generous of you. I think many people would like to see it. What’s your thought on the horizontal cable?

  2. anachrocomputer says:

    I drive a three-wheeled, electric bubblecar. By now, I’ve got used to the funny looks I get — but that’s not important right now. The front wheel of the bubblecar is on the centreline (two wheels at the rear), and the front is the lightest part (batteries in the rear). I wonder what would happen if I tried to open this gate? The front wheel would quite likely simply climb the ramp and sit there! Would I have to reverse up to it, perhaps?

    1. Kurt says:

      Perhaps the gate serves two purposes…. keep the cattle in, and keep guys in electric bubble cars out. ;)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’d love to see video of this gate working. Is there a video of the gate on youtube?

  4. alandove says:

    In response to the idea of horses and cattle opening bump gates, well, that’s what cattle guards are for. And if you’re commenting on the merits of different gate designs and don’t know what a cattle guard is, you obviously don’t know livestock containment from Shine-Ola.

    1. dZed says:

      I do actually know what a cattle guard is, but my thought was, why use gates if the cattle guard is so effective? I’m not trying to be difficult, and I think it was fairly obvious that I’m not a livestock containment encyclopedia — that’s why I’m asking questions. That might’ve been lost when I accidentally used a period instead of a question mark at the end of the third paragraph above.


  5. tmfark says:

    Gave a quick read of the pat. – the cable is part of the gate. It is wrapped on-to /off of the large pulley to actually move the gate.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      So the cable moves out of the way when the gate opens. I should’ve realized that.

    2. dZed says:

      Of course! Thanks for that. Haven’t taken a look at the patent yet…

  6. Emilio says:

    The gate systems is cool, but the most interesting part of the post is the “year of of Our Lord”. Pretty old fashioned.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      …but then so is the idea of a purely mechanical gate opener, and so is a patent issued in 1965, and so, obviously, is the very gate in question. I might have even done that on purpose.

  7. pete says:

    In the year of who’s fucking lord?

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      You mean “whose f*cking lord.” “Who’s” is a contraction of “who is.”

    2. alandove says:

      Who’s fucking Lord? Maybe Mary, maybe Shakti, who knows? The guy gets a lot of action.

  8. MichaelLubke says:

    Ok, here’s the video of the gate in action. My weight alone was enough to operate the gate so small vehicles or motorcycles shouldn’t have a problem using the gate.

    1. Mandabell says:

      I visited friends in the Hill Country (it wasn’t Eden) as a teenager in the year of Our Lord, nineteen-hundred and seventy-eight. They had just such a gate. We were ridin’ around on mini-bikes and I cleverly thought I’d escape the chasers via the mechanical gate…Me and the mini-bike didn’t size up. I made it to the top of the ramp and nothing happened except, to the delight of my friends, I tumpted (I believe that’s a purely Texas term) off into the dirt!
      Long winded, I know, and I’m sorry, but the reason I am reading about this in the first place is because I’ve been trying to prove the existence of this mechanical wonder! My folks live in East Texas and have calves that like to tiptoe across the cattle guard, so they put in a gate. It’s gettin’ more and more difficult for them to do the gate thing, so I’ve been trying to describe this gate to my Dad and Husband. Ha ha! I can show ’em now! Thanks for sharing all of your findings!
      I have a question, though. I could have sworn that the gate from childhood went up! It’s entirely possible that I’ve lost my marbles, but it seems that there was a tall pole on the left, as tall as the gate was wide, with a rope coming off of it, vertically, down to the top right of the gate. Did that sentence make you cross-eyed? The pulleys worked by lifting the gate up to the left, like a guard pole in a parking garage. I was surprised when I watched your video. Also, and keep in mind, I’m old, the gate I remember didn’t make that much noise. Even at the carefree age of 16, it was a cool enough thing that I’ve never forgotten it. So the question is, do you think it’s possible to make one that lifts? If so, it sure would take up less space, with no need for the expense of concrete. I know there was no concrete under the gate I’ve spoken of. Now that I’m really thinking about it, I believe it was a cattle guard.
      Once again, I apologize for my lack of economy with words. What are your thoughts on a lifting mechanical gate:)?

  9. annie says:

    So, glad to see the Gandy gate online and on u-tube. My Uncle Alvin was very proud of his gate. He sold the patient to Sears and they sold them in their farm and ranch book. My dad’s family came from a long line of farmers, and they always told my Uncle Alvin he would do anything to keep from being the guy who had to always get out and open the gate. Then all of them would laugh and said wish dad had seen this thing. My grandfather came to TX when he was nine right at the clos of the civil war with his mother and four brothers. Grandpa married and together they had 13 children and took in 3 other children that need a home. So you can see alot of going and coming in and out of a gate. Uncle Alvin got picked alot to open those gates including the one there in Eden which was one of the famlies farms. Long story but the gate always worked and for years was a lot of them around all over TX and some in NM don’t know about other states. Thanks again for showing Uncle Alvin’s gate. All the family is gone now but know as they look down they are smiling at this.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:


      Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. I am very glad to hear that this story made it back to Mr. Gandy’s family. It is one of my personal favorites of all the updates I have written for Make: Online. Both my parents grew up on farms in rural Texas, and even now my brother lives on a farm with a gate that requires somebody to jump out and open it by hand. At 35, I am finally old enough that it’s not me, anymore. But for many, many years it was. Which I think is one of the reasons I like this story so much. It is great to hear from you.


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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