Build a Pergola – Simple Cedar Plan Idea

The Pergola Posts

The posts are full dimension 6″x6″. This entire pergola is made from lumber supplied by my friend Jay. He has a portable mill and is a meticulous and accurate sawyer. I brought the rough lumber to the site and laid it over sawhorses for marking and cutting.
For this video, I had enough extra cedar lumber from other projects to show almost all the steps required to make each part of the pergola.

cutting a pergola post with a circular saw
Cutting posts to length with a series of cuts with a circular saw

I draw a pencil line around the post on all four sides. If it’s square and true the lines will connect.

cutting a post with a hand saw
Simple Cedar Pergola – Finishing the post cut with a hand saw

Each post is cut to length with 4 cuts using a circular saw, rotating the post a quarter turn each time, then finishing off the cut with a hand saw.

cutting a post with a circular saw
Cutting to angled post tops with a circular saw

The top of each post has a 30 degree slope. This is mainly for aesthetics. I just liked that look. Pencil lines are drawn using a large speed square. I free handed the cuts for the front and back. Then I adjusted the angle of the blade and made the side cuts. Then finished with a handsaw.

Chamfering the Posts

chamfering top of post with an angle grinder
Chamfering the top of the post with a sanding disc on an angle grinder

I chamfer the top edges of the post with a sanding disc on my angle grinder. And the rest of the corners with the power plane. I like this look and I do this on other outdoor structures I’ve built. I think it’s worth the extra time.

chamfering posts with a power plane
Chamfering the post lengths with a power plane

You could use the angle grinder for all the chamfering but, I find the power plane works better on long runs.

pergola posts held in place with temporary braces
Standing the posts in the saddles and securing with temporary bracing

These posts are then set in the saddles, tilted up, and plumbed with a spirit level. Stakes are driven in and temporary braces hold them in place. Screws are driven through the saddles into the bottom of each post.

The Pergola Beams

The next step, to build a pergola, I then cut the four 2×8 beams to length. Mark a 45 degree angled section for the end profile and mark the locations for the carriage bolts that run through the posts on the two outermost beams. These holes are drilled with a guide.

tape measure on the pergola beam
The pergola beams are full dimension 2″ x 8″

Now I cut off the angled piece with circular saw and square. These are also chamfered with the angle grinder and/or the power plane. I stain most of the pieces prior to assembly. So much easier to do on sawhorses than up on a ladder later.

using a drill guide on the cedar pergola main beams
Carriage bolt holes are drilled with a guide

I attach some guide blocks to the posts and set the beams in place.

Animation to build a pergola detailed
Beams are bolted to the posts with long carriage bolts

The beams are clamped to the posts and checked for level. I then drill through the beam, the post, and the opposing beam with a long 3/8 bit. I tap in a carriage bolt and secure it with a flat washer, a lock washer, and a nut.
Now the support blocks can be removed.

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