DIY Arbor Swing: How to Cut DIY Wood Braces for Pergola Support

We’re sharing step by step as we build a DIY arbor swing in a beautiful backyard! This is Step 5: how to sketch and cut curved DIY wood braces to add decorative bracket supports to a custom arbor or pergola.

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DIY Wood Braces for an Arbor or Pergola

No matter how secure the footings are, an outdoor structure like a pergola or arbor typically needs the added stability that comes from additional brackets or knee braces. In a DIY context, knee braces aren’t for your aching joints (though I do think a good pair of knee pads is a good investment for projects like laying flooring). For pergolas, decks, gazebos, or other outdoor structures, knee braces are angled support pieces placed between a horizontal beam and a vertical post.

Think back to your junior high bridge building projects…. maybe it was spaghetti, maybe popsicle sticks… but can you hear your teacher’s voice reminding you that “a triangle is the strongest shape”…? That’s where a brace comes in – a diagonal support piece provides triangular corner support to the rectangular construction on a pergola or this arbor we’re building.

To brace a freestanding pergola or arbor and sturdy up the structure, a supportive wood brace is angled at the end to match the horizontal and vertical surfaces, and can be attached to the face or side of the beam or post. These large braces are sometimes called brackets or corbels, too, and large decorative corbels are often used for porches and entrances, too.

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Like with our rafter end designs, decorative wood braces are an excellent addition to the architectural elements of a pergola or arbor to improve the style of your building project without a large cost or large time investment. I used similar wood corbels that are both decorative and functional on the garden arbor wedding arch and the curved wood braces are key to the shape of the gothic arch arbor and trellis, too. (The fire pit pergola uses braces along the top for added structural support.)

In addition to adding architectural interest and unrivaled character, making your own pergola corbels and DIY wood braces is the perfect way to ensure that the structure has the support and durability it needs while matching the textures of the posts, beams, and other lumber for a natural look. Manufacturing in-house (see what I did there?) ensures that you get custom cedar brackets without the price tag of purchasing from a lumber supplier and needing special financing…. Instead, you get a custom wood bracket at whatever local store prices are for the redwood lumber. You can choose pieces with tight knots, unique natural colors, or whatever features you like with needing to custom order anything.

Need a decorative bracket for indoor use? Make these vintage style wooden corbels to add visual support to shelves, range hoods, mantels, countertops, and more. Or, for a quick scrap project, make these wooden shelf brackets.

How To Make DIY Wood Braces for a Pergola or Arbor Corbels

Making your own wooden brackets / corbels requires accurate measuring, and cutting a curved corbel support for a pergola requires even a little bit more measuring and math.

Never fear, though – for our premium woodworking plans, we do the measuring and math for you AND we provide a full-size printable DIY wood brace template to make your project just that much easier.

For the die-hard DIYers who are, though, I’ll show you how to do the measuring and the EASY way to trace the curve so you can have endless flexibility in making your own DIY wood braces to support your outdoor free-standing structures.

Corbel Process Diagram

How to Make a DIY Wood Brace Corbel for a Pergola or Arbor

Use a 2×6 or 2×8 board to make your own curved corbel DIY wood braces to support the vertical posts and horizontal beams of a pergola or arbor. These DIY wood braces look so much nicer than a regular diagonal knee brace board!
Print Recipe
Corbel Process Diagram

Equipment

  • Speed square
  • measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • 1 1/2″ or longer screws
  • PVC pipe or other bendable material
  • Jigsaw and circular saw (optional)

Ingredients

  • 2×6 or 2×8 board

Instructions

  • Measure the distance the wood brace needs to span (A). This measurement MUST include the attachment points if the bracket will overlap a vertical or horizontal board rather than butting up against it.
  • Mark a line that (A) length along one long edge of the board, in from the end 6-12 inches to allow for the ends of the corbel bracket section.
  • At each end of the line, use a speed square to mark a line at 45-degrees (for a squared triangle brace) or 55-degrees for a brace that is slightly more vertical (such as the one I used to support the swing arbor rafters).
  • At the top end of the corbel, mark along the line at the distance (B) to give the surface area you’ll need to attach the corbel. The corbel could be attached at the top either butted up against the horizontal edge (with screws through the side of the board) or flat against the face of the horizontal beam/rafter (with screws through the face of the board).
  • Next, use the speed square to mark a line at 90-degrees from that mark to the edge of the board. This is distance (C).
  • At the bottom end of the corbel, mark along the line at the distance (D) that will allow for the attachment you need. [On the 45-degree wood braces we made, this distance (D) was the same as (C) which was gave the brackets a nice symmetry.]
  • Use a speed square to mark a line at 90-degrees from that mark to the edge of the board. This is distance (E). [On both wood braces shown in the diagram, (C) and (E) are the same length; they don’t have to be depending on the attachments needed.]
  • Place one screw near the edge of the board, just past each of those two lines (noted by the green circles on the diagrams). These screws will help hold the material in place to trace the curve, so they should be placed so that the lower edge of the PVC pipe or whatever you are using intersects with that line at the edge of the board.
  • Measure the distance between the 2 lines (F). Mark the point in the center were you want the deepest part of the curve (probably the center), then place a screw at that location 3 1/2″ (or more) from the top edge of the board.
  • Place the PVC pipe (or whatever bendable material you are using to trace the curve), shown as the yellow curve on the diagram, between the 3 screws and trace the curve.
  • Once you’ve traced the pipe curve, you’re ready to cut the corbel! Cut the straight ends carefully using a miter saw or jigsaw, then cut the curve with a jigsaw.
  • Dry fit the corbel in place to see if any adjustments are needed.
  • Trace the corbel pattern onto the other boards and cut as many corbels as you need.

Notes

Corbel Process Diagram

Stay tuned and subscribe to see how I install these corbels on the swing arbor, stain the rafters / posts / braces, and more – right up until the finished project reveal!

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How To Design And Cut Wood Braces For Support Corbels For Arbor Or Pergola, Remodelaholic
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I am the husband of the amazing Cassity of Remodelaholic. I love to problem solve and to design and build things inside and outside the house to make life better. I am a professional Landscape Architect by trade and love the outdoors.

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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

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