A living concrete forms legacy evolved from a graveyard vision
By: Concrete Homes
Gates & Sons' history goes back to the late 1920s when Lee Gates, Sr. invented his first twisted-wire form tie with a built-in spreader. Until that time, most forms for concrete wall foundations were built with 1-foot-by-8-inch sheathing boards, vertical 2-by-4 studs on 24-inch centers and held together with No. 9 black annealed soft wire to receive the wet concrete. Hundred-pound coils of wire were delivered to the job site along with the lumber. The No. 9 wire was job-cut to the proper length, bent in a "U" shape to go around the two opposite vertical 2-by-4 studs and placed between every other joint of sheathing boards. As boards were added, the two strands of wire were center-twisted with a large screwdriver, or pin, against a 1-inch-by-2-inch wood spreader cut to the desired wall thickness — one tie at a time.
While working on a new all-concrete mausoleum at Crown Hill Cemetery in northwest Denver, Lee Gates had the idea that a pre-twisted form tie could speed up the formwork. In the early development of his idea, he found that by using 5/8-inch smooth carbon-steel rods to replace the vertical 2-by-4s, additional speed in building the form was possible with his new tie. He designed and build machines to manufacture his new "twisted-wire" form tie. His new tie gained wide acceptance in and around Denver and the Colorado area. It was manufactured from No. 9 soft black annealed wire of four cables. The patent was first applied for on Jan. 28, 1928.
Following World War II, 3/4-inch form plywood became readily available at an affordable price. Lee Gates' 4-strand, center-twisted tie made from black wire (which rusted) was then re-designed into a stronger, 3-strand, 11-gauge galvanized tie (which did not rust) and twisted from one end on automatic machines. Tie slots were routed in 2-foot-by-8-foot plywood panels and the 5/8-inch carbon-steel rods were run horizontally, creating a very fast, lightweight, inexpensive forming system. It was manufactured from high tensile 11-guage steel wire with three cables.
To meet the greatly expanding home-building market that followed World War II, a national sales program was put into place. Later, other Gates forming systems were developed and patented for the commercial construction trade, making Gates & Sons a leader, nationwide, in forming systems.Lee Gates Sr. lived to see his twisted-wire tie invention transform concrete construction. He died on April 7, 1975 at the age of 81 and is buried just a few hundred feet south of the mausoleum where his first form ties were conceived.