Sunday, July 30, 2017

CONSTRUCTING SPLIT RAIL FENCE

19th century fencing took many forms such as snake or worm fence, some refer to it as zig-zag. Rails would be stacked four to nine rails high...




Another style is what I call double post or simply split rail...

...which could be five to eight rails high given the purpose. Eight high were usually to coral live stock, horses in particular. Often times fencing was to demarcate property lines as well as to keep free ranging live stock out of fields with crops. More urban areas could have picket and plank fencing. 

 
I discovered one type I refer to as a woven fence, made from saplings...

This post focuses on creating the double post split rail fence. 
Step 1 - The easy part was acquiring material to make the split rails. Local Starbucks or other morning coffee providers usually have wooden stirrers. At least they did several years ago. when I amassed my inventory. 
Step 2 - Cutting the stirrers into narrow rails. Initially I used a #11 Xacto. Then I realized I could use my miniature band saw from Dremel. These are cut into four sections, lengthwise of course. No need to make these perfect. Remember, splitting rails left various angles and shapes given the gain. When folks like Abe Lincoln, known for his skill at splitting rails, went about splitting, they used wedges, sledges and axes. 

Step 3 - Sanding the woody hairs and shaping these initial cuts to add more angles. A tool I have found very useful is my Delta sander; it quickly does the final shaping.

Step 4 - Decide on rail length. My research has been mostly via internet photos. However, parks and battlefields are a terrific source. Many of these places look to authentically recreate their sites, often including fencing. I found lengths of 7', 8', 9', 10' and 11'. For the double post fence I chose 11'. Here's where the Chopper comes in very handy. Set the barrier, make MANY rails. Posts are cut 5'; 7'-8' if to be inserted into the scenery base.
Step 5 - Construction. Lay out a piece of double stick tape the length you want your fence. Next lay out the posts at 9' intervals, seen below.
 This allows for  a 9" to 12" overlay of the rails shown below.
Next is to begin laying the lower rails in every other gap, at the bottom of the post. The second level of rails covers the open spaces. Continue to alternate until you reach the level desired. I chose six rails high. Most photos I saw showed this height. I use carpenter's glue as it drys in about five minutes.
Now the staining. I use two craft paints. One is FOG, the other is Barn Wood. Making a wash in a small bowl, I drop a bunch in at a time, swish 'em around then separate them on a paper towel...
Once dry I make a stain from black India Ink and Isopropyl alcohol, 70%, and repeat as in the prior process with the wash. 
Building straight sections are easy in that they can be done on a flat surface shown in a prior photo. But when the need is to make angles or turns I build in place...
No worries about the sheep. They were just exhausted from running around avoiding hungry troops. 

2 comments:

  1. nice tutorial.
    Those poor sheep.

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  2. Thanks, Thom. For N scale, I've used regular flat toothpicks split with a hobby knife into 3rds to make rails for a worm/zig-zag fence. I have yet to try the double post version.

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