A split-rail fence is an inexpensive way to create a light-duty fence. Split-rail fences can mark a boundary, create a rustic look or hold livestock that is too large to fit through the fence. Many fencing companies will create and sell the posts and rails so that you can assemble a split-rail fence, but you can also make them yourself with just a few tools.
Things You'll Need
- 8-pound splitting maul
- 3 wedges, wood or steel
- Steel wedge
- 9- to 12-inch-diameter logs
- 5- to 6-inch-diameter logs
- Tape measure
- Auger or power drill
Making the Rails
Tap the steel wedge into the end of a 9- to-12-inch-diameter log, using the flat side of the maul. The wedge should be oriented north and south. Tap it enough so that it sticks into the log. Stand over the log so that you are looking down on the end of the log with the wedge in it. The butt of the wedge should be facing away from you.
Swing the maul from above your head to between your legs to drive the wedge into the log. Make sure you are using the butt end of the maul to drive the wedge. Take care when you are swinging the maul that you do not miss the wedge and hit yourself. Use light force until you feel confident in your swings. Continue to drive the wedge until a 2-foot-long crack is in the top of the wood.
Place another wedge into the end of the crack in the log. Take a few steps back and use the butt end of the maul to strike the wedge and widen the crack. Continue to drive the wedge until the crack is 2 feet farther down the log, and use another wedge. Once you use the third or fourth wedge, the first one will probably have fallen out, so you can reuse it. Continue until you have split the entire log.
Place 1/2 of the log on the ground with the cut side face down. Use the maul and wedges to split the log half in the same manner you split the original log. Once you have split both halves, you will have four finished rails.
Taper the ends of the finished rails so that they will slide into the openings in the posts, using your saw. The post openings will be around 2 inches wide, so taper the rails down to 1 inch wide since two of them have to fit into every opening. Cut along a diagonal line near the end of the rail so that the very end is 1 inch wide and it gets wider the farther up the rail that you go.
Making the Posts
Lay a 5- to 6-inch-diameter log on the ground. Measure 30 inches from the bottom of the post with a tape measure and mark that with a marker. This represents the 30 inches that will be below the ground. Measure another 15 inches from that line and make a mark on the log. This represents where the first post slot will begin.
Draw an oval 2 inches wide and between 6 and 8 inches long, beginning from the second mark you made on the log, to mark where the post hole will go. Make one or two more ovals for post holes higher up the post, depending on how many rails you want your fence to have. Space the holes evenly for aesthetic purposes.
Create a series of 2-inch diameter holes within the marked areas, using your auger or power drill. Use your chisel and mallet to trim away any waste and make sure that the entire hole is clear. For corner and end posts, you will only drill down halfway through the log. Corner posts will also require a second set of holes heading in a different direction.
- "Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills;" Abigail R. Gehring; 2008
- End Times Report: Wood Cutting and Splitting Tools
- Photo Credit christmas fence image by Scott Slattery from Fotolia.com
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