Build a Rip-Gut or Interlocking Fence

If the price premium on good lumber, wire, and other hardware is too much for you, and all you have is a lot of twisted gnarly sticks, you can turn them into a very effective rip-gut fence or interlocking fence.

| March/April 1980

062 rip gut fence

TOP: Interlocking twisted timber scraps form the rugged and economical rip-gut fence. BOTTOM LEFT: The rip-gut tripod series building technique is interrupted by a gate, then resumes on the other side. BOTTOM RIGHT: The gnarly sticks and odd-shaped tree branches used to make the fence can be found littering any woodlot.


The twisted, gnarly sticks that litter most woodlots usually find their way into piles of fuel wood, for the simple reason that there doesn't seem to be much else that can be done with them. And that's all right, I suppose, because folks can always use more firewood about the time the water starts to get stiff. However, should your wood crib already contain all the space-taking crooked limbs it can hold, you can use your "trash timber" to build a rip-gut fence or interlocking fence... a strong and inexpensive way to make sure your livestock "sticks" close to home.

Another Case of Makin' Do

I first ran across the strange-looking yard and field borders while living in a village in south-central Utah. The population of the town was listed on the map as 80, and - as I became aware of the region's local customs and colorful history - realized that here, indeed, was a place where people lived close to the land and made do with what they had on hand!

The area is mostly made up of small cattle farms, and nearly every family has a fair-sized piece of land. Cowpunching is still done on horseback, and only major transportation jobs are deemed worthy of the trouble of firing up a truck. In fact, it's just been in the past few years that the U.S. Mail has made the trip to town in a vehicle instead of by saddle bag.

However, farming at such a level produces its own breed of problems. For example, how can anyone fence a piece of land so the livestock won't get loose ... and do so within the budget of a small town farmer? We all know that dimensional lumber, fenceposts, wire, and the other hardware needed to build a sturdy barrier can cost a lot of money!

The obvious answer, of course, is to use the materials native to the area and develop a fence system that works!

Neither Wind, nor Cows, nor...

Local legend has it that a rip-gut fence is horse-high, hog-tight, and ox-strong, but — while I have to agree with the height and strength claims — I'm fairly certain that a clever pig could figure out a way to sneak through one of the woody stockades. (Come to think of it, though, a middlin' bright porker can dang near sneak through chicken wire!)

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