An Old-Time Double-Post Pole Fence

With basic carpentry tools—and sometimes even wood from your own woodlot—you can make a double-post pole fence that is both decorative and functional.

| September/October 1980

Fencing—whether it's used to encircle a pasture or add a decorative touch to a front yard—is always expensive. But with a little time and some basic carpentry skills, you can save money, keep your livestock at home, give your youngsters something to climb on, and preserve an ancestral craft ... by building a double-post pole fence! The attractive enclosures require only natural materials (if you're lucky, you can get all you need from your own woodlot) and will last for years with proper maintenance!

To assemble your traditional structure, you'll be placing two uprights—of different sizes—at each point where a fence post is needed. Both will be 8' long, but the outside post should be about 7" in diameter, while the inner one should be about 5" thick.

Since all the posts will be set into three-foot-deep holes, it's important to treat their lower ends with a preservative solution to prevent rotting. One method is to mix one part pentachlorophenol to ten parts diesel fuel, and then stand eight or nine posts in a 55-gallon drum containing about 25 gallons of the preservative mixture. (It's best to remove the bark from the to-be-treated ends of the posts with a drawknife. The entire upright can be shaved, of course, but such extra labor isn't really necessary.)

The soaking should continue for at least two days. Once the treatment's finished, place each pair of posts in a single hole (I use oblong pits—measuring approximately 8" X 18"—spaced at intervals of ten feet). Each pair should stand five feet high and be about five inches apart at their bases. Now fill in the holes with soil, and tamp it with an iron bar or sledge hammer to ensure that the earth holds the uprights securely in place.

At each 90° corner, you'll need to dig the post holes at a 45° angle to the rest of the fence, and—instead of leaving a five-inch space—allow about eight inches between the posts ... to accommodate horizontal poles coming from two different directions. (When you have to allow for a gentle fenceline bend, try to set the posts so that they bisect the angle of the turn ... and be sure that you leave a little extra room between the pair of wooden uprights.)

The Poles

The horizontal poles for a double-post fence should be about 12' long and 5" in diameter at their larger ends. (Again, if you prefer, all the bark can be removed with a drawknife.) When you place the crosspieces between the posts—each layer resting on tips of the one beneath it—the poles should be alternated so that all the slender ends don't wind up between one pair of posts, with all the heavy ends at the other.

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