Making Fence Posts by Hand — Part II

Yesterday, I described how I felled, segmented and peeled a black locust tree to make fence posts. Today I’ll go into the rest of the process.

Segment with board attached for guide.

Once clean of bark, I used a snap line to draw a 7-in-wide post in the less-than-straight segments. I tried out two methods to cut along this line. First, I attached a 2-×-4-in nominal board to the concave side of the riven segment. I then ran the other side through the table saw, using the board as a guide. This seemed to be hard on my table saw and unsafe, but it made a nice post.

The second method was more traditional. I first cut perpendicular to the post with a saw to the depth of the marked line. I then used an axe to cut away the excess sides where I had scored with the saw. It would have been better to use a broadaxe, but I do not have one yet. This resulted in a more traditional “hand-hewn” appearance, was quicker, and just about as good as using the table saw.

Now came the installation. I followed the method laid out in the 1892 fence manual I described in an earlier post. I first made a point in the end of the post and then rammed it as deeply as I could in the ground. Next I stood on a ladder and nailed two stacked pieces of plywood to the top of the post to protect it from what comes next: spending half an hour hitting the thing with a sledge hammer. I am building a wooden mallet for driving posts, but it wasn’t done yet. This also worked and I found it took 20 blows to drive it each inch of the 36 in it needed to reach a proper depth.

I then added supports on the sides to counteract the tension I will be applying to the fence when I install it. These supports were angled at about 45° and the butt end rests on a flat rock to distribute the load against the soil.

I decided to make this support out of a Y in the tree instead of the more usual straight shaft simply for visual interest.

I will update this series when install the fence.

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