How to Build Rustic Fences

What You'll Need
Straight grained logs 10feet long and 6inches to 8inches in diameter
Logs about 5 feet long and 10 inches diameter
4 straight branches, 3 feet long and 2 inches in diameter
Clam shell post hole digger
Sledge hammer
Several steel wedges
4-inch nails

There are many styles of rustic fences, but the most traditional is the split rail fence. These are relatively simple to build but are very labor intensive if you can get the timber.

Step 1 - Split the Logs for Rails

The logs should be split into quarter rails.

  1. Find somewhere to work. You need to work where the logs you are working on are lying flat on the ground to prevent any bouncing.
  2. Prepare the first log for splitting. Lay the first log on the ground. About 2feet from each end drive one of the 3foot branches into the ground with the sledge hammer. (Use the saw to make one end of the branch flat). Drive two more of the branches into the ground opposite the first two. The log is now immobilized
  3. The wedges - Starting at one end of the log drive a steel wedge into the log on the centre line until the log starts to split. As the split travels down the log drive in more wedges to split it further until the log has been split in two.
  4. Quarter the split halves - Lay the split halves flat side down on the ground and use the wedges to split them into quarters.
  5. Continue - Split as many logs as you want to work with today.

Step 2 - Mark the fence line

Mark the fence line by laying split rails along it.

Step 3 – Mark post positions

Mark the position for the post holes eight feet apart along the fence line. The easiest way to mark them is to place a rail across the fence line at that point.

Step 4 – Dig the post holes

Use the clam shell digger to make the post holes18inches deep and 10inches in diameter

Step 5 – Place the posts

The 5 foot logs are the posts. Insert a log into each post hole.

Step 6 – Fix the posts

If the post is loose fill the gap between it and the hole with soil or stones and tamp them well down with the sledge hammer (holding the hammer vertically and using the length of the head as a tamper).

Step 7 – Fix the first top rail

The rails can be nailed to the fence posts to form a double railed fence. Nail the top rail about three inches from the top of the post and the same distance from the top of the second post.

Step 8 – Fix the other top rails

The second rail will be nailed to the second post immediately beneath the first rail. It will be nailed to the third post the same distance down from the top of the post. The third rail will be nailed immediately above the second and the fourth rail immediately below the third. The rails will alternate like this to the end of the fence.

Step 9 – Fix the second rails

The second rails will be fixed about 18inches below the top rails and the same pattern repeated.

This is a serviceable rustic fence that will last a long time and be easy to repair. Fences and gates go together and a crude gate could be made in this fence by having two rails removable at a suitable point.