How to make your own picket fence panels

Written by roger golden
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How to make your own picket fence panels
The classic picket fence. (Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A traditional picket fence was used to keep small animals from escaping into the wilds, and intended to be a low-cost type of fence. Today, making the panel for a picket fence is a low-cost alternative to buying panels that are already constructed. Choose an appealing rough-cut lumber for the pickets, cut your own pattern into the top, and put together a fence that is not only functional, but gives you the satisfaction of having done the task yourself.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Bevel square
  • Hammer
  • Circular saw
  • 1.3 x 8.8 x 82.5 cm (1/2 x 3 1/2 x 33 inch) pickets
  • 5 x 5 cm (2 x 2 inch) fence rails
  • Framing square
  • 4d Nails

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Determine the number of pickets needed for the fence. To calculate this, measure the length and divide the total number of centimetres by fifteen. This number includes the picket width plus the spacing between pickets.

  2. 2

    Make two marks 7.5 cm (3 inches) down from the top of each picket, with the marks placed on the outside edges. Make another mark at the top centre of each picket. Set the bevel square for an angle that runs from the centre top point to the mark at either side of the board. Mark this pointed wedge shape on all picket tops. Use the circular saw to cut off the marked areas, leaving a sharp central tip on each picket.

  3. 3

    Mark the top of the pickets 8 inches down from the point, and mark the bottoms 20 cm (8 inches) up from the lower edge. Make the same mark on the outside edges of all of the pickets. These two lines will allow you to line up the pickets on the rails for easy, accurate placement. Measuring from one end of rails, make a small mark on the rails every 15 cm (6 inches) along the length. This will be your guide for mounting the pickets upright.

  4. 4

    Place two of the fence rails on a flat surface, spaced 32.5 cm (13 inches) apart. Place two pickets so that the outside edge of each is 15 cm (6 inches) inset from the ends of the rails. Use two 4d nails on each picket at the juncture of each rail. Use the framing square to make certain your pickets are placed at a true 90-degree angle on the rails. If all of your marks and measurements are correct, checking the angle is not necessary, but this gives you a way to double-check your work as you go.

  5. 5

    Space the pickets out so that the marks on the pickets line up with the rails, and each picket lines up with a mark on the rails. Attach the pickets with a pair of 4d nails at each rail and picket junction.

  6. 6

    When the picket fence panel is mounted, you will need one additional picket at each end of the panel. These pickets hide the joints in the rails, and will not be put on until after the panel has been mounted on fence posts.

Tips and warnings

  • Note that the end pickets will have slightly larger gaps on either side of the pickets, due to the picket being placed centred over the rail joints. This discrepancy will not be noticeable as the wider fence posts will actually make the gaps seem slightly narrower.
  • Instead of wedge shaped tips, use a jigsaw and cut curved patterns or make your own unique fence-top designs.

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