How to Scratch and Build HO Scale Fences

Written by sean kotz
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How to Scratch and Build HO Scale Fences
A fence like this can be made in HO scale with simple calculations and tools. (fence image by martini from

For most people, detailing is what really makes a model train layout special and it can be the most fun part of the process. It is the little things, especially when they are handmade, that give a model railroad its character. Scratch building fences is a nice way to add that kind of character and it is not particularly difficult. Naturally, a picket fence will require more out of a builder than a split rail fence, but the process is basically the same.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Calculator
  • Metric ruler
  • Balsa wood sheets, 1/16 inch and 1/8 inch width
  • Dowel rods, 1/16 inch and 1/8 inch diameter
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Hobby knife with #11 blades
  • Razor saw or coping saw
  • Cyanoacrylate glue
  • CA glue accelerator
  • Toothpicks
  • Paint or stains
  • Small brushes

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  1. 1

    Collect real world measurements of the fences you wish to model and convert to millimetres using an online conversion calculator. For example, a picket that is 36 inches tall and 4 inches wide would be 914.4mm tall and 101.6mm wide.

  2. 2

    Divide the millimetre measurements by 87 since HO scale is 1/87th the size of real world objects. In our example, the HO scale picket would be 10.5mm tall and 1.16mm wide.

  3. 3

    Round the scale dimensions to the nearest millimetre. In this case, the picket becomes 11mm tall and 1mm wide.

  4. 4

    Draw pickets and flat rails to scale on 1/16-inch thick sheets of balsa wood lightly with a mechanical pencil and cut the pickets from the balsa wood slowly with a hobby knife using a #11 blade.

  5. 5

    Mark round rails, crossbars, and posts to scale on 1/16th dowel rods and cut.

  6. 6

    Glue the cross rails to the posts at right angles using cyanoacrylate, or CA glue, applying a small amount at the bonding points with a toothpick and spraying CA glue accelerator for a quick bond.

  7. 7

    Apply any pickets or vertical bars with CA glue, toothpicks and accelerator.

  8. 8

    Paint or stain as desired using detailing brushes before inserting the fence into your model railroad layout.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are modelling more sturdy fences, 1/8-inch balsa wood might be a better choice.
  • Don't drive yourself crazy over impossibly tiny measurements. Most people will never know the difference and unless you are trying to become a master modeler, no one will ever measure.
  • Toothpicks can make nice quick posts.
  • Be careful with CA glue and accelerator. It bonds instantaneously and will stick your fingers together if you are sloppy with the glue.

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