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:
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Things you need
- 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
- Paint or stains
- Small brushes
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.
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.
Round the scale dimensions to the nearest millimetre. In this case, the picket becomes 11mm tall and 1mm wide.
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.
Mark round rails, crossbars, and posts to scale on 1/16th dowel rods and cut.
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.
Apply any pickets or vertical bars with CA glue, toothpicks and accelerator.
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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