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"Building American Post and Rail Fencing " Topic

35 Posts

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 2:19 p.m. PST

"Battlefields for conflicts such as the AWI or ACW often have a very distinctive style of fencing that, in my opinion, immediately evokes the right sort of feeling for the terrain and the era…"


Tutorial here



Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 2:32 p.m. PST

As good as the fence in the picture is, it is inaccurate. One of the big reasons that favored snake fences is that one need not dig any fence holes. The rails were stacked without uprights pictured. They stay just fine without them (in "real life").

One should google for pictures of snake fencing at various national parks (esp, Gettysburg). Indeed, I have seen a post where they give you step by step photos of rebuilding a snake fence at Gettysburg.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 2:51 p.m. PST

Here in the South we call them "split rail" fences, and I can't ever remember seeing one with uprights. Cedar was always the wood of choice.

historygamer10 Nov 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

Yeah that picture is a hot mess. That is just plain wrong.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 3:49 p.m. PST

And it's important. At one point on the First Day, the Iron Brigade double-timed through such fences because the skirmishers could take them down before the main body arrived. No way to do that with the post and rail fence in the path of Picket's Charge.

It's a nice picture, but that guy never saw the fences.

Sobieski Inactive Member10 Nov 2017 4:29 p.m. PST

Of possible uninterest?

Borathan Inactive Member10 Nov 2017 5:39 p.m. PST

I've actually seen fences like that.

They're a heavier type that is more for containing some of the larger animals.

Normally, the only real difference is that they hammer posts in at the junction in order to reinforce it.

Cleburne186310 Nov 2017 7:05 p.m. PST

Listening to Dave Powell and Jim Ogden at Chickamauga, there was apparently a county ordinance dictating that fields must be surrounded by worm fences,and how tall they needed to be. They brush would grow around and through the individual boards. A body of men could still push them apart, but they also created somewhat of a barrier to visibility.

historygamer10 Nov 2017 7:24 p.m. PST


Can you show us a picture of a post and rail fence that doesn't run straight?

These are two fences I am familiar with from the period:






I think that poor modeler mixed up the two.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 7:58 p.m. PST

While not historically correct, he still did a nice clean job of modeling a fence. And I don't think our little metal/plastic warriors really care a great deal about the "correctness".

historygamer11 Nov 2017 5:43 a.m. PST

So wouldn't the goal of a site like this to be to help modelers do something well and get it right?

The problem with turning a blind eye is that the result can be perpetuating wargamerisms that are incorrect.

Please note that the original poster did not make that fence. He simply found that picture somewhere and threw it up on here – which is how wargamerisms can get perpetuated.

Trajanus11 Nov 2017 5:51 a.m. PST

Fences are a minefield.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 10:06 a.m. PST

Glad you like it my friend!.


Baranovich11 Nov 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

I think that the person who made these model fences may have used photos such as these for reference:




Obviously these are modern variations and modern recreations based loosely on old, historical types of American fencing.

But this topic does warrant an observation. In 25mm or 28mm scale is it really that big a deal? If I was looking down at this fencing from tabletop height I would be visually satisfied because it provides that classic zig-zag shape that snake rail fencing typically had.
This might upset some historical gaming purists to say this, but to me the significant thing about this model fence is that it is indeed in the correct classic snake rail layout. Yes, the round dowels and vertical uprights are not correct or at all typical of period snake rail fencing.

However, one would have to ask the question…there HAD to have been times in the 18th/19th Century when farmers/property owners would have reinforced old or sagging snake rail fencing with some kind of vertical wooden supports, probably nailing them to the cross-pieces or intertwining them into the existing fence.

What I'm saying is that this model fence is an anachronism and yet at the same time it isn't. It does adhere to how historical snake rail fencing was fitted together, but has potentially anachronistic elements added to it.

But the thing is, none of us lived back then. Nobody can say they are an absolute authority on historical fencing because we don't know what kind of the nearly endless possible variations or modifications a particular farmer may have used on his property, out of all the tens of thousands of farms that existed during those time periods. Particularly down south, you see quite a few crude variations on plank and board fencing in 19th Century period photos, that, in all honesty really don't fit into any of the classic "period" fence designs back then.

Most certainly historical wargamers are not authorities on fencing. Yes, we do have plenty of knowledge on the primary fencing techniques used then and have historical photos to prove it.

But nobody can say for certain that fencing like this model DIDN'T exist back then.

Cleburne186311 Nov 2017 12:12 p.m. PST

Very true. But the whole point of the snake rail fence and not staking it was that it could be disassembled quickly by the land owner and moved.

On the gaming table, no there shouldn't be any real difference between a post and rail fence and a worm/snake rail fence. Unless its a particularly stout one like the Hagerstown Pike at Antietam.

historygamer11 Nov 2017 3:48 p.m. PST

"But the thing is, none of us lived back then. Nobody can say they are an absolute authority on historical fencing…"

That's not quite true. We have thousands of period paintings and sketches to go from. We also have excellent historic sites that have done exhaustive research on the subject of fencing. I offer Colonial Williamsburg as just one example. The numerous historic National Parks and Parcs Canada would be another.

"Most certainly historical wargamers are not authorities on fencing."

While I don't have a PhD in period fencing, I have gone to said historical sites around the world. I have also studied hundreds of Civil War period photographs as well.

"But nobody can say for certain that fencing like this model DIDN'T exist back then."

That is backwards logic and lazy historical justification – Trying to disprove a negative. I can't disprove that aliens from another planet didn't build the pyramids either (we all know they did). But we can go on the large amount of evidence what people did do, and from that we have a high level of confidence that they did not using fencing as made by that modern modeler. :-)

historygamer11 Nov 2017 3:55 p.m. PST

I would suggest to you all that we have a duty to do our best when we present historical games.

Here was my recent effort:


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 5:29 p.m. PST

+1 history gamer

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 5:32 p.m. PST

It often takes the same amount time and effort to get it right as it does to get wrong. So why not do it right.

historygamer11 Nov 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

Exactly. And it's a correct interpretation.


AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 9:49 p.m. PST

If I am making snake rail fences do I try to get them right? Of course.

Am I going to criticise my friend's work because he didn't get it right? Nope. If I can gently point my friend in the right direction without causing offence or looking like a smart arse, I might do that.

Is it going to impact on my enjoyment of a game if we use my friend's unhistorical snake rail fences? Nope.

In my experience in this hobby, the folk that actually put in real effort are in a minority, so I'm not about to belittle someone who does.

historygamer12 Nov 2017 5:30 a.m. PST

No one is suggesting embarrassing a friend about their efforts. But when a third party (not the builder or owner of said fences) comes on here to present something to the rest of us – and they are clearly incorrect – then yeah, it is fair game to point that out, otherwise it perpetuates wrong information. That's all I'm saying.

Tango often finds neat stuff he shares, but he is not an expert at everything (nor am I), and often what is shared is not all that great. This is one of those times.

donlowry12 Nov 2017 9:17 a.m. PST

I agree with historygamer.

marshalGreg13 Nov 2017 7:02 a.m. PST

So I how does one build a correct snake/worm fence or split rail fence, especially for 10mm?


historygamer13 Nov 2017 9:28 a.m. PST

I buy the sticks from BTC and make my own. He also has some pre-made on sale. Each packet comes with directions on how to make different fences. I go a step further and put some rails sticking up (though not really perfect, it gives the illusion).

Doug (BTC) is first rate helping people out with guidance.

His website is well covered with photos of his products.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2017 9:53 a.m. PST

Here are photos taken a few weeks ago at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow.
The shallow zig-zag has extra cross-support worked in, the steep angles don't need them.

I'm planning on splitting balsa wood and roughing it up with a brass-wire file-cleaner to make the rails.

Old Guy13 Nov 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

I like to be as historical as I can be but a duty, give me a break.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 12:00 a.m. PST

HG, If you're going to split hairs (rails?) your fences are not correct either. The wood rails are too square and too uniform. Wood rails were split by hand a would not be as
perfectly cut as yours are.

When I do fencing like that, I slice the rails up and shave off the edges to get the irregular look. You can see some here:

TMP link

That's not to say that your terrain is not spectacular. It is. Congratulations on a great layout.

Virginia Tory14 Nov 2017 7:18 a.m. PST
Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 9:43 a.m. PST

I love your work my friend… Congrats for it!….


historygamer14 Nov 2017 10:05 a.m. PST


You bring up a good point about the split rail fences. I chose not to comment on that part of the original poster's examples (they aren't his model fences). The topic was the construction, not the materials. The fences posted were neither period post and rail fences, nor approximate reproduction snake rail fences since they did not use the stack zig-zag method. The materials I accepted as perhaps commercially secured and chose not to comment on, but you are right, they are not correct for either since they appear round.

My fences are a mixture – the post and five rail fences were purchased through BTC, but produced by Musket Miniatures (now produced under another name). They are metal (cast), and only require painting and assembly into longer portions.

My snake rail fences were purchased and produced by BTC. While not quite correct, they have been assembled (they come as loose individual sticks) into a correct zig-zag pattern to approximate snake rail fences.

I would also point out they are for 15mm figures, not the larger ones you use (IIRC you are not a gamer). I am not aware of any other commercial product for 15mm scale on the market. Unlike your display stuff, mine has to be sturdy enough for a ham-handed owner and gamers handling them – along with storage and repeated transport.

Thanks for the kind words. My games have won four PELA awards in the five conventions they have been put on. That's a pretty good batting average. :-)

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Nov 2017 10:39 p.m. PST

My games have won four PELA awards in the five conventions they have been put on."

And deservedly so.

historygamer15 Nov 2017 5:06 a.m. PST

Thank you. :-)

Now I need to pull a new rabbit out of my hat. :-)

ScottS15 Nov 2017 7:21 a.m. PST

I would suggest to you all that we have a duty to do our best when we present historical games.

I'm playing a game with friends, not defending a dissertation.

I try to be accurate, but I am not obligated to do so.

historygamer15 Nov 2017 8:47 a.m. PST

Okay, how about this then. I feel that when we know something we have a duty/responsibility/it is the right thing to do, to share that knowledge.

I personally feel a duty to put on the best games that I can.

Others opinions may vary. :-)

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