Cedar Fence from Scratch

It all started with a dead cedar tree and a need for a 42 foot long privacy fence.

I cut down a cedar tree that had recently died and cut it into eight foot long logs. I used the tractor to move the logs to the mill.

I cut eight 8 foot long 4 x 4 posts, fourteen 6 foot long 2 x 4’s, fourteen 5 foot long spacers and two hundred and seventeen 6 foot long 1.5 x 2 laths.

One of the logs about to be milled

Cut 2 x 4’s

Cutting the lath

Some of the finished lath

For finishing and preserving the posts, 2 x 4 cross pieces and 1 x 1 spacers I decided to try a Japanese woodworking technique called shou sugi ban. I used a torch to scorch the outer surface of the wood – just enough that the wood developed an alligator skin like texture.

The charred wood is wire brushed and then treated the wood with boiled linseed oil.

As the fence is for privacy I decided to go with a lighter build and make the fence with a ‘woven’ lath design. I made seven sections just over 6 feet in length.

The finished fence



    • Thanks very much Gunta. An great project though quite labour intensive but worth it. The wood burning was interesting and the end result was a beautiful rich colour. Now to see how it weathers.

  1. ‘Torching’ cedar is a technique I learned in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back in the late 70’s from a wood carver.
    Adopting the technique allowed me to instantly weather the native northern yellow cedar, the softer summer growth area between rings would burn away quicker than the hard winter ring, creating a textured grain that looked like old weathered driftwood. I used the resulting grain patterning to effect fur, feather and fish scale on my carvings.
    The scorching process also fire hardens the outer layer and helps forestall insect and mold attack.
    I’ve done some torching of Western Red which I find to be a softer wood with less distinction between summer and winter annular rings, but it can only help and the additional treatment with linseed oil should give you a long lasting fence.
    Torching the ends of fence posts before setting them in the ground is also a handy technique to prevent rot and insects.

    • Thanks very much for the insightful comment. Trying different wood would be interesting. The tree I milled didn’t have much grain definition but I can see with some wood and with the right cut that the burning technique could have stunning results. Even with the fence posts though the results were very satisfying – reminding me of old English building timbers.

  2. That’s one elegant fence! The Japanese technique is very interesting. As usual, you do a beautiful job photographing the process and keeping the words down to a just-enough minimum.

    • Thanks very much Lynn. I’m pleased with results, especially with the burnt wood technique. The fence was a “Plan B” situation since the first design didn’t work but this design should work as long as a bear doesn’t run through it.

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