Wooden Fences -- Amazing INGENUITY
                                         [A photo archive of 100 plus WOODEN FENCES,
                                                         most of which are in Mackinac Co., Michigan
                                                                                              compiled by
                                                                                                                                                           R.V. ("Dick") Dietrich

Last update:  12 December 2017

To facilitate availability, additions made after 5 May 2016 will be put in the


which appears directly below this notice;  a reference to these additions

         is given in the main document where they would seem most appropriate.     


            his fence is in a field next to the Presbyterian Church in McDowell, Highland County, Virginia (see sketch map, lower center) .  The photographs were taken by/© Richad Smith Dietrich.
              Each wooden fence is unique -- however, many of them that are even roughly similar to others are frequently referred to by some widely accepted, so-to-speak generic name. This one, which Rick referred to as a “Zig zag fence”, is a good example.   MOST people would call it a rail fence.  It does, however, have several features that differ from those of most rail fences, at least those that I have looked at during the last eighty plus years.  Examples of a few of these atypical features are shown in the closeups.  A few of these features, along with a brief description plus or minus one or more of my quips follow:   
               A. Stone bases.   The use of stone bases at the intersecting corners of these fences reminded me of several things:  So far as the longevity of this fence, it seems that this is a good idea;  among other things, the use of these bases seem unlikely to retain retain moisture, which hastens rotting, as long as the commonly used alternatives.  One wonders if the builders were influenced by the truism that is the theme of the story The Three Little Pigs.    On the other hand, this use of stones led me also to wonder about the wind conditions within the area, and I thought about the“walking barns” of MarquetteTownship, Mackinac County, Michigan (see Dietrich, n.d.).
                       B. Rails extend from the tops of many of the intersections of the differently trending rails downward to the bottoms of the next intersectionSeveral questions arise -- e.g., why were these obliquely positioned rails, which are longer than the nearly horizontal rails of the fence, added(?);  were they thought to enhance stability(?);  were they for appearance(?)  -- this fence apprently does serve the role of a landscape accent (Rick was told that at least part of this fence replaced "an ugly chain link fence."  Among other things, it seems to me that these rails are superfluous;  and, possibly could be deleterious so far as the stabillity and/or long term preservation of the fence. 
                     C. Sporadic vertical posts.    These, other than the ones at ends of the sections, appear to be only fixes, but one wonders why such a completely out-of-charcter fix would be made -- indeed one that would take longer than so-to-speak reproducing the original relationships.  (However, Cf. entry 13.)
                     D. Nails fixing the rails to the vertical posts: Granted "picky" but wooden pegs would have been much more in character, eh?
              In any case, this group of fences are extremely interesting wooden ("rail") fences!   And, it seems that other things that one might think about some of their features – at least by me who has seen only photographs of it – are best left unsaid.


           I like Wooden Fences.  My family and friends wonder why.  Among the words that I usually use to explain my feelings and thoughts about these fences are their History, the Workmanship involved in their construction, their Diversity of their designs, and the Harmony, or lack of such, that they have with their environment.  Fortunately, the mainland part of Mackinac County, Michigan -- where I now spend most of my time -- has an almost incredible number of differently built wooden fences to photograph and study.  

        Disclaimers:  Better photographs could be taken of many of the included fences;  most of those included were taken as drive-by shots.  Consequently, such things as the time of  day and year -- i.e., light and surrounding conditions -- are less than what they could be for photographing many of the included fences.  In any case, because the photographs are "for the record," only four have been revised, and this fact is noted in their captions.  In addition, the descriptive information for at least some of the fences would have been supplemented had I thought I had more time to spend on the project.  At 90-plus years old and less than optimistic about my continued longevity, I am moving on to other pursuits.  Nonetheless, I plan to add more fences and to revise the information to this web site if such are found and appear to be warranted. 

                             It seems only prudent to mention that fences that have wooden posts but, for example, barbed wire in the spans between those posts are not included.  This is so even though the total amount of wood -- i.e., the posts -- used in these fences, at least within Mackinac County, Michigan, undoubtedly exceeds the total amount of wood used in the fences that consist largely of wood.  In addition, it seems noteworthy that barbed wire fences have so-to-speak skewed the history of fences in toto for the county.  This is so because barbed wire became available and was widely used, especially on farmland before most of the county's farms became such;  consequently, barbed wire fences, which could be put in place much more easily and in less time than fences with wooden rails, became the "standard" (for a nearly parallel situation involving stone "fences" in central Michigan, see Dietrich, 2011, p. 78).  Therefore, it seems that only a few wooden fences were ever used as the main farm fences within the area even though wood that could be so-used was locally abundant. The roughly evolutionary history of wooden fences as conceived by the order of the presentation in this archive is based largely on relatively recently built, for the most part decorative, fences that have the general characteristics thought likely to resemble fences of the past.

                    Locations are not given for most of the included fences.  They are, however, recorded in my files.

          Grateful thanks are due both those who fashioned the included fences and the current owners who have maintained, or at least not destroyed, those fences.  Some of those people, as well as several others (particularly Charles M. Brown,
Robert B. Brown, Mary ("Mimi") Gustafson, and Lawrence J. Hough) furnished information that is included in some of the captions.  Krista and Robert Brown, Kurt R. and Rick S. Dietrich, and Kathleen Schacht accompanied me -- in many cases driving for me -- to some of the places where the included photographs were taken;  each of them was a fine "field assistant."  Kurt R. Dietrich, Rick S. Dietrich and C.R. Bruce Hobbs proof-read one or more versions of this report.  I gratefully thank all of these people for their contributions. 
                                                                                                                                                            R.V. ("Dick") Dietrich, 
        September 2014


          Wooden fences serve interesting roles in the cultural history of the areas where they occur.  Their diverse functions, and consequently their structure and appearance, reflect such things as land usage and the backgrounds, desires, thoughts and creative natures of the residents who designed or built the fences.   

           Wooden fences' very existence remind us that their largest components are a renewable resource -- i.e., parts of trees that can be replenished within a resonable time frame so long as our woods and forests are well managed.  (This is so even with the seemingly ever increasing uses of wood for such things as the production of paper and the construction of buildings and furniture.  Indeed, it seems that for at least the foreseeable future, trees on Earth will continue to constitute a renewable resource.)

           Historically, especially in regions such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, local trees and posts, rails, slabs, lumber, etc. made from them have long been used in the construction of barriers -- i.e., fences.  Thus, athough -- or perhaps because -- the appearances and numbers of wooden fences have changed with time, wooden fences provide an especially interesting part of the changing history of the area.  This is true even though, as alluded to in the Preface, this aspect of the history for the main area covered in this report is skewed -- i.e., it does not parallel that widely thought to obtain for, for example, parts of New England and other northeastern United States.  In those areas, a major change in the function for most wooden fences occurred during the last approximately 125 years:  Fences made before the last decade or so of the 19th century were made of materials that were readily available "on the spot" -- e.g., field stones and wood;  and, most of those fences were used to mark property lines or to separate, for example, pastures from meadows on farms.  However, once barbed wire became reaily available, it was used instead of wooden rails so for such roles the use of wood was reduced;  that is to say, in the world of farm fences, wood was subsequently used almost exclusively for only the posts to which the wire of thosee fences was attached.   Subsequently, most wooden fences were erected as so-to-speak barriers -- barriers to provide their owners privacy around their residences -- and/or to serve as decorative landscape accents.   This change has resulted in three readily apparent overall changes for wooden fences:  1. Their locations -- formerly a large percentage of wooden  fences were on farmland whereas more recently a large percentage of them have been built within communities.  2. Their lengths -- most of the older farmland fences were rather long whereas most of the more recently built wooden fences are rather short.  [and]   3. Their diversity -- only a few general features characterized the older fences, whereas diversity of form seems to prevail for the more recently fashioned fences.
       The just alluded-to diversity exhibited by the more recently erected wooden fences -- i.e., the characteristics of their posts and rails, where present, and their arrangements -- provide examples of "architecture" that range from attractive to haphazard, depending upon viewers' opinions.  Although a few of these relations are rather common and widespread, others seem quite unique.  As a matter of fact, one wonders how some of the patterns of these barriers came into the minds the persons who designed or built them.  Indeed, it was this diversity that led to my undertaking this project, preparing this document, and including the word Ingenuity in the title.  In addition, as this project progressed, I became increasingly intrigued not only by this diversity, but also by the workmanship, the aesthetics, the geometry (especially the 2- or 3-dimensional symmetry or lack of such), and the harmony that exists between many fences and their environments.  All these considerations account for my decision to make this report a chiefly pictoral record of these fences

To summarize the content of this archive:   The wooden fences included in this archive consist largely of stumps, brush, logs, slabwood, rails, lumber (either rough-sawn or smoothed), or of some combination of these materials.  These fences exhibit several characteristics of wooden fences that occur throughout the region.  With a few exceptions, each of the included fences has at least some part of its construction or components that differs from similar parts of the other fences that are included;  many of these differences "speak to" the creativity of whomever was responsible for their design.  Special attention is directed to the joins of many of these fences.
        As indicated in the preface, most of the included fences are in mainland Mackinac County, Michigan;  each township of the mainland and St. Ignace City is represented by at least a few of the illustrated fences .  Of the others, four are from nearby parts of adjoining Chippewa County; one is from Isabella County and another is from Washtenaw County -- both in Michigan's lower peninsula;  two are from other states (North Carolina and Wisconsin).
       The short headings, which are above the photographs, may be meaningless for most viewers.  They came to mind when I was taking the photographs or later while I was sorting and selecting the ones included in this document.   Descriptive information about many of the fences is given in the captions below the photographs.

           A GLOSSARY of terms that are used in the captions, an EPILOGUE, and CITED REFERENCES are given near the end of this archive.  An APPENDIX with photographs of additional, noteworthy fences taken by others is the final section.  Along this line: If anyone has one or more photographs that (s)he thinks might be a good to include on this web site, please send it/them to me.   At least a general location where each of those fences is or was when photographed and additional information that you think might be worth including in a caption should be included;  also, be sure to send permission for including each photograph and the name you would like to have appear as holding the copyright for each photograph.

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A.  The log structures on the sides of this driveway are short fences.  This designation, admittedly a "stretch" for some people, is appropriate because, among other things, each of them is between the driveway and a rather deep sluiceway that is beside the shoulder of the main road.  Both of these fences consist of debarked logs.  Similarly debarked log posts extend vertically in grooves that are 3-6 inches from the ends of the horizontal logs;  each horizontal log is fastened to its supporting posts with zinc-plated phillips flanged mushroom head screws. This photograph has been foreshortened horizontally. 

            Back to one's ROOTS

1.  This fence consists largely of tree roots, some of which are attached to stumps, from a nearby woods.  In the past, roots and stumps like these were sometimes pulled up and dragged to places where they functioned as barriers between, for example, pastures and tilled land.  More recently, these fences, including this one, have been put in place as landscrape accents.  Most of these roots and even the stumps to which some of them are attached exhibit evidence of natural weathering and/or erosion.  Indeed, many of the stumps are barkless and have naturally smoothed, gray surfaces like those of the roots. Some people refer to these barriers as "stump fences" (e.g., Stillman, 1996).

         In Limb-o . . . ?

1A.  This decorative, as well as functional, "fence" was designed to resemble the kraals in Tanzania.  (Those kraals, according to their owners, keep the cattle in and the hyenas out.)  This fence consists of naturally fallen and debarked trees that were on the adjoining property.  They serve to keep people from driving too close to the solar panel behind them;  that panel collects both direct sunlight and reflected sunlight from water in a bay of Lake Michigan, the shore of which is across the the road.    



2. To call this a fence is also a "stretch."  Its components were, however, put together to serve as one -- i.e., as a barrier!  The fact that this fence consists largely of broken or cut branches ("brush") led to the heading.

         Sticks and Stones ...

2A. This rather large collecion of barkless, gray-weathered parts of trees, with glacio-flufial stones along its base, serves as a decorative barrier between the road and the owner's property.  It is west of Mt. Pleasant, Isabella County, Michigan. 

             A cozy-scape.

3. Hardly a fence, this combination of branches and "Y" crotches surrounds a grassy area beside the driveway of the house to the right in the main photograph. The fence appears to serve little if any purpose other than decorative, and it is that!  The rather long, largely debarked limbs that serve as rails were apparently selected because of their irregular shapes -- i.e., for their aesthetic appeal.  Most of the crotches, which range widely in size, support the ends of two of those rails;  notice, however, that the one in the "Y" in upper right photograph does so only indirectly -- i.e., it supports the branch on the right, which, in turn, supports the adjoining, down-the-line branch on the left.        

            Cedar Gothic.

3A. This decorative fence, created, arch by arch in 2014-15 and still in process, consists of debarked white cedar branches that are held in place in their indivicular arches by screws of divers sizes.  The bent units were rather easily shaped because they were bent while still rather flexible -- i.e., before they were dried.  Screws of diverse lengths were used to fasten the branches together;  the lengths were selected so none of their pointed ends protrude.  The two ends of each arch is fastened to metal posts that have been burried three or so feet into the ground in order to give the units stability;  in the future, these posts will be painted so they will blend with the wooden branches.  To date, it consists of a score-plus arches.

    Firewood (unsplit) along the way ----

4. Yet another "hardly a fence" -- i.e., more a barrier than a fence per se.  -- These unsplit, chordwood size logs extend along both sides of a rather long drive into two places on the north shore of Lake Huron.

     Sticks and Stumps mark the way.

4A. Also "hardly a fence"? -- This combination of rather long sticks lying atop short, fairly stout logs, extends for several tens of feet up the drive to the right of the metal gate, on the right.  A similar sticks-and-stumps combination extends along the other side of that drive.  These barriers appear to have the same function as many more conventional fences, and consequently warrant inclusion in this archive.  In fact, they even warrant recognition as fences -- i.e., with no "hardly" or any other disclaimer.
        As can be seen, although some of the logs and sticks retain their bark, many do not.

      VII over I.I
4B. The "title" arose because of my ???-brain waves.  There are seven units of these single logs, each mounted on two posts, one near each end. -- And, 7 over 1 & 1 -- i.e., "snake-eyes" and "a natural"(?) atop "snake-eyes" were terms, that just 'hit me" -- apparently recalled from my Air Corps days in the early 1940s -- when I saw this barrier and the words on the plaque on the monument behind the barrier.  Why, I do NOT know; BUT, they did! 
       The "fence," was installed well after the monument, which was apparently put in place during our country's bicentennial year.  Each of the vertical supports, which are parts of logs similar to those that constitute the horizontal "rails," appears to have been shaped individually -- likely with chain saw -- to fit the size of the portion of the horizontal log that is atop it. 

         Bemused, baffled & bewildered !

5. For the most part the construction of this fence appears to have involved merely the placing a couple logs atop "posts" etc. at a height similar to that of the top rails in many more conventional fences.  The lower photographs show the following characteristics:  Left, part of one of the horizontal logs atop a log, possibly a stump, "post."  Middle, the setup shown to its upper right in the main photograph:  the ends of two horizontal logs are atop a post, and the ends of each was cut so that it has a flat surface in contact with the flat top of the post.  Right, the other end of the smaller horizontal log that is shown in the middle close-up;  this end is held in place between two "posts," one of which is a tree.

              Alas, alack . . .


6. This seven-post, ~4-foot high fence is one of two similarly fashioned fences -- one on each side of a private drive in a sparsely populated area near the north shore of Lake Michigan.  This one includes three log "rails," each of which is nailed to either two or three posts.
      The relations between its rails and  posts are diverse. -- See the closeups, the letters of which correlate with the order of the posts, left to right in the main photograph:   A. this rail, with a broken-off left end,
has a sawn area atop the left post;  B. the ends of two rails abut atop this post --  the one on the left had its bottom cut so it has a flat surface in contact with the top of the post;  the end of the next rail, to the right, is rotted to the extent that its original character is not apparent;   C. this post fits in a groove that was cut into the second from the left rail;  this rail extends from post "B" to post "D" to the right;  D. two rails more-or-less abut atop this post -- the one on the left has a sawn surface atop the post;  the one on the right has a broken (naturally?) surface atop the post;  E & F. the bottom of the third rail, which is fairly long, is atop both of these posts;  the dark line that crosses this rail above "F," which, as shown, resembles abutting sawn ends, is a rusty nail;   G. the broken end of this third rail is nailed to the back side of this right end post.
      It is noteworthy that  1. distances between adjacent posts differ from span to span;  [and]  2. a single strand of rusted barbed wire is about ten inches below the log rails, and it appears that a second strand was once a few inches below that;  and, this premise appears to be supported by the presence of two strands of barbed wire on the similar, previously alluded-to, fence that is on the other side of the drive.
      The current, rather long-term owner, thinks that both of these fences date back at least to the 1950s. 

            Wow!  [History C]

7. This fence consists of diverse wooden posts, ~halved -- i.e., sawn lengthwise -- logs as "rails," and hex-web ("chicken") wire.  Some of the posts are debarked, possibly rounded, logs (see close-up);  others are such things segments of the just mentioned ~halved logs.  Most of the "rails" are nailed to the tops the posts.  The hex-web wire, which is nailed to the "rails," extends downward to the ground.  Butt-joins of the ends of most of the end-to-end "rails" are directly above the log posts.  One noteworthy exception is the join above the fourth post from the left on the main photograph, where a relatively short piece of a ~halved log like those of the "rails" supports and is between the butting ends of two "rails" and a post;  as might be expected, the flat sawn surface of the supporting ~halved log is up -- i.e., in contact with the downward facing flat surfaces of the two "rails"
        As the heading -- "History C" -- indicates, the parts of this fence and their apparent origins, as told to me by the builder, constitute a (hi)story that should be preserved.   Among other things, the lengthwise sawn logs were part of an old "log house" near Dafter, Michigan, which is some 40-50 miles to the northeast, in Chippewa County.   (See also the caption for Fig. 76.)

        Simplicity exemplified. 

8. Fences like this one seem likely to have been antecedents of the widely known split-rail fences (see, for example, Figs. 10 & 11) .   Not only are its rails not split, they were not debarked before being incorporated into this fence.  However, as can be seen in the close-up, natural forces appear to be revising that latter aspect.  In any case, this and the following six fences are widely referred to as zigzag fences, and in some areas as worm fences.


9.  This roadside fence as I first saw it while driving by appeared to be just another zigzag split rail fence;  a couple U-turns and second look showed that it is not;  its rails are debarked logs.  Every other span of this fence is three or four logs high. Each overlapping rail is nailed (spiked) to the rail beneath it at the join (see upper right close-up).  The logs, which are cedar, were once part of a former structure at the ball field across 3-Mile Rd. from the Hessel Golf Course.  The current resident, got them just before they were to be burned in a nearby quarry.   

          Abraham WHO?

10. This zigzag split rail fence and the boulders in the foreground constitute rather different landscape accents that surround a small grassy area, part of which is shown in the upper left photograph.  Some of the rails of this wooden fence differ markedly from those that characterize most split rail fences;  notice in particular the top rail on the left side of the  join shown in the lower right close-up.

Cheaper by the dozen?

11. This rail fence is west of Stalwart, Chippewa Co., Michigan.  It has the most rails heightwise of any rail fence that I have ever seen;  indeed, the ends of a baker's dozen of rails are included in the join shown in the photograph on the right.  The current owner built this fence about 25 years ago;  the rails came from an older fence that was about three miles to the west.  When first built at the present locality, this fence extended along three sides of an ~2½-acre field in which horses were kept.  Nails were used here an there to stabilize some of the rails.  Today, the fence is along only two sides of that field and is chiefly decorative.

ADDENDUM #1 is another rail fence -- one that is in McDowell, Highland County, Virginia.  If I had know about this fence when this web site was last revised  -- i.e., in early May 2016 -- I would have put it here, where it seems best to relate context-wise.  The current overall presentation for additions involves its being in the up-front ADDENDA.

                               Purloined  . . .

12. At least some rails of fences like this one are said to have come from one or more rail fences, which were "relatively numerous" (I have been told), that were built during the 1800s and early 1900s on St. Helena Island in Lake Michigan.  The island, once a hub where, for example, fish were preserved and ships stopped for supplies, became a ghost community in the early 1900s;  the lighthouse on the island has been unattended since it became automated in the early 1920s.   How and when the rails from the island's rail fences found their way to the mainland of Mackinac County is not recorded.  [The upper left corner of the photograph (~1¾ inches wide by ~1¼ inches high area) has been filled in with snow-covered growth from the right.]   The character of this fence, which is obscured by the snow in the photograph, is similar to that of the fence shown in Fig. 10.  Both this and the fence shown in the preceding entry (Fig. 11) serve to indicate the long-term durability of split logs.  

       Splints for broken limbs ...


13. This zigzag split rail fence apparently required, and consequently had, two vertical "posts" added at each of its joins. These posts, which appear to be shortened rails with their depth of burial, and consequently their lengths unknown, serve to stabilize the horizontal rails.

 Antecedent or alternative ?

14. Fences that consist of slotted posts and rails, the ends of which are within the slots, are rather common.  They are referred to as slotted post fences in this archive.  
         Attention was first drawn to this
slotted post fence because both its rails and posts are logs rather than the split portions of logs that characterize the more common fences of this genre.  Its posts and rails are debarked cedar.  The slots in the posts are a bit broader and shorted than those that seem "typical" for the more common version of this kind of fence (e.g., Fig. 16).   In any case, the ends of some of the rails of this fence had to be made smaller to fit into those slots.   Built in the early 1990s, this fence replaced a three-rail slotted post fence that had "rotted beyond repair."
       Several of the diverse relations between the rails and slots in the posts of slotted post fences are illustrated and described AND a list of the figures showing diverse fences of this genre are given as Fig. 16.

          Frugal SIMPLICITY

15. This slotted post fences is an example of those that are rather common within Mackinac County.  It consists of split log posts with "oval" slots and split rails. 
        Illustrated descriptions of the characteristics of and diverse relations between the slotted posts and rails of this kind of fence and a list of the fences of this general construction that are included in this archive are given the following entry (Fig. 16).  

              SLOTTED POST FENCES: 

TOP ROW - Slots, ends of rails, and rails that overlap within slots:

Left to right:  The slots of most posts of slotted post fences were made by drilling 2 to 2½-inch (diameter) holes with the center of the top one ~2½ inches above the center of the bottom one, and then removing the wood between those holes by chiselling or sawing (see "A" ).   The slots of the posts of a few of these fences have rectilinear shapes;  most of  these "squared" slots extend through the posts (see, for example, Fig. 23); others do not for whatever reason (see "B")
               Ends of the rails have diverse sizes and shapes.  Some of them fit as-is into the slots (see "C");  others need to have one or more of their dimensions made smaller.  Common examples of those that have been made smaller are shown in the photographs in  MIDDLE & BOTTOM ROWS.
Although the ends of most rails within given slots merely abut, the ends of a few constitute overlapping joins.  Four kinds of these joins are illustrated by the general sketches on the right;  a photograph of another example -- a modification of 1a --  is shown  as
"E" in the MIDDLE ROW.  The sketches, top to bottom:  1. nearly complementary surfaces, made with a hatchet or axe (1a) or sawn (1s);  2. horizontal surfaces with vertical end "steps" -- cross-section, side view;  3. vertical surfaces with  side "steps" -- cross-section, top (or bottom) view.  As can be seen, 2 and 3 are essentially the same kind of join;  they differ because of the orientation of the oblong slots in  the posts in these fences -- i.e., the horizontal surfaces of #2 joins have smaller areas than  the corresponding vertical surfaces of  #3 joins. 
--+&+ --

MIDDLE ROW -  Thickness of rail ends:

Left to right:  "D" - rail requiring no change - See "C" in Top Row;    "E" - wedge-shaped ends the "in" sides of  which are adjacent;  "F" - rail end from which a section of one side was removed;  "G" - rail from which a section was removed from the other side (superfluous, so photo not included);    "H" -  rail  with sections removed from both sides;   "I" - an "odd ball" end whereby an apparently too short rail was modified by adding a piece of wood  to make it long enough and also to have the correct shape and size;  the result has the general shape of  the aforementioned  "G"  rails.
--+&+ --

BOTTOM ROW - Vertical dimension of rail ends plus ... :

Left to right:  "J" - rail requiring no change - See "C" in Top Row;   "K" - end of rail with section removed from its bottom;   "L"  rail with s piece removed from its top (superfluous, so not included);   "M" - end of rail with section removed from its bottom AND another rather small section removed from its upper corner;   the latter, a change in the rail's horizontal dimension, was apparently needed so the end would go into the upper rounded-off corner of the slot;   "N" (a "puzzler") -- the constituent rail ends of this join are examples of  "L" and "K" (left to right, respectively);  the reason for the "puzzler" designation  -- IF both of the companion rails had had their vertical dimentions reduced by removal of sections from only their tops or their bottoms, or perhaps from both, the fence would have the appearance most builders of these fences seem to strive to give them! (See "M"  and  "An Aside" -- the first paragraph -- that is below the main caption.)
--+&+ --
16. Most of the slots in the posts of these fences are roughtly oval-shaped;  a few are rectilinear.  The ends of the rails that are in the slots have diverse shapes, most of which were fashioned while the fences were being put in place.  Examples of these shapes are included in the above photographs, all of which were taken of parts of only three different fences within Mackinac County, and sketches.  See also the fences included as Figs. 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, & 22 in this archive.
        [An aside: A common reaction when one sees the just-mentioned diverse characteristics of the ends of rails at the joins of these fences is that they seem to have "no rhyme or reason."  I disagree!  It seems much more likely that most, if not all, of these ends were made because those who were erecting the fences wanted to keep each rail as horizontal as possible and also at the same general level as its adjacent down-the-line rails.  In line with this hypothesis, once the slotted posts were made and set at appropriate heights and with the distances between them virtually equal to the lengths of the rails to be used, the sizes of the ends of the rails would have so-to-speak dictated the way(s) the workers could fashion the ends so they would go into the slots and give the rails the desired horizontality, etc.
                        Two additional things:  1. Although this is one of the kinds of wooden fences that strictly speaking needs no fasteners, nails and/or screws have been added at all or sporadic joins of some of them.   [and]   2. Most of the relatively old fences of this kind have split or partially squared logs as both posts and rails, whereas several of the more recently made fences of this  general construct have lumber -- e.g., 2x4s -- as their rails and/or 4x4s as their posts (see Fig. 19).]

        Meeting friends in arcades
17. This slotted post fence is along the eastern side of the Straits State Park in St. Ignace.  Unlike the other fences of this kind that are shown in this archive, the ends of the rails of this fence are roughly pointed -- apparently so-shaped by axes and/or hatchets (see close-ups on right).  The pairs of ends within most slots roughly overlap, and the overlap areas of some pairs extend beyond one or the other or both sides of the slots (see middle close-up).  Contrariwise, a few of the rail ends hardly reach the posts and appear to "hang by a thread" and even are tipped so that the surfaces meant to be their tops are nearly vertical (see the bottom close-up and the lower third-from-the-end rail in the main photograph).  The slots of the end posts of this fence, which are not shown, and of its companion fences on the park land go only part way into the posts -- i.e., three sides of these posts have their original split surfaces, and,  in a similar fashion, corner posts retain two of their original split surfaces. 
       Several of the diverse relations between the rails and slots in the posts of slotted post fences are illustrated and described AND a list of the figures showing fences of this genre are given in Fig. 16.

          One for the ..., Two ..., Three to get ready, ...

18. The fact that this slotted post fence has three rails between adjacent posts is the main way that it differs from similarly constructed, two-rail fences.  [Yes, that is snow and, to the left, ice with puddles atop it on Lake Michigan -- in mid-April, 2014!]
       Several of the diverse relations between the rails and slots in the posts of slotted post fences are illustrated and described AND a list of the figures showing fences of this genre are given in Fig. 17.

             A 2x4 "update"+

19. Yet another variation of slotted post fences:  The posts are roughly squared ~6x6s; the rails are 2x4s.  The slots, like those of most fences of this general kind, have rounded tops and bottoms so the rails-to-slot relationship is analogous to the putting of square pegs into round holes.  The addition of the wire fencing that extends from the lower rails to the ground is noteworthy. 
        Illustrated descriptions of the characteristics of and diverse relations between the slotted posts and rails of this kind of fence and a list of the fences of this general construction that are included in this archive are given the following entry (Fig. 16).

              For the Birds

20. This slotted post fence is along one boundary of a small camping and picnic area near the north shore of Lake Michigan.   It consists of  slotted, roughly squared, "split" posts and split rails. This fence was built to serve two main purposes and, in my opinion, it also serves an additional noteworthy role:  It is along a property line (1);  it is decorative but in harmony with its environmentand (2);  and each of its posts serves to hold a bird house (3).  Built by a friend who has gone on to become a television star, I wondered, as I took the above photographs, if her bird houses received their proper annual cleaning last fall so they will be ready for the tree swallows, bluebirds, house wrens or other birds that may come to use them next (2014) summer. 
        Illustrated descriptions of the characteristics of and diverse relations between the slotted posts and rails of this kind of fence and a list of the fences of this general construction that are included in this archive are given the following entry (Fig. 16).

SIMPLICITY fencified

21. This  slotted post fence is an example of putting round pegs in square holes -- i.e., the ends of log rails in rectilinear slots.
         Two features
of this fence are especially noteworthy:  1.
The ends of the two rails in each rectilinear slot not only overlap but extend well beyond the posts at most of the joins.  [and]  2. Each pair of rails in a given span is above or below the pairs in the two adjacent spans.  Two consequences of the latter relationships are:  All of the rails are virtually horizontal, and the two rails for each of the spans have virtually the same vertical distance between them.
       Several of the diverse relations between the rails and slots in the posts of slotted post fences are illustrated and described AND a list of the figures showing fences of this genre are given  in Fig. 16.

NOT in my backyard!! 

22. This one-span slotted post fence, which serves as a barrier near the end of a dead-end road, consists of split rails plus log posts with the relatively rare rectilinear slots.  Its position indicates that it was placed here to stop vehicles from using the area beyond it to turn around
Illustrated descriptions of the characteristics of and diverse relations between the slotted posts and rails of this kind of fence and a list of the fences of this general construction that are included in this archive are given as Fig. 16.


23. This rather downtrodden fence is along a property line in a lake-front community.  As I was looking at this fence, the alternative heading "porcupine," as in road-kill, also came to mind;   that designation was based on the environment, the vertical lopped-off saplings, and the profuse use of nails like those shown in the close-up.   (In any case, this "fence" was fun to find and photograph, and led to that alliteration quartet.)

                         Sylvanus' fence.

24. This woods-side, in places woods-surrounded, fence consists of horizontal rails that have butt end joins with their posts.  Nails (spikes) and screws, such as those shown in the lower close-up photographs, keep the rails in place on the posts.

                           Sticks and  . . . 

25. The makeup of this fence raises more questions than answers.  Nevertheless, it has the general characteristics of several wooden fences that consist of log rails and posts.  The fact that its rails are sticks (see Glossary), rather than logs, appears to account for the fact that they are warped -- i.e., that they sag towards the middle of their lengths.

                            Block and tackle 


26. This roadside fence also consists of rails, which are sticks, and log posts.  The bottom sticks of the overlapping rails are atop short 2x4s that are nailed to the posts (upper right close-up).  The rails are held in place -- i.e., more-or-less together and tight to the posts -- by wire that is wound around them and their adjacent posts (lower right close-up).

                 Four by Fore

27. This and similar double-post fences occur along the edge of and here and there on the grounds of the Hessel Golf course.  The identities and diversity of the wood of the rails and posts indicate a local provenance.  The rather broad range in the diameters of the constituent parts and the fact that some of the logs have been debarked whereas others have not substantiate this conjecture. Several of the rails extend well beyond the posts at both end of their spans;  it appears that they are just as cut -- i.e., they are the useable lengths of the trees that were felled.  Most of the cross pieces, which are nailed to the paired posts, are slabwood;  some of that slabwood has been halved or quartered

I like it.  

28. This zigzag fence, which serves as a decorative boundary, has lap joins.  Its cedar log rails are nailed (spiked) to debarked cedar log posts.

         Sorry about that --

29. This fence consists of debarked log rails and posts.  A pair of rails extends between each two adjacent posts.  Each pair of rails is above or below the other pair that is nailed to the same post.  Some of the rails were split by the nails that were used to fasten them to the posts;  see the close-up of a join on the right where the two bottom rails were so-split.  A few of the rails of this fence have diameters that indicate they should be called sticks rather than logs (see Glossary).

It's COLD out here! ! !

30. The fact that this fence has three horizontal rails between adjacent posts is one way that it differs from the similarly designed two-rail fences that are relatively common within the county.  It also differs, not only from those fences but also from nearly all other wooden fences within the area, because of its apparent function -- i.e., it seems likely to have once functioned as a farm fence between areas of different crops and/or fields of with specific uses.  Perhaps this use was the basis of the builder's including the third rail. 
        As noted in the introduction, it seems unlikely that many wooden fences were built to so-function within Mackinac County, since at least the mid 1880s.  So, one wonders:  Does this fence date back to the 19th century?  If not, why were wooden rails used rather than a barbed wire?  What is its history?   To date, I have been unable to find any answers.
    !!! Since writing the above, I finally found a person who had answers and they indicate that my surmise was incorrect. 
       The fence was apparenly built about 50± a few years ago for use as a corral where riding horses were exercized, ridden, ...
The original caption is retained to serve as a caution for anyone who might make another study of this general nature. 

         The lower composite shows some features that, in my opinion, provide some impressive patterns:  The gray color and topography of the grain of the wood that was caused by its drying out and/or erosion --  note especially the knot (lower right);  the lichens;  the rusted nail heads, some of which are no longer snug against the wood they once held in place;  and the snow -- it was a bitter cold, blustery day!! --  the day before 11/12/'13.

             a C.C.C. project
in my DAY.

31. Wooden fences that feature lap joins are beside the road that extends from the toll booth area of the "Big Mac" Bridge to Bridgeview Park, which is west of the bridge, and also around some of the landside borders of that park.  The rails of these fences where they are seen by most visitors appear to have been well-chosen for show (e.g., upper left photograph);  contrariwise, the rails where the fences are seldom seen appear to indicate a general lack of selectivity (e.g., upper right photo).  In addition, the "well-chosen" rails are fastened to their posts by countersunk hex-head lag screws (see lower left and center close-ups) whereas the other rails are fastened to their posts by hex-headed screws that are backed by washers (see lower right close-up).  Notice, however, that nails were also used -- one is visible in the lower rail of the lower left close-up and three can be seen in the lower right close-up -- (overkill??!).  The fact that the rails of some sections of this fence were modified -- e.g., had sections removed from them -- so they overlap each other and better fit in places where the elevations of adjacent posts differ, is exemplified by a few of the rails shown in the upper left photograph. 

There are two sides ... -- even to fences


32. The "show" side of this fence, which faces the residence, is quite different from the side that faces the street:  The rails on the resident's side  (see close-up on the left) present an overall appearance that roughly approximates what would be seen if each level of rails was a single, continuous long log (cf. Fig. 42); contrariwise, the rails as seen from the street side (see close-up on the right) clearly exhibit the sawn ends of the individual rails -- indeed, sawn ends with rather acute angled ends. 
     Close examination shows that each rail was nailed and/or screwed (see bottom center close-up) to a post, with its sawn side abutting a post on the residence side.  A geometric description of these rails would have their lengthwise cross-sections essentially isosceles trapezoids with their parallel bases having markedly different lengths -- i.e., each of the legs of the trapezoid would be at a rather sharply acute angle (<25°) to one of the bases and have a complementary obtuse angle (>65°)
to its other base.

        Symmetry, symmetry, symmetry . . .

33 This fence, now lacking some of its original rails and otherwise deteriorating, has an uncommon, and to those of us who have ever been fascinated with symmetry an extremely interesting arrangement of its rails to its posts:   That arrangement is evident in the close-up on the right. To elaborate, as viewed from the drive side (both photos), the top rails extend to the left from the front of each post to the back of the next post, and the bottom rails extend to the left from the back of each post to the front of the next post.  This, of course, means that the relationships between the rails and each of the posts are such that they present the same overall appearance when any post and its attached posts is viewed from either the drive side or the yard side (AND also if viewed from either side while standing on one's head!!).  Both the rails and the posts are logs;   the rails are nailed (spiked) to the posts;  rather remarkably, only one spike was used to hold each end of each rail to each of the posts at its ends (see lower close-up).

                    Was there a still -- i.e., a "Blue Ridge still" --

34. This fence is a brain-teaser -- primarily because neither the vertically zigzag pattern of the left part of the fence nor the horizontally zigzag relations of its right side spans seems to be required by the topography or anything else.

   Are calves claustrophobic?

35. This structure, the framework of which is a wooden fence, was built in 2012 to facilitate the vaccination of young steers.  Most of the wooden fence part of the structure has wire-fencing attached to its inner side (left close-up).  Another, rather short, section is lined with what, from a distance, resembles the corrugated guard rails that are here and there along some highways. 
         Function:  Beef cattle, usually calves, are "driven" into the wider end.  By the time they reach the narrower end (far end in the middle photograph), only one or a couple of them are there, are manageable, and are vaccinated.

                 Barrel for fun . . .

36. The structure of this fence is similar to, but less stable than, that of the fence shown as the following entry,  Fig. 37 (q.v.).  This is so because the horizontal depth of the grooves in the posts of this fence are less deep, and the ends of most of the logs used as rails were not modified so they would have flat surface contacts with the bottoms of the grooves.  Two manifestation of this lesser stability are apparent in the upper left photograph -- see the lower logs that are near each end of the section that is shown. 

Washington post (i.e., Sousa's march)

37. The log rails of this fence are seated in squared openings -- i.e., grooves -- that were cut into the posts. The ends of the horizontal logs have been fashioned into tongues the tops and/or bottoms of which fit into and abut the flat surfaces of the grooves.  Spikes were driven through the posts into the ends of the logs to hold them in place.  This was possible because each of the rails on one side of each post is at a level different from each of the rails on the opposite side of the post.

"V"s and "Z"s  &  "W"s
38. This fence consists of log rails and posts. The top and bottom rails between each pair of posts are roughly horizontal;  a third, longer rail extends, for example, downward from the bottom of a top horizontal rail to the top of the lower horizontal of the same span (or vice versa, depending upon which post  is considered to be the "starting point"). This general arrangment results in a pattern whereby the non-horizontal rails extend downward or upward from individual posts so that every other post appears to intersect either an obtuse V or an obtuse inverted V, the legs of which are two of the "third" rails.  
       The sawn ends of the horizontal rails are in grooves in the posts.  The sawn ends of the longer, non-horizontal logs abut the
debarked, natural surfaces of the posts;  at least some of these ends appear to have been sawn at an angle so they would be roughly parallel to the posts.  Both the horizontal rails and the longer slanted logs are nailed to the posts.  At most joins, nails holding one of the horizontal rails were driven through the partition between the grooves directly into the end of that rail, and  the other three rails were toe-nailed to the post.

  Two barking dogs had my attention, albeit divided ... !

39.  This wooden fence consists of sticks -- i.e., short diameter "logs" (see Glossary) as rails and rather short-diameter log posts.  The end of each of the rails was cut so it was tongue-shaped and thus would fit into one of the narrow grooves cut into a post (see upper left close-up).  Nails were used to keep the rails in place (see lower left close-up).  A few of the posts of this fence have two extra  -- i.e., currently unused -- grooves;   these grooves are so-to-speak paired and at a level between the grooves that hold the ends of rails (see photo on right);  the original role, if any, of these grooves is not readily apparent.

                   THAT-a WAY

40. This fence, which is along the roadside of a lot of a summer home, is characterized by a rather easily fashioned, though uncommon, butt-like join.  Even though the rails are fastened with nails to the posts, joins like this one would appear to have less than a long-term life expectancy.  This is so because only minor rotting of the rather thin ends of the rather short diameter log rails would appear likely to occur, and such rotting would lead to the rails' falling down, away from the grooves in the posts.  In addition, each post, other than those on the ends, is weakened in two places:  This results from the fact that the rails of adjacent spans are at the same height, so paired grooves occur at two levels of each post;  consequently, the posts at these levels have had their thicknesses (and strength) markedly reduced.

             Over-worked posts?

41.This roadside wooden fence has a relatively uncommon relationship between its log rails and the grooved posts to which the rails are nailed.  Two rails abut  in each of the grooves  (see upper middle close-up). It has been suggessted that this relationship results in the grooves in these posts being "over-worked" -- apparently because each groove supports the ends of two rails.  I suspect that at least some of those people said this with "tongue in the cheek";  in any case, it led to my heading, which is given with "tongue in cheek."  The ends of the rails have also been cut;  short sections of their back sides -- i.e., their sides shown on the photograph on the right -- were cut away so they have flat sides in contact with the flat side of the grooves in the posts (see lower middle close-up).  The rails are nailed to the posts. 
This is an especially fine example of a log fence whereby the natural debarked surfaces of its constituent logs -- and virtually nothing else!! -- are exhibited on both sides of the fence  The current owner believes that the fence was made by Mennonites who lived in the house on the adjoining property during the 1980s and '90s.  The design and workmanship involved in erecting this fine endproduct seem to support his belief.

             I wish the grass had been cut!

42. This fence consists of cedar log rails and posts, some of which retain their bark;  the owner/builder indicated that none of the logs was debarked before being included in the fence.  All rail-to-post junctions are round mortise and tenon joins:  The ends of the rails were made smaller -- i.e., to form the tenons -- by using a hole saw and a chisel;   the 2¾-inch diameter holes in the posts -- i.e., the mortices -- were made with a drill .

            "The only thing that is constant is change."
[ πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει  //  Everything changes and nothing stands still.  (Herakleitos -- circa 534-475 B.C.) ]

43. The rails of this fence were originally ~horizontal, and the joins with the posts were mortised.  Apparently in response to the failure of some of those joins, the current owner changed the character of the fence so, as can be seen, only the top mortise and tenon setup is now used;  that is to say, one end of each rail extends from the position of one of the originally top joins of a post downward to the ground at its other end.  Consequently, the top mortise joins of each of the posts, save the end ones, continue to serve, albeit loosely, whereas the originally lower joins are now only holes in the posts.  Both of the rails' ends, which were shaped to act as tenons, persist though most are at least somewhat deteriorated.  Indeed, it seems likely that these ends, especially those that are in contact with the ground, will continue to deteriorate, very likely even more rapidly than in the past.  Nonetheless, this new configuration (recumbent X's), which I see as rather attractive, serves the purpose -- i.e., chiefly decorative -- of the original fence, and may last for at least a few years to come.

      Open market fencing.


44. The joins of this kind of fence are mortised, albeit in a way that gives a false impression, at many joins (see right side close-up);  actually, only round ends of rather small diameter fit into short diameter round holes in the posts (see lower middle close-up).  One has to wonder how well these small ends will withstand, for example, any fairly heavy weight -- e.g., even the weight of a person -- and also how long they will avoid rotting or otherwise deteriorating (cf. Fig. 43). Both of these aspects seem well worth consideration even though the wood of some of these fences has been treated and/or painted (see lower middle close-up).
        The heading is based on the fact that the constituent parts of fences of this kind are available commercially;  some of them are produced in Mackinac County.  Indeed, similarly designed wooden barriers have found rather widespread use for outdoor and indoor structures other than fences -- e.g., railings for porches and stairways and even for banisters beside second story areas that are open to lower level(s). 

Like a GLOVE !


45. This woods-side fence consists of log rails and posts.  At first look, the rails appear to have simple butt end joins with the posts, and the rails can be seen to be nailed to the posts. However, closer examination of the joins, especially those where the ends of the horizontal logs have deteriorated, show that an uncommon mortise and tenon relationship exists;  the ends of the rails were shaped to act as tenons, and holes were made in the posts to serve as mortises.  To elaborate:  The ends of these rails have shapes, which when viewed from above or below, have profiles that roughly resemble anchors (see right side close-up) -- i.e., their ends were made concave so they at least roughly fit the convex sides of the posts, but a tongue was left to extend outward from the central part of the concavity.  The protruding tongues (tenons) that were seen are about 1½ inches wide (current horizontal dimension) and about three inches high (current vertical dimension) -- i.e., up to ~one inch was removed from the current top and bottom of the tongues so their heights were less than the diameter of the end of its original log;  consequently, they could not be seen in the finished fence.  By the by, the length of these tongues was not determined (such determination would have involved destructive processes.)  
      The kind of labor and the time that would have been required to make these joins seems incredible!   But, as the heading indicates, when put in place, the rail-to-post relations attained must have been as "tight as a glove."   

ADDENDUMAs a result of the extra "hard" winter of 2013-2014, a couple of the rails of this fence were separated from their posts and their ends could be seen.  As is evident in the above photographs, the originally described "concave" aspect of their ends is incorrect -- at least for these two ends.  Instead, those surfaces were sawn, virtually flat surfaces.  In addition, it can be seen that, at least the bottom of the rail (left) was less carefully cut than the tops that are viewed by most "passer-bys." 

  a Butt-Lap+ Hybrid

46. This fence is a hybrid+:  Each of the top horizontal logs has an almost -- perhaps originally true -- butt join relationship to its adjacent, down-the-line, horizontal log, and the end of each of these rails was also cut so it has a lap join with the tops of the posts at its two ends (see close-up). 
     The relations between the lower level log rails and the posts are, however, quite different:  The ends of these rails are in slots in the posts, and the sizes and/or shapes of a few of these rails was such that they had to be reduced;  this was done with rather long slashes -- note especially the ends of the lower rails in left post in the larger view and the end of the lower rail to the right of the post shown in the close-up.

                Me, Me, ME . . .   

47. This fence and its two associated initialed markers, only one of which is shown, constitute another hybrid+ so far as its joins.  Several features that characterize diverse joins of wooden fences are included:  The joins where the stick-size rails fit into the posts and those where the ends of the lower horizontal piece of the marker fit into its posts are mortised.  The horizontal piece at the top of the marker rests atop the vertical pieces with butt joins, and is held to each post by a hex-headed screw and washer.   The vertical legs of each "M" have butt joins at both their tops and bottoms, and each end is are held to the horizontal members by a screw;  in addition, their bottoms are seated in shallow grooves.  The V-shaped parts of each "M" involves three ~45º miter joins:  One where the two parts of the "v" meet, and two where the ends of the "v" abut the vertical legs of the M;  each of these joins is fastened with a screw.

    I haven't the slightest ...

48. To call this group of 30 logs and sticks a fence is a "stretch."  Up to nine feet long, each of them is nailed or screwed to a nearly horizontal piece (see close-up) that is about 5½ feet above the ground on the side opposite the one shown in the main photograph. [The lower left corner of the close-up has been blanked out.]
            To date, I have been unable to determine whether the constituent logs and sticks were originally placed nearly vertical or had the general orientation ("lean") that they now have, AND I have found no one who knows the intended function for this "fence."

                  Red herring ? ? 

49. This red fence consists of 80-inch wide panels of ~6-foot long uprights that are anchored to pairs of  >6½-foot long log posts at each end.  Each panel consists of uprights that appear to be debarked 1½ to 3-inch sticks.  Some of the sticks appear to have had their original shapes somewhat modified;  all of their tops have been cut so they are pointed; .  Indeed, they would be called pickets by many people.  The posts, most of which are about 5 inches in diameter, have also had their top ends chopped or sawn so that they, too, are pointed.  The fact that little to no space exists between most of the adjacent uprights makes this a good privacy fence.  According to the current owner, the pickets and posts are cedar, the panels were "pre-built," and the fence was put up in the 1970's.   (cf. Fig. 52.)

[Privacy fences may be the most common kind of fence in today's world;  this certainly seems to be true for Mackinac County where literally hundreds of them are present.  One could easily fill a large album with diverse examples of only these fences;   just a few are included in this archive.] 

                   Slabs for Labs!

50. The heightwise shorter part of the fence in the main photograph, part of which is shown in the close-up, is featured here.  It consists largely of 6-foot-long slabs set side by side vertically.  It is part of a privacy enclosure, the rest of which is surrounded by vertical boards, part of which can be seen on the right of the featured part of the fence on the main photograph, and wire mesh fencing between metal poles, none of which is shown. The lady whose residence is in the background said that she got the slabs from a nearby sawmill for about fifty dollars.  The boards atop the slabs give it an even appearance and help preserve the bark on the slabs.

       An answer to the old "wavy hair or wavy head" conundrum?   

51. This privacy fence consists of slabs the tops of which were sawn, I suspect with a chain saw, to give the top its overall appearance, which resembles that of fences widely referred to as scalloped topped.  The diversity of the constituent slabs -- their shapes, widths, amount of bark on them, ... -- is especially noteworthy. 

       What happened to the cores? //  "Stockade"

52. This fence, called a "palisades" by its owner, was built in 2014.  It serves as the frontage of a Native American enterprize.  The uprights, are eseentially slabs sawn from relatively small diameter cedar logs.  The pointed tops were so-shaped with chain saws. These uprights are nailed at two levels to either a 2x4 or 2x6.  (cf. Fig. 49)


53. This fence consists of two rather short lengths, one on either side of the owner's driveway near its junction with the road.  Both sections feature rails that are abutting pairs of slabs that are nailed to square posts.  Some of the slabs, which are not shown here, are atypically thick.

                   A slab hodgepodge
54. This fence consists of slabs, as rails, that are nailed to log posts.  Each span is two rails high, and the rails of adjacent spans are on opposite sides of the posts, with their flat, sawn surfaces in contact with the posts.  The slabs are of diverse widths, and some of the individual slabs have sections that are twice as wide as other sections.  Some of the slabs and posts are debarked in toto, others only in part;  whether this happened before or after the slabs were incorporated in the fence is unknown.

                    Where be t
he horse(s)?

55. Areas such as the one surrounded by this wooden fence are widely known as paddocks.  This one is a few miles east of Mackinac County, near Stalwart, in Chippewa County.  The fence of this paddock consists of debarked slab rails of diverse widths, three per span, the sawn sides of which are nailed to the outer sides of log posts. 
     Soon after I asked myself "Where are the horse(s)?", a horse came from off the area shown in the main photograph to near the wire fence that extends along the shoulder of the highway that is shown in the foreground.  It seemed to spot me and acted rather playful.  After I finished taking photographs of the paddock, the horse lay down and rolled -- still outside the paddock -- and was there when I left.  It apparently realized that I had no sugar cubes.

         Someone had lots of time, perseverance and energy! 

56. This fence consists of slabs, each of which is nailed to two horizontal ~2x6s.  The overall arrangement of the slabs is that of a typical "plank fence" -- i.e., the slabs are nailed to both sides of horizontal boards, with each slab that is on one side of the horizontal 2x6s positioned opposite a space between two slabs on the other side of the 2x6s;  this arrangement is quite apparent in the close-up (see also Fig. 87).  Two particularly noteworthy features of this fence are:  1. The top of each slab has been cut so it is pointed. [and]  2. The 2x6s are nailed to relatively large posts that are here and there along the fence.  The first part of the heading relates to my experiences while helping to build a simple plank fence;  the second part, an alternative that seems noteworthy, was suggested by a reader of an early draft of this document. 

                  Low-level, waney-skein privacy

57. This fence in Trout Lake, Chippewa Co., Michigan, consists of rough-sawn, waney-edged boards that are nailed to 4x4" posts.   The waney edging has been sawn off the top side of the top boards thus giving it an even surface.  Each board, save the bottom ones, is lapped over the board directly below it -- i.e., like shingles on a roof.  The ends of the boards that meet at the joins roughly abut each other (see close-up).


58. This fence near Ripon, Wisconsin, consists of overlapping horizontal timbers.  It has no posts, as such.  A log, its length and depth of burial not known, serves as a base at each "join" -- i.e., at each place where the horizontal timbers overlap.  Metal poles and wire are beside the overlap areas, apparently to stabilize the joins, and also at the ends of the fence.  The joins of this fence are atypical lap joins.  The relationships at the end of the fence -- see close-up -- show:  The character of the exposed part of this and the other base logs, some of which may be better characterized as timbers;  the ends of two of the horizontal timbers;  and the role of the above alluded-to metal poles and the attached wire.

                  Short and Stout

59. This one or two -- it depends upon one's viewpoint -- timber high fence is along the frontage and has extensions within a 1.8-acre plot where various enterprises (e.g., cabins, small motel, and a restaurant) were located during the last half of the 1900s.  Since then, the lot has, for all practical purposes, been vacant.
      This fence consists of overlapping timbers, every other one of which is resting "on the ground" OR bridging the gap between two of the just-mentioned ground-level timbers.   Actually, the "on the ground" description does not apply to several of the lower level timbers:  For one thing,
the ground is uneven so virtually none of the lower level timbers rests directly on the ground throughout its length;  in addition, several of the lower level timbers are atop old automobile wheel frames that are in contact or partially to nearly completely buried in the ground (see lower left close-up).  Long bolts that go through the logs and the underlying wheel frames, where they are present, extend several inches into the ground.  The timbers, with a few exceptions, are ~8x9s.  Most of those of the lower level are ~12 feet long;  most of those that bridge the gaps are ~5 feet long.  A few of the timbers include S-Irons -- i.e., S-shaped bands -- that were pounded into their ends to keep them from splitting (see lower right close-up). The top timbers are fastened to the lower ones by large nails (see lower left close-up)  and/or  bolts (see lower middle close-up).   A few of the timbers appear to have been painted or creosote-treated (see upper timber in lower middle close-up);  it seems that these timbers were put in place before much, if any, attention was given the possibility that the breaking down of such coatings may lead to the introduction of toxic materials into the soil.

    Appearance OR function?

60. This fence consists of horizontal boards as rails, log posts, and short vertical boards that are on the opposite sides of the rails as the posts.  The rails are ¾-inch rough sawn boards that range from ~4 to ~6 inches wide;  the posts have angled tops (See the below aside comment.);  the short boards are about 20-inches long, rough sawn boards like those of the rails.  The open spaces between the short vertical boards and the posts, which are bordered on their tops and bottoms by rails, seem likely to lead to all sorts of problems, including those that may shorten the life of the fence.  The heading relates to lack of information about these apparently superfluous short boards. 

      [An aside: Angled versus flat -- i.e., nearly horizontal -- tops of fence posts has led to several considerations and even arguments.  The main considerations relate to how much water penetrates the posts;  this is so because that water is known to have led to posts' rotting and consequently to how long they last.  Those who favor angled tops contend that rain that falls on them tends to run down and off the posts whereas rain that falls on flat tops stays there longer and penetrate the posts' endgrain, . . . ;  some of these advocates also direct attention to the fact that snow may sit atop flat surfaces, melt, etc. whereas it is much less likely to remain on angled tops.  Those who favor horizontal tops contend that angled tops expose much more endgrain than flat tops and consequently more rain water will penetrate the angle-topped posts, . . .  Additional arguments relate to such things as time required to make the posts, their typical longevity, whichever top they have,  and even the appearance of the posts. 
                       I have often wondered what considerations have been made so far as the bottoms of the fence posts.  The way at least most of them  are buried would seem to lead to more water penetration and consequently to more rotting from the bottom up than from the top down ! ?  --   Indeed, I know that at least some of the farmers where I grew up painted the to-be buried parts of their fence posts with creosote to "waterproof" and thus preserve them.  Within the area considered in this document, the farmers may have also treated their fence posts, at least the bottom parts that do not show;  to date, 
I have not found out if this was or was not done.]

                  Ratios sometimes bother me:  2 x 4s : 4 to 1 (to 3?)

61. This fence consists of relatively small diameter, debarked log posts with two 2x4 rails per span.  The 2x4s have butt-end joins where they are nailed to the posts.

           Godiva's steed

62.  This decorative fence consists of 2x4" rails that are fastened with screws to debarked log posts.  Every other horizontal pair of the 2x4 rails overlie or underlie the adjoining pair of rails -- i.e., the other pair of rails that are attached to the same post and serve an adjcent span.  The fact that this fence is painted white led to the heading.
AWESOME !  (That term, which some of my young friends often use,
                                                            expresses my thoughts about this fence, especially as I first saw it.

63.  Seeing this fence in its fall setting was an aesthetic and thought-provoking experience. 
        So far as the parts and structure of the fence:  The cross-sections of the lumber of this fence are overall rectangular, with their longer flat side ~3 1/8 inches wide;  each of the rails, however, has one roughly convex side that appears possibly to represent a debarked, original surface of the log or stick from which the pieces were made.  The two horizontal rails are toe-screwed to the two short vertical posts
;  the other joins of the fence are non-45º miter joins that are held together with screws.

                Quick sand

64. The fence between the highway and residential lot (left and center photographs) is decorative.  Its counterpart (close-up on right), which is beside the outbuilding on the right in the main view, includes wire mesh fencing that serves to keep the owner's dogs on the property.  The wooden rails and the posts of both of these fences are ~2x2-inch treated lumber;  the posts of the decorative fence have two of their opposite sides convex.  The rails have simple butt joins with the posts.  Each of the pair of continuous rails was attached to their median post in a different way:  One of the rails was nailed to the post by driving a nail at a right angle through the post directly into the rails' end;  the second rail was then toe-nailed into the post. 
    All but two of the upper and lower rails of the decorative fence appear to be at the same height;  The exceptions are the rails on either side of the third post to the right of the driveway, as shown in the main photograph.  The owner indicated that this post has continually sunk, apparently for no known reason that he has been able to determine, despite various attempts he has made to stabilize it.

      Before the wolves ...

65. This rather small, fenced-in area was formerly used as a corral.  The section of the fence shown in the right close-up is the end of the gate that opened outward into what was formerly a winter pasture;  its lifting/open-and-shutting mechanism is the 2x4 that extends slightly upward to the left of the post in the close-up
     The overall area, including the corral, is no longer used as a pasture.  The owner told me that this is so because of its location -- i.e., that the area is adjacent to a woods from which wolves have come and attacked and killed cattle, particularly calves. 

            Frustration -- mine ! ! !

66. The frontage fence shown in the main photograph consists largely of 2x4 rails and 2x6 posts;  the tops of the posts were sawn so they slant downward toward the road.  Each rail, be it atop or beneath its next-in-line rails, extends well beyond the posts near the ends of its span. A similar fence extends along the southern part of this lot;  it differs from the fence shown in that most of its rails are 2x6s and most of its posts are 4x6s;  the tops of its posts slant downward toward the south -- i.e., away from the main lot like those of the frontage fence.  The rails of these fences are nailed to the posts on their lot sides. 
    The lengths and general characteristics of the rails resemble those of reclaimed barnwood;  one wonders if one or more former barns, of which there are several within the area, was their source. 
Lumber similar to that of the rails is partly buried lengthwise in the ground outside of a few of the posts of the frontage fence (see close-up);  its function is not readily apparent. [The lack of any explanatory statements about the just-mentioned source and function reflects my inablity to get information from the residents.] 

                         !oh drawtseW  (< You need to be on the other side of the fence to read this directly.)

67. This board fence, which is between the street and a lake, has its stepwise form because the land at the gate (left on the middle photo) is up a small grade from the other end (right on the middle photo).  Some people refer to fences like this one as stepped fences.   The middle photograph is foreshortened horizontally to show four levels of this fence.  The close-ups are:  left, a lake-side join;  right, a street-side join.  Each horizontal board is nailed to the square posts at its ends (see close-up on the right).

                         Why? -- Nei!

68. This fence, several feet from, but parallel to, a street, consists of 1+x6-inch painted boards (i.e., rails) that are nailed to square posts.  The rails abut one another with non45º miter joins. The arrangement of slanting rails -- i.e., which of the left- and right-extending rail is on the road versus the residence side -- is inconsistent.  Metal hooks are attached near the tops of several of the posts on the road side -- perhaps to hold decorations during certain seasons.

                           "Splash - - - "

69.  This fence, only three units long, extends along the side of a driveway.  It is attached to a rather high privacy fence, off-view to the left.  The posts of this fence are 4x4s, the top and bottom horizontal pieces and the radiating pieces are 2x4s.  The upper ends of the radiating 2x4s are nailed to the frame (i.e., either the posts or upper horizontal 2x4s), and each 2x4 of the bottom clusters is toe-nailed to both the lower horizontal piece and an additional 4x... support.  According to the owner, this fence was built "several years ago ... by a [native American]" to keep people from encroaching on the property to the right.

      Blanketed recumbent Xs

70. This board fence is an example of fences widely referred to as crossbuck fences.  Unlike many others with the same general form, it has a rather interesting construction that was apparently used either to emphasize its posts or to make its rails appear to penetrate the posts (OR perhaps both?).  Both the horizontal and angled boards (rails) have butt end joins with the posts  The rails, however, are not nailed to the main posts;  instead, they are nailed to relatively thin vertical boards that, in turn, are nailed to the posts. The lumber is rough-sawn.  One wonders if the now faded paint was once the widely used barn-red paint.  (Since the preceding caption was prepared, all but a couple short spans, which are not in as good shape as those shown, have been removed.)

                Greener than grass

71. This one-rail per span decorative fence has 2x4 rails the butt ends of which are fastened by screws to 4x4 posts, each of which is topped with a knob.

          Functional substitute -- I guess ...

72. This fence was built in 2012 to replace boulders, a few of which provided especially good examples of geological (petrogenic) phenomena -- a replacement, that disturbed me, a petrologist.  The fence has 2x6" rails with posts that consist of ¾-inch lumber atop treated 4x4 cores.  Part of one of the cores, which are anchored in the ground and extend upward to the top ornamentaion, can be seen at the bottom of the close-up.  At least some of the ¾-inch boards are rough sawn.  The rails and ¾-inch boards of the "posts" are stained.

    Three "Why?"

73. This wooden with added wire-mesh fencing surrounds most the lot of a seasonal dwelling north of Lake Huron. The rails are 2x6s with rounded the edges.  Most of the posts are 2x2s;  a few, however, consist of paired 2x4s;  [and]  the two "end posts," one on either side of the gateway, are 6x6s.  Part of the main fence has two planks along its top (see main photograph);  other parts have only one plank (rail) near its the top (see the close-up on the right).  Most of the rails are fastened to the two posts at the ends of their span with two nails, apparently emplaced with a pneumatic nailer, and two screws.  The wire-mesh fence is the rather common welded type with rectilinear open spaces;  it extends from the ground up to just above the level of the middle rails;  it is fastened to the insides of the rails and posts.  A similar, but higher, wire fence is stretched across the gate break intermittently. 
                [ The Three "Why?"s:  1.Why does part of this fence have two juxtaposed top "rails" whereas other parts have only one?  2. Why does the added wire-mesh fencing extend up to a level slightly above the top of the middle rail?  [and]  3.Why were boards with rounded edges chosen to be used as rails? ]


74. This structure is perhaps more a barrier than a fence.  Pedagogical nomenclature considerations aside, it -- like a few other structures (e.g., the fence shown in Fig. 23) -- seems to warrant a place in this archive.
          Fourteen of these three-piece units are at a "Public Access" site on the beach at Hessel.  Each span, save one, consists of the following three main parts:  a 7-foot long  2x8 plank (rail) the ends of which are rounded; [and]  two 8x8 posts, the tops of which were sawn at an angle  -- i.e., ~30° to the horizontal and now sloping away from the attached "rails," toward the lake (see lower right photograph).  Two hex-headed screws hold each of the rails to each of its two posts. 
                [ While reading the admonitions posted for users of the area and the contiguous lake, I wondered if the presence of the 13 essentially identical units had ever kept anyone from using the area or nearby lake. -- No, I am not superstitious -- at least not often -- just wondering! ].

                    Why? ? ?

75. The top rails of this fence are only ~27 inches above the ground.  At first look, these rails and, in fact, all of the wooden parts of this fence appear to be debarked or debarked and rounded logs.  Actually, all of them have two of their opposite surfaces convex and the other two flat.  The two  flat surfaces are ~4½ inches wide, and the distance between them is ~3¼ inches.  The convex sides face the road and the residence The ends of the rails are in grooves in the posts;  the tops and bottoms of the short vertical pieces between the rails are in shallow grooves in the horizontal logs.  There are MANY questions in my mind about this fence AND others within the county that are nearly identical to it!!  -- These are the basis of the heading AND better jugdement, I believe, for not adding a long list those questions here.

        Senate, President, and Rep(robates) -- Ever "On the fence"! [History C, c't'd]

76. This fence consists of rough-sawn and planed boards of diverse widths and characteristics -- e.g., some of the boards were once painted (i.e., before being re-used in this fence), others apparently not;  both hard and soft wood boards are included;  a few are tongue and groove boards -- apparently former paneling.   The diversity corroborates the builder's statements about their source -- "an old log cabin and barn near Dafter, Michigan."  And, he added that most of the the posts were made from timber from the barn. 
            This fence is along one of the perpendicular sides of the same lot that has the Fence shown as Fig. 7 along its roadside.  The heading refers to the birdhouses atop the fence;  their Red, White, and Blue colors reminded me of the three branches of "leadership" of our country and ... .

                   Price's Fork

77. This approximately five-foot high board fence is along a property line within a residential area.  Eighteen to twenty 5½ x ¾-inch boards, each ~8 feet long, are screwed to each of the 4x4 posts, except those at the two ends.  The boards are staggered, with each board that is on one side opposite an open space on the other side.   Consequently, the pattern of these horizontal rails is essentially the same as that of the vertical boards of  "plank fences" -- see Figs. 56 & 86.
      It seems noteworthy that this is a so-to-speak remade fence:  The horizontal boards, I was told, are halves of 16-footers that were part of a preexisting fence that was previously on this property. One of the rather obvious features that apparently resulted from the "remake" is the distribution of faded paint on the boards, which is said to have been on the 16-footers of the original fence.


78. This fence is an example of fences often referred as woven or even as "basket weave" fences.  It consists largely of sections of horizontal boards with what appear to be butt end joins with their square posts.  Each section of these boards includes three vertical "rods" (i.e., ~1½-inch wide ¾-inch boards), one at each end and one near its center.  The end "rods" are attached to 6x6 posts;  the posts have diverse lengths (heights), all of which are markedly greater than the height of the part of this fence that is shown.  The center "rods" of the panels are arranged to give the so-called woven appearance -- i.e., they are on the opposite sides of the horizontally adjacent boards.   A 4x4 is atop each section of "woven" group of boards.  All of the lumber is rough sawn. 
     Most of the fence shown has the function of typical frontage fences.  The perpendicular part of the fence, a small section of which is shown on the left, extends along the eastern property line.  Part of the extension is about twice as high as the frontage section;  indeed, it consists of two sections of similar woven panels.  By the by, the higher part is painted green on the side facing the next-door neighbor's residence.

       Brush incursion foiled! 


79. These fences consist largely of sections of horizontal boards with what appear to be butt end joins with their square posts.  The six-board high fence on the left, to which the heading applies, is along a lane that gives a number of residents access to the main road;  the twelve-board high fence (upper right) is between two properties along this lane. The six-board high third fence, shown in the lower photograph, is also between two of the houses along the lane.  Its spans are "stepped" because of the topography (cf. Fig 67).  Each of these fences consists largely of square posts with 4-way beveled tops with ~7-foot 5x¾ rough sawn boards as its so-to-speak rails;  The rails are "woven" like those of the fence shown as Figure 80.

        Neighbors(?), Deer(?), ...  What?    

80. This is a rather well-designed vertical board fence.  Among other things, it goes almost, but not quite, to the ground.  This means that the bottoms of its boards are seldom wet  very long, which, in turn, means that they are less likely to rot than the boards of many similarly fashioned fences the vertical boards of which are in contact with the ground, puddles, etc. during extended periods.  The function of the fence -- to keep something/somebody out(?), ... in(?), for privacy(?), ...(?) is not known by anyone to whom I talked about it.

                              Some privacy comes high.

81. This board fence, erected in the early 2000s, is a few feet from the shoulder of Rte. 2.   Its 10-11 feet long, ~7 x ¾" boards are nailed at two or more levels to horizontal 2x-"s in some places and to a haphazard group of diverse boards and various 2x-"s in other places;  in addition, some of the vertical fence boards that are next to cedar posts are held to those posts with metal strapping (see the 2nd and the ~25th &26th boards from the left in the lower photograph). 
      Actually, this "overall" fence consists of three sections: one on either side of a driveway and one at a high angle to the shorter segment on the right of the area shown.  Part of the the back side of that third segment can be seen through the driveway break.   The total length of the three parts well exceeds 100 feet.

                   Around and around . . .

82.  This "fence" constitutes a round pen -- i.e., it surrounds an area where an Arabian horse was exercised and trained for dressage.  It was built in the late 1980s. The enclosed area is 50 feet in diameter.  The fence consists of vertical 8-foot long 2x6s that are nailed to bent 16-foot 6x5/4" boards at three levels;  12-foot long 4x6 posts stabilize the structure.  Virtually all of the nails of the structure were driven from the outside in;  their lengths were chosen so their points would not penetrate the in side of the enclosure.  This process and choice of nails gave the result whereby neither nail heads nor points are exposed on the inside of the structure.  This was done to preclude certain injuries that either the horse or trainer might suffer had the horse, for example, reared up close to the structure.  The "floor" of the enclosed area is sand, now overgrown;  the sand was kept within the pen by rough sawn 6x1" cedar boards that are attached to the posts beneath the main struture.  Right photos:  Upper, a section of the inside;  Lower, close-up of a section of the outside that includes parts of a post, one of the bent 6x5/4" boards with the heads of the nails that hold the vertical 8-foot 2x6s to it.

                            Not my cup o' tea

83. This fence is an example of several roughly similar fences that consist of prefabricated panels that are available in the marketplace.  The panels of this one consist of  vertically flush, six-foot long, 5½ inches wide, ¾-inch boards that are held by screws(?) to three levels of  horizontal ~2x3s that are on the side of the fence that is not shown.   Most of the posts, other than the one shown, are not debarked, and at least the two of them (not shown) appear to be rooted trees rather than posts per se.  Diverse screws and possibly bolts hold the uprights to the horizontal ~2x3s and the panels to the "posts."

       Capped, crowned or is it a halo?

84. This two-tiered fence, which is northwest of an intersection of two of Mackinac County's roads, virtually encloses and thus "hides" the old cars and miscellaneous junk at an operation that prepares old metal for recycling.  The lower part of the fence is six feet high;  the upper part, an additional two feet.  Both scctions consist largely of vertical ~5½x1" smoothed lumber.  Five levels of horizontal boards plus square posts serve as the framework to which the vertical pieces are held by screws (see the photograph of a section of the back side of this fence on the right).  The tops of lower level uprights, with their cut-off corners corners, were the original top of the fence.  At that time, the fence would have been what is widely referred to as a dog-eared fence.  The vertical pieces, which were added to extend the height of the overall fence to eight feet, were not so-modified.  The name of the enterprise, Malfunction Junction, which is posted near the intersection, serves is a real "upper" (smiles, chuckles, remarks) for many people who see it.

                  Henry the VIII's 2nd & 5th  (et al.)

85. This privacy fence  . . .  -- The photograph seems to provide a "says it all."  
         For the record, the ~5 x ¾-inch boards are nailed to two horizontal 2x6s that are on the side that is not shown.  The top of the remaining fence -- i.e., quite obviously beheaded -- is roughly horizontal;  the posts are ~6x6 timbers.

                     It lacks a bittersweet . . .


86. This fence is an example of a rather diverse group of fences widely referred to as "plank fences."  Most plank fences consist of relatively long, rough sawn ¾- or 1+-inch boards that are 6 to 12 inches wide.  In most of these fences, the planks are nailed or screwed on both sides of two or three horizontal  2x4(or 6)s that are spaced to provide the desired stability for the fence.  Spaces, typically only two to three inches wide and always narrower than the widths of the planks, are left between adjacent planks, and the planks on one side of the horizontal 2x4(or 6)'s are opposite the spaces on the other side. The spaces seem to relate to a history whereby the planks that were often used were "fresh cut" -- i.e., not dried out;  consequently the staggered spacing of those boards promoted air flow "drying." 
       Some plank fences are made in place -- i.e., individual planks are added to a previously erected framework.  Others consist of pre-made panels that are attached to posts placed at appropriate intervals at the site. 
      The fence in the above photographs consists of 8-foot wide panels that include rough sawn ¾-inch planks that are ~5½ inches wide and 6 feet long.  Each plank is nailed and/or screwed to three horizontal 2x6s, the ends of which are screwed to 4x4-inch posts.  This plank fence is somewhat atypical:  The spaces between its planks are wider than usual, which is especially noteworthy considering the rather narrow width of the planks, and some of the joins where the panels are attached to the posts do not have plank covers such as those commonly used on these fences the main parts of which are pre-made panels.

                     per Specs.

87. This fence extends along two sides of the small park and playground that is near the Straits end of Ferry Lane in St. Ignace.  Additional fences of this design are elsewhere within the city -- e.g., beside the city's waterfront boardwalk and also here and there on some private properties.  The top, lower middle and lower right photos show sections of the park side of the fence;  the lower left photo shows a portion of its street side.  The top horizontal boards are 2x10s; the lower ones are 2x6s;  the vertical pieces are 1x1s;  the posts are debarked logs.  The horizontal 2x-s extend between two "every other" posts -- i.e., a third post is midway between each pair of the  end-of-a-span posts.  The top ends of the 2x-s are rounded at open ends of these fences -- e.g., beside entryways (see lower right close-up).

                 A perfect marriage?

88. This fence was chosen to be the first picket fence in this archive because its characteristics remind me of similar fences made during the "Great Depression" of the late 1920s and early 1930s -- i.e., ones I saw being built by people who were apparently looking forward to better times, wanted to "pretty up" their places, but had to do it with little if any expense.  In those days, slab wood such as that used for to make pickets such as those of this fence could be obtained at no cost from many sawmills!
   The original version of the fence shown in this entry was put up more than 50 years ago.  It has been repaired several times and modified here and there since then.  Nonetheless, many of its original pickets, including those shown, remain.  In fact, its original pickets that could be saved were carefully treated so they could continue to be parts of this fence as it was repaired;  this was done not only to help retain the original appearance of the fence but also to preserve the family history associated with the fence. The slab wood of these pickets, is three to four inches wide and about 3½ feet long; their reverse sides (not shown) are, of course, rough-sawn;  the original framework consisted of horizontal 2x4s and cedar posts;  each picket was nailed -- in place! -- to the 2x4s.  The fairly recent, alluded-to modifications included replacement of the original cedar posts with treated 4x4s and replacement of a few of the pickets by ones made to resemble the originals.

       [An aside: Today, many differently appearing fences that seem best called picket fences occur within Mackinac Conty.  These fences differ from one another because of such things as the shapes, especially the tops, of the individual pickets; the widths and lengths -- i.e., heights -- of the pickets; the spacking of the pickets on their frameworks; the charater of the frameworks;  and the collor they are painted.]

        Shapes of  Tops:   Each of the pairs of tops shown below, except for the so-to-speak non-shaped one on the top left, is relatively common.  Some of them have been given names -- e.g.,  shadow box (upper left), dog-eared (upper, 2nd from left). traditional (upper, other two & lower left), and  gothic (lower, 2nd from left).

        Colors of pickets:  Although a large percentage of picket fences, like those shown in the above two rows, are (or were) white, others have been painted with, for example, colors that are the same as or are meant to "go with" the color(s) of their associalted residences. The one on the left, below, appears also once to have white (apparently whitewashed,  a la Tom Sawyer & Jim, rather than painted); each of the others has a color that either matches the main or trim color of its associated residence or a color that seems only to have been the owner's choice. 

89. As noted in the preceding entry, picket fences, as a group, exhibit a great diversity - a diversity of such things as the size -- i.e., the widths and thicknesses as well as the length -- of the pickets, their spacing and, in particular, the shapes of their tops;  also, although a large percentage of these fences are white, some are not, so color becomes another aspect of these fences' diversity.  Examples of these characteristics are shown in the above photo composites.
     The above pickets are not shown at the same scale.  All are in Mackinac County.  Attention is also directed, especially to the shapes of the tops of the vertical members of the fences, some of which are only roughly picketlike, that are shown in Figs. 49, 56, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, & 96.  All of the pickets shown in this archive are wood -- i.e., none are vinyl (etc.) that comprises many relatively recently erected "picket fences." 

Your guess . . .

90. This "picket fence" is so named, I suspect, because of the spaces between its vertical boards.  Both the tops and bottoms of those boards are squared with their lengths.  The function of this fence seems to be merely to obscure some things (what?) from passerbys' and neighbors' views.  Granted, it also serves as the "host" of a flowerbox that includes two small "Old Glory" flags.     

          Short, but ...   
91. This short picket fence consists of pointed wooden laths, each of which is nailed to two horizontal boards.  Its sections, which are about eight feet long, were pre-made and then nailed at each end to treated wood posts (see close-up).  The height of the pickets is ~2 feet.

                     a WISH come true:

92. This pair of fences, picket and rail, frame a flower garden. The rails were brought in from the grounds around the former Elkhorn Restaurant, east of Manistique, Schoolcraft Co.  The pickets, 3x1-inch laths, were pointed by the owner. 


93. This fence led to several measurements and much musing:  Like a well-coached team, each part of the fence differs from all the others, and each has its own important role.  A few, including two of the shortest boards, have dual roles (see the close-up).
           All of the vertical slats are rough sawn ¾-inch boards;  the boards are of diverse widths;   each is fastened to two horizontal ¾-inch boards;  the height of the longest vertical slat ("picket") is approximately five feet.  A second fence of similar construction, but nearly twice as long as this one, is across the drive, to the east of this fence.  (The township and number that are on the sign to the right of the fence have been blocked out in the above main photo.)

               That should do it ... ! ! ?

93A. This fence, which required much work and several hours to fashion and put in place, appears to have been made to keep foraging deer out of the owner's garden.  Although the pointed tops seem superfluous, they do add to its appearance, eh?!?  (cf. Figs. 94 & 95.)

          Angels of Love, right here in ...

94.  This fence, which consists of several hundred vertical "pickets," surrounds much of a city lot and has an extension along the border of the lot at one end where a grassed area is between the main fence and the street.  All of the pickets are rough-sawn ~5x1-inch boards, most of which are ~6 feet long.  A few (e.g., near the residence) are less than 6 feet long, and the boards in the just-mentioned extension range up to ~7½ feet long;  the different lengths were required to keep the overall top of the fence at the same general level.  Each of the pickets is nailed to two horizontal 2x4s that, along with the rather long 4x4 posts to which they are attached, are on the inside of the surrounded area.  
       Each of the pickets is topped by a figure that appears to represent an angel, and the spaces between adjacent angels are heart-shaped.  Some people apparently consider the angel-like form to represent a fleur-de-lis;  the absence of a pointed top seems not to support that alternative.  To date I have been unable to contact Jerry Pudentz, who is said to have made these pickets, to determine his intended identity of these figures;  he no longer lives in Michigan.  In any case, it is thought that he made them during the late 1900s or early 2000s, and it seems that he must have cut several of them at a time, very likely using a pattern and a band saw. 

         Nature lover?

95. This fence, which seems a good followup to the one shown in Fig. 94, virtually surrounds a so-to-speak sub-urban lot.  Several of its vertical boards have had their top few inches sawn to give the silhouettes shown in the close-ups to the right of the main photograph; clockwise from the upper right, they are:  a rabbit(?), a squirrel, a bird, and a tulip.  Similar, if not identical sawn "highlights" are atop sporadic boards of the fence along each side of the lot. A nearby resident believes that they were cut by band saw by Billy Grogan in the 1990s. The boards are ~1 inch thick, range from about 3½ to 6 inches wide, and are ~6 feet long (high);  they are attached at two levels to horizontal 2x4s. 

                The Skagerrak-1959

96. This decorative enclosure fence, which some people would consider of the picket fence genre, is in the business area of a chiefly summer resort on Lake Huron.  It surrounds, among other things, a propane tank;  if this one were ever to take off, it would apparently be by row-boat, eh?!  More than 50 "oars" plus about the same number of short, rounded 3x¾" slats are on the outside of the fence;  each of the "oars" is nailed to horizontal boards at five levels;  each of the slats, to three of those boards;  the horizontal boards along with 4x6 & 6x6 posts comprise a framework, which is on the inside of the fence.  The contrast between the paint on the street-side (main photograph) and that on the other side (middle photograph) is noteworthy.  It is said that all of the "oars" once served as oars for fishing boats;  their overall shapes  and features such as the holes where knots were once in the blade part of, for example, the "oar" shown in the close-up leads one doubt the veracity of this contention.

                          Let it snow!

97.  This fence is an example of "snow fences," many of which have functions other than that indicated by their widely applied name.  They occur here and there within Mackinac County.  These fences consist of wooden slats that are held together by, or so-to-speak woven into, strands of wire that are typically spaced at four or five levels perpendicular to the lengths of their slats. This example appears once to have served as a boundary of a night pasture.  Its deterioration, which is quite obvious, has led to the addition of barbed wire and, I suspect, also at least some posts such as those shown in the photograph;  thus, the area is again "fenced in."
        I have for some 75-plus years wondered if "snow fences" should not be called picket fences!

             Privacy ? ? ?

98. Both of these fences feature diagonal crisscross lattices.  The two fences, which are only examples, are shown at approximately the same scale.
        The ~4½ foot high fence on the left, which I was told is a privacy fence, seems ill-conceived if privacy is really its desired function.  As can be seen, its open spaces permit anyone who is on the street side of the fence to see essentially anything present or "going on" on the residents' side.  Each of the panels is ~4 feet high and ~8 feet wide.  The framework of the panels includes a top and bottom horizontal board and three vertical boards -- one at each end and one in its middle.  The panels are held in place by vertical ~4x4" posts and vertical ¾-inch boards that extend from the ground up to their bases.
top of the ~5½ foot fence on the right is ~6½ feet above the surrounding ground level.  The configuration and placement (i.e., elevation above ground level) of this fence, and several other fencess of this design, seem much more likely to provide the above-mentioned privacy, at least so far as all but fairly tall possible observers.  However, so far as this one, the privacy aspect seems not to be its desired function;  instead, as is evident in the photograph, it serves as a good backdrop for flowers, flowering bushes, a bench, rocks (some really good ones!), etc.  Whatever, its panels are ~8 feet wide;  the lattice is ~1 foot wide (high); the vertical 3½ x ½ inch boards that are below the lattice are ~4 feet long (high).  The panels have double 2x4s at their ends;  they are attached to 4x4 treated lumber posts.

                This capsule will not take off !

99. This apparently prefabricated wooden diagonal crisscross lattice "fence" obscures a propane tank, to which the heading applies.  The grayish brown clump, lower right of the main photo, is the remains of a stump.

          "Make Do"

100.  Need and what is available are frequently "the mother of invention ..." and/or "the answer to one's prayer'."  This "fence," which consists of a debarked cedar log with field stones as its "posts," serves as a fine, and rather appealing (recall that I am a geologist) border for the residents' driveway.
     "Make Do" -- a concrete example

101.  As noted in the preceding entry, "need and what is available are frequently 'the mother of invention ...' and/or 'the answer to one's prayer'."  Notice that only small parts of the ends of the rails of this "fence" abut each other;  one result of this relaionship is the fact that the top rails are not directly above the bottom rails of the same span.  It is not known whether this relationship was meant to be or, if it was, what purpose it was meant to serve.  In any case, the overall character of this fence is similar, granted only vaguely, to the fences referred to as slotted post fences in this archive (see, for example, Fig. 16).

                Treed!! & Pedigreed?!


102. This fence, which is believed by the current owner to have been in place for more than 100 years, consists of wooden rails atop log posts plus ornamental, double loop woven crimped wire fencing.  The wire fencing, which is attached to the rails by U-shaped fence staples, extends from ground-level upward to a few inches above the rails.  The suggested age of the fence is based on the fact that its woven wire has been engulfed in three sugar (i.e., hard) maple trees that are thought to date back to at least the late 1800s;  note that the wire fencing is engulfed "well in," towards its center of the tree that is shown in the lower photograph
            Trying to determine the true age of this fence led to my seeking someone to core at least one of the trees to determine its age;  those attempts were in vain.  Consequently, I sought information relating to the  earliest date that the engulfed type of wire fencing became available -- e.g., Was this kind of fencing available as early as the late 1800s(?) -- if, for example, it were not available until later, that would invalidate the suggested late 1800s date for the fence(?).  According to (Corson), woven fence of this general kind was "first made in America in 1873, and production continued into the 1940s."  This information, of course, neither supports nor negates the suggested date for this fence;  it does, however, provide the possibility that the fence could have been put in place as early as the early 1870s and was not likely to have been put in place much after the 1940s.  So, the fence does seem to be rather old and it may be as old as the current owner believes.

                 A fitting end ? !      

Z. This closed wooden gate seems to be an appropriate way to end the main part of this archive.


Several times while I was taking photos of fences, the following and sestina "Fences around minds" came to mind.  Consequently, at least for me, they provide an appropriate way to close this archive.  The sketch, which is slightly revised, is included here courtesy of  of  Susan Robinson.


The definitions in this glossary pertain to the way the terms are used in this archive. They should not be considered to be universally applicable.  Sources of information read while preparing this glossary, and in some cases paraphrased in the entries, include the following:

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969)

The Oxford English dictionary  (1971)


butt join, butt joins, often called “butt joints,” consist of two members that simply abut each other. The members of most butt joins are end to end or at right angles to each other, but other relations occur. The members are usually nailed, screwed, dowel/peg-reinforced, or fastened to one or more additional piece . . . to give them stability. (cf. mortise and tenon,)

fence, as used in this document,  fence dates back to Middle English where it was used to indicate an enclosure, or part thereof (see, Oxford ...). That use appears to be based on the fact that the so-named barrier served as a defense. Through time, application of the designation has expanded so that it includes several outdoor structures, many of which are around or beside something. Examples range from those that mark property lines to those that are decorative.  Indeed, fences have been built to serve such diverse functions as barriers to keep someone or something in or out of an area;  for privacy to hide something or some activity, on one or the other of its sides;  to mark the sides of areas like walkways and driveways;  as statements such as "Mine is better than yours!";  as landscape accents;  etc.;  etc.;  etc.  . . .

groove, a notch, channel or furrow cut in, for example, a fence post. A given groove may be described on the basis of such things as its shape, its depth and/or the tool(s) by which it was cut.

lap join, lap join(t)s have been used extensively in fences. Most are held together by metal spikes or screws, but some appear instead to have, for example, pegs (e.g., square pegs in round holes) – or some combination of these.
log, a relatively long section of an unhewn or unsawn, felled tree or limb with a diameter greater than about 2½ inches.

lumber, planks, boards, etc. of standard or specified dimensions that have been sawn from logs; some lumber has also been planed or otherwise smoothed.

miter join, a join made when two beveled surfaces are joined, usually -- but not always -- at a 45° angle, the two members consequently being at 90° to each other.

mortise and tenon join, a join(t) whereby a tenon (i.e., a shaped projection on a piece of wood) has been inserted into a mortise (i.e., a hole in another piece of wood). Mortise and tenon join(t)s may be glued, or shaped and/or sized so the tenon has to been forced into the mortise hole.

panel, a section. typically rectangular, of a fence that is framed and/or otherwise held together;  most of these panels are made before being made part of a fence. 

, a stake or board, typically relatively narrow and commonly with a pointed end.  As an adjective, picket is applied widely to fences with the pickets essentially vertical with their points at their tops -- i.e., pointing upward.

phillips head, term applied herein to all cross-slotted -- i.e., cruciform -- kinds of screws, including those marketed as Frearson, Posizdrive, Supadrive, etc.

post, name given to the vertical or near vertical logs or other supports that occur at the ends of the spans of rails, boards or panels of fences.

rail, generic name applied to the horizontal wood members -- whatever their form -- of wooden fences.  A few non-horizontal wood members of fences that extend across spans between fence posts are also widely considered rails
(see Figures 39, 44, 68, & 70).

rough sawn, term applied to lumber that has been sawn but not subsequently planed or otherwise smoothed.

rounded log, term sometimes used instead of turned log (q.v.). (cf. lumber)

slab (often referred to as slabwood), an outside piece, commonly wholly or partially bark-covered, that was cut off a log when the log was being squared before sawing it into lumber.

span, the distance between adjacent posts of a fence -- i.e., the distance between two posts to which ends of a given rail are attached.

stick, a relatively long section of an unhewn or unsawn, felled tree (e.g., sapling) or limb with a diameter less than about 2½ inches.

timbera squared piece of lumber of large cross-section -- e.g., 10 x 12 inches -- commonly used as beams, and formerly used rather widely instead of logs for the walls of structures.

, driving a nail at a slant into a surface of, for example, a rail near one of its ends, so the nail goes through it and into a second surface -- e.g., a post that the rail abuts -- thus fastening the two pieces together. (Some people refer to this as "skew-nailing.") Today, screws and power drills are often used for such fastening, AND the term toe-screwing is sometimes applied; many carpenters and others, however, continue to refer to the procedure as toe-nailing, even when screws are used.

tongue, any fashioned protrusion on, for example, the end of log so the log would fit into, for example, a channel-shaped groove. The overall shape of a typical tongue can be described geometrically as the five sides of a rectangular parallelepiped with its sixth, non-existent(!) side merging with, for example, the log from which the five-sides of the parallelepiped extends. Commonly, the tongues that extend from the ends of logs have two opposite surfaces that have not been cut and consequently retain their original shapes -- i.e., those two faces are roughly convex.
turned log, a log that has been rounded, and herein in a few places is so characterized. In any case, no matter what process(es) is/are used to so-modify a log, in most cases, the resulting "log" has the same diameter from end to end.

woods, an area with a relatively dense growth of trees;  term widely used for areas generally considered smaller than those referred to as forests.

Cited References:
(The cited URLs are not active links!)

Corson, Cheryl.  n.d.  Capitol Hill backyards then and now. (home + garden special)  <http://chrylcorson.com/pdf >  (accessed 28 June 2014).

Dietrich, R.V.  1995.    Whenever I cross the fence. Mt. Pleasant(MI): Norcairn Press. 122p.

. . . . . . . . . . 2011 . Fieldstone bulidings in Isabella County, Michigan:  An illustrated directory.  Mt. Pleasant (MI):CONDOR. 189p. 
                                 ( available as PDF file:  http://condor.cmich.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p1610-01coll1/id/3362

. . . . . . . . . . n.d.   . Barns of Mackinac County Michigan. < http://www.mibarn.net/MacCoAlbum/Marquette.htm > (accessed 08 December 2017).

Oxford University Press. 1971. The Oxford English dictionaryThe compact edition ... complete text reproduced
(volumes 1  & 2). New York: Oxford University Press.

Stillman, Anne. 1996. Fences and the settlement of New England in 
Dreicer, G.K. & Balmori, Diana (editors). Between fences.  Washington (D.C,): National Building Museum; New York:Princeton Architectural Press.  p.10-17. 

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 1969.  Boston:Houghton Mifflin.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Woodworking-joint-lap.svg>    (accessed  18 March 2013).


The photographs of the following fences are among those that have been sent to the compiler by others for possible inclusion in this album.  Each of those included differs in some noteworthy way from those in the main album.   They are given, along with the photographers' names,  in the order in which they were received.


Ap1. This fence, which I have not seen, is at the Welcome Center/Rest Stop area beside Interstate 26 in North Carolina, about three miles south of the Tennessee state line.  The rails of adjacent spans, unlike those of more typical zigzag fences, are logs that appear to have been rounded and possibly even smoothed.  The photographs indicate that the rails are held in place -- i.e., flush with the posts at the joins -- by rather long, countersunk, screws.  The posts, which appear to have the same character as the rails, are of unknown length -- i.e., their depth of burial is not apparent.  (photo © Maria K. Dietrich)

ASKEW, ASKEW ...  Please excuse me --

Ap2. This fence, which I have not seen, is east of Rte. 23, in the vicinity of Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The  picket-like units, which are pointed at both ends, are fastened a few inches from their tops and their bottoms to nearly horizontal 2x4s.  An example shown near the left side of this photograph, shows that the 2x4s are, in turn, attached  to 4x4 vertical posts. (photo © Krista D. Brown)

        If anyone
else has one or more photographs that (s)he thinks might be a good to include on this web site, please send it/them to me.   Include at least a general location where each fence is or was when photographed and additional information you think might be good to include in the caption.  Also, be sure to send permission for such use and the name you would like to have appear as holding the copyright for each photograph.

R.V ("Dick") Dietrich (b. 1924), a native of the St. Lawrence Valley, Northern New York, is a graduate of Colgate University (A.B.), and Yale University (M.S. & Ph.D -- Geology).  Now retired, he was a College professor of Geology, with Petrology his main field of research.  He has authored or coauthored many professional papers and books, some of which are textbooks, and also 14 web sites, most of which are available at http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/Default.htm .   For additional informaton, click the following link: XXXX
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