Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How to Brace a Wooden Gate Post: A Post About Posts!

This post shows in detail how Herb braces his wooden fence posts and gate posts.
This is a spot where he wants the fence to bend along the curve of the road.  The middle post is the pivot point.  The uphill (right hand) post runs in a straight line up hill from the middle post.  The downhill (left hand) post runs in a straight line down hill from the middle post.  This is not a very sharp angle so he only needed one support post on each side of the middle post.  Each support post has a cross-brace which is toe-nailed to it and also to the middle post. The nails just hold everything together until it can be braced with wire, which is what really makes everything sturdy. 
Note that the cross-brace is nailed at right angles to the upright posts.  That's where Herb can use my help--I hold the outside end steady while he nails the cross-brace to the middle post.  Then I hold a level on the cross-brace to make sure the post is leveled while Herb nails the other end.  (Occasionally we get a post that is so wavy or crooked that it can only be leveled by eye-balling it.)  If you count the ground that the posts are sunk into, this basically forms a rectangle that will now be braced with wire. 

If you aren't sure the leveling is important, do this experiment.  Take a box, fold its top and bottom flaps in, lay it on one side, and press down on it.  It will not collapse easily.  Now take another box, fold its top and bottom flaps in, push the top sideways to make the box into a trapezoidal shape, lay it on its side, and press down on it.  It will collapse easily.  I bet you never knew you needed geometry to build a fence!  :)
Now for the wires:  Herb angles a nail into the outside fence post near the top.
This nail will help hold the wire brace in place.  He also drives a nail into the other end post near the bottom.  (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture, but it's kind of redundant.)
He makes a large loop of 12-gauge wire (9-gauge is stronger, but harder to work with) that goes around both nails and meets back up like this.  He makes a loop in the first wire and wraps it tightly around itself; then he passes the other end of the wire through the first loop, bringing it back around to wrap tightly around itself.  This wire will not come detached!   Herb uses his fencing pliers to do all of this.  Sometimes he uses a piece of rebar to start making a loop by bending the wire around the rebar.
At this point the wire goes around the outside of both posts.  Then Herb pulls the wires close together in the middle and inserts a piece of rebar between them.  He cuts his rebar in 20-24" lengths.
He then begins to turn the rebar around and around in circles, gradually twisting the wire tighter and tighter.
There is a certain amount of resistance, as you can see from the tendons standing out in his arms.  The wire in the photo above is barely twisted together.  The wire in this photo is twisted almost as tight as it needs to go; Herb is bringing it up on its last rotation.  This is not something you can show in a photo--you just have to do it by feel.  And yes, Herb has twisted a wire too tight and broken it, but that's very rare.
Here he is finished twisting the wire and brings his rebar up vertically . . .
. . . to brace it against the cross-brace.  There he drives a nail on one side of the rebar, then hammers it over to hold the rebar in place.  Some people remove the rebar after the wire is tightened, but Herb likes to leave it in place.
The rebar with the tightened wire.
The last step is to bend over the nails that hold the wire in place, one at the top of one post, one at the bottom of the other.  This is just a precaution to keep the wire from shifting.

I figured Herb knew what he was doing, but I was quite surprised to see what tightening that one wire did.  The photo on the left shows pre-tightening.  The photo on the right show post-tightening, and you can see that the gap between fence post and ground has widened.  That's because simply tightening that wire pulled the outside fence post closer to the middle one.

These two photos show even more clearly what happens.  The gap between cross-brace and fence post on the left has been completely closed in the photo on the right, after the wire has been tightened.
Here are the posts, braced with wires, and ready to support the fence wire.  They will be sturdy and resist being pulled crooked by the force of the fence wire as it is tightened.  (That will be a future post.)
I asked Herb why the posts in the photo above only have one cross-wire while the ones in this photo have two cross-wires each, making an X between the two posts.  He explained that the posts in the photo above are just fence posts that have to withstand the pull of the fence wire in one direction.  The posts here are gate posts, so the wire will pull in one direction while the weight of the gate will pull in another.  So he cross-braces them with an X.
The point of this post is to share what we've learned--in this case, what worked!  The point is not to brag on my hubby, but I must say, I'm really impressed with his fence!  When I think that two years ago we didn't know any of this stuff, I think he's learned an amazing amount of things and done an incredible job! 

Lord, bless the hands that have done this work.


  1. We see fences made like that around here--now we know exactly how it is done! Thanks! :)
    I'll show it to Thomas in case he ever has call to build a fence for a customer.
    And now I know more about posts than I did pre-post! Will your next post about posts be titled post-post??

  2. Barbara, as the Reformers said, "Post tenebras lux!" :) Post-post is definitely coming, and it will be a streeeeetch. (Hint! Hint!)

  3. This has helped me with my little job. I didn't need to rush out and buy the special tools of connectors used in other methods. Everything I needed was already here. Thank you.

    1. I'm so glad! And thank you SO much for being so kind as to let us know it helped you! We appreciate you taking the time to do that!

  4. Thank you for posting this! I'm ready to brace my posts and was searching the internet for what I could do on my own. So many instructions call for parts and tools I don't have or would have to special order. That would add so much time and money to my project. This is so do-able for me and my kids. We're in North Georgia too and it was refreshing to see fence posts on uneven ground - not what you see in most youtube videos! Thank you again- Megan

    1. You're welcome, Megan, and thank you for taking time to post this in the midst of your busy project! I'm glad we could be of help. Hats off to you tackling a fencing project with your kids! There's not much flat ground in North Georgia, is there? :)

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