The Fence Trilogy - Pickets and Swoops

In March, I built a fence with friends. See Preps and Posts for the first part of the story and Rails and Gates for the second. This is the third and final chapter in the ongoing saga of a man, his friends, and their fence. Welcome to...Pickets and Swoops.

Originally, Mike was concerned that the pickets would warp, so he wanted to screw in every picket to prevent warping. When you're dealing with almost 400 feet of fence, screwing in every picket would be a nightmare... so I convinced him that using ring-shanked nails, plus having 6" wide pickets instead of the 4" pickets he used before would help reduce the warping and save on cost and time. Now I'm not saying that there won't be any warping, but if there is, it should be only a few boards, and they would warp whether nailed or screwed.

Mike worked that first Friday that we were going to install pickets, so Roberta and I worked on the fence without him. We finished the right-side front, and the right-side side before it got too dark to work any more. We also measured and cut one arch--we kept calling them "swoops" for some reason--so that we could be absolutely sure that the upward arch is what they wanted.

The next morning, Mike joined in and we got all the pickets up on both the fence and the gates. One thing I hadn't planned on was time to get materials from the driveway to the work site. And since the backyard had a major hill, it was often a serious undertaking to get things up to the back of the fence. Fortunately, the house backs to a road, so Mike would have us load up his truck and he'd drive material to the top and we'd unload it there. But way back by the road wasn't grassed yet, so the trade off was to drive things up but get muddy taking it from the truck to the site, or to stay clean and have to haul it up the slope. We usually took the muddy route.

Remember when I called Roberta the best gofer ever? When I got there on Saturday morning, she had counted how many pickets were used in a fence section and carried bundles of pickets up for each section, making it so that Mike and I had material right there on hand and never had to break rhythm to go load pickets. How's that for service?

Cutting the swoops went...well, it was up and down. No pun intended. Okay, I'll admit it...pun intended. Roberta and I had marked all the swoops beforehand using a long piece of PVC pipe, so all Mike and I had to do was cut on the line. He started at one end of the fence and I started on the other, and the plan was to meet in the middle. Well I finished the right-side front and right side and was well on my way into the back when the blade on my reciprocating saw started going dull. Then I looked over and saw that Mike had finished the left-side front and was two sections into the left side--way behind where I thought he should be. It turns out that he was using a fine-toothed blade meant for cutting metal, which was leaving a nice edge on the fence, but was cutting exceedingly slowly. Also, he was at a part of the hill where he had to reach about 2' over his head to saw, which made for less-efficient sawing too. After a short conference and a popsicle break, I resumed from where I left off and Mike went to get new blades--Roberta was busy gathering the cutoffs.

I don't know where he went, but Mike came back with wickedly long jagged-toothed wood blades. F. Krueger's Hardware or somesuch, no doubt. But those things sure sped up the process! Mike went to work on sawing off the 4x4s and I finished up the fence and helped Mike on the 4x4s. If you've never sawed through a 4x4 with a reciprocating saw, I highly recommend it--it's great fun! Not quite as fun as the jackhammer, though.

With the swoops and posts cut, all that was left was to take pictures and pack up! All in all, it was a great project. Parts of it were fun, parts of it were...less than fun. Roberta was the ever-hospitable hostess and kept me well-supplied with fruit popsicles and cold drinks. Mike worked hard and fast, often despite having worked a night shift the previous night, working on 3 or 4 hours sleep.

And with the money they saved by taking back the extras, they bought materials to build an add-on mini-deck to their existing deck, and built it the next day! Gluttons for punishment, I guess. But come to think of it, that mini-deck looked pretty good. And my deck isn't too different from theirs...


Teric said…
Hot DANG, Brig! That's freakin awesome! Thanks for posting all that--sounds like a great project.
Brig said…
I just got word that some of the back sections may have been blown over this week in heavy storms. I'll have to check it out, soon. :(
Brig said…
FYI - A few sections were indeed blown down by strong winds. But Roberta and Mike dug out the postholes a bit more and recemented the posts and they say it should be fine now.

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