A little over a week ago, we got started with setting fence posts. What’s the next step in building a fabulous barrier between your garden and the neighborhood stumbling drunkards? Fence rails!
I was running up against a bit of a timeline with these rails. As I work all day long, I can only devote some time in the evenings to the yard. But the rails were a priority because we were approaching a music festival that spans two weekends and brings hundreds, if not thousands, of drunk people to my neighborhood. Also, the weather’s only getting hotter from here.
After two trips to Lowes, I finally had enough 2x4s. You might remember the rough plan I drew off an Excel spreadsheet, but did you notice the numbers and letters between the purple fence posts?
Those bad boys made cutting and installing the rails so much easier. I had two sets of A, two of B, and so on. Before I screwed them into place, I went around to all the fence posts and drew two lines – 1 inch from the top of the posts and 30 inches from the top – using my hand speed square. If you don’t have a speed square but want to do any kind of wood work, trundle on out to Lowes and get one. Speed squares are extremely handy for drawing straight lines, taking short (six inches or less) measurements, getting a rough idea of angles, and making sure two pieces of wood are meeting at a right angle.
For the first few years I lived in my house, I used a hand-me-down corded drill that had belonged to my granny. It was very basic but powerful and worked well as I fumbled through the basics of building. But a few Christmases ago, my dad gifted me a cordless Ryobi drill and circular saw and holy shebang, what a difference. On his excellent advice, I ordered a few spare batteries from eBay – it sucks to have your battery die in the middle of a project.
So I cut the 2x4s down with the circular saw, and while they were still on the ground, I pre-drilled holes with the cordless drill. I like to use star-drive exterior screws for just about everything because they don’t strip as easily as a Phillips head. Even though these are self-drilling, creating a hole first helps them immediately grip and head into the wood in the intended direction. Sometimes wood that’s a bit on the harder side will send a screw careening off in the wrong direction.
Once all the screws were partially drilled into the face of either end of the rails – two per side – installing them was as simple as awkwardly bracing them with my leg while matching the rails up with the lines I’d drawn on the posts. The easiest way I’ve found to set the rails involved drilling the screws in the following order:
And voila! My yard looks like an experimental western project completed by a kindergartner.
I normally alternate building posts with non-project posts, but the next one will be on pickets. Quite a bit of work has gone into something as silly as a thin board, a few inches wide and less than three feet tall. Those darn pickets deserve their own post, but I don’t want to drag out the fence part of this project too much longer.