Toprail and three stands of barbless wire

My favorite kind of fencing is a top rail fence because it’s not only highly functional but attractive and more affordable than most other pole fencing.  Instead of requiring three or four poles it only requires one yet still has a permanent appearance so that it looks good enough to follow an entry lane or be used in other highly visible areas. I especially love top-rail construction for the safety of our horses.  Because a top rail discourages horses from reaching over to the grass that is always greener on the other side, they have far less tendency of getting hung up in them.  I always use three strands of barbless wire under the top rail which, because of the solid top rail, can be stretched extremely tight and will remain tightforthe life of the posts they are stapled to.  I’ve personally built hundreds of feet of this kind of fencing even before we moved to Timber Butte and have a few pointers for folks who might be interested in doing the same.

  1. I generally use 16 foot Lodgepole Pine poles for my top rail.This means that I have to set my treated upright posts @ 8 foot centers.  I try to set my post in a straight line for as long a stretch as possible, but when I need to make a bending turn to follow the curve of a lane or road I always make sure I keep every set of three posts in a straight line.  In this way my 16 foot top rail can attach to all three upright posts.  This will keep the fence much stronger than having to cut poles to 8 foot lengths at the turns.
  1. Because a long pole is always tapered to some degree I notch the underside of my poles so that they will lay evenly flat on the top of the posts. I do this by laying each pole on top of the three posts it will later be attached to and underscoring them with my chain saw.  The thicker end gets underscored more than the narrow end and the center is underscored somewhere in between.  With a little experience you can get pretty good at eyeballing this.  Laying the pole on the ground I use a sharp hatchet to finish clearing out the notch.
  1. I put the pole in place and use a ½ inch drill motor to screw down the pole to the posts. After years of trial and error I have discovered that timber-lock screws with 1/4″ inch washers work the best. For years I used galvanized lag screws but discovered that they would break in extreme cold weather and they cost quite a bit more.  Timber-lock screws never break and are specifically designed to screw in with a standard drill.  I have also used large ring shank nails with washers, but the problem with them is that they are too permanent. Once they are driven in they can never be removed if a repair is needed at a later time.
  1. When the top rail is in place the barbless wire can be tightly strung without any additional bracing. The fence will literally brace and hold itself together for years to come.

We use 6 or 8 inch Timberlock screws

Undercutting the toprail for the notch

Our granddaughter Hope gives me a hand as I chop out the notches