How to Split Logs for Fence Rails

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a novice looking to tackle your first woodworking project, learning how to split logs correctly is crucial for ensuring the structural integrity and durability of your fence. In this guide, we will explore the step-by-step process of splitting logs, discuss the tools and materials needed, and provide helpful tips to make the task more manageable.

How Are Split Rail Fences Made?

Split rail fences are a classic and rustic option for property borders and enclosures. They’re made using a simple and traditional method. The process begins by selecting suitable logs that are typically 12-18 feet long. These logs are then carefully cut into these lengths, which will later form the rails of the fence.

After obtaining the desired lengths, the next step is to split the logs lengthwise. This is done by using splitting tools, such as wedges or mauls. The logs are split into fourths or eighths, depending on their diameter. Thicker logs are generally split into fewer pieces, while smaller logs are divided into more segments.

The way the split rail fence is constructed depends on it’s purpose and design. For a basic two-rail fence, the split rails are placed horizontally between sturdy posts. The rails are then secured using notches that are cut into the posts. This method of construction allows for a quick and straightforward installation process, while still maintaining a durable and functional fence.

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Additionally, cedar wood is naturally resistant to insects and decay, making it a durable choice for withstanding the outdoor elements. It’s solid structure and stunning appearance further enhance it’s appeal, making cedar the best wood for ranch rail fences.

What Is the Best Wood for Ranch Rail Fence?

Cedar is a preferred choice for ranch rail fences due to it’s natural durability and affordability. It’s known for it’s ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and resist insect damage, making it a reliable option for ranch owners. Additionally, cedar wood has a natural resistance to rotting, ensuring that your fence will have a long lifespan without the need for regular maintenance.

In terms of installation, cedar split rail fences are relatively simple to build. They can be constructed without the need for fencing hardware, as the rails can be stacked and interlocked to create a sturdy and secure fence. This saves both time and money when compared to other types of fencing that require specialized hardware for installation.

“How to Properly Install a Cedar Split Rail Fence”

  • Measure and mark the desired location for the fence
  • Dig holes for the fence posts using a post hole digger
  • Make sure the holes are deep enough to provide stability
  • Place a cedar split rail post in each hole
  • Use a level to ensure the posts are straight
  • Fill the holes with concrete or gravel for added stability
  • Attach the cedar split rails to the posts using nails or screws
  • Ensure the rails are evenly spaced and secure
  • Continue this process until the entire fence is installed
  • Inspect the fence for any loose or insecure sections
  • Add any desired finishing touches, such as post caps or stain

Source: Most Commonly Used Ranch Rail Fence Types – Rocket Fence

Split rail fences are a popular choice for creating a rustic and classic look around properties. These fences come in different shapes and sizes, with the average height typically ranging from 3 to 4 feet. The girth size of the rails averages around 12-14 inches, providing stability and durability. Commonly, a 3 rail split rail fence stands about 4 feet high, while a 2 rail fence tends to be around 3 feet in height. The length of the posts also varies, with 3 rail posts measuring 7 feet long and 2 rail posts averaging at 6 feet.

What Is the Average Height of a Split Rail Fence?

When it comes to split rail fences, the average height can vary depending on the number of rails used. A 3 rail fence, which is the most common, is usually about 4 feet high. This height allows for a good balance between aesthetics and functionality. It provides enough of a barrier to keep animals contained or out, while still maintaining an open and inviting feel.

This lower height is often used for decorative purposes or to mark boundaries without obstructing the view. It’s commonly seen in gardens or along driveways, where a more subtle and delicate look is desired.

In terms of the posts, 3 rail fences usually require posts that are 7 feet long. These longer posts provide the necessary stability to support the weight and tension of the rails. This shorter length is adequate for the lighter weight of a two-rail configuration.

When it comes to the shape of the split rail fence, there are a few options to choose from. The most common shapes are squares, triangles, pie (triangle with one rounded face), and diamonds. These shapes add visual interest and can complement the overall design of the fence.

One important factor to consider when splitting logs for fence rails is the average girth size. Typically, split rails have an average girth size ranging from 12 to 14 inches. This size ensures that the rails are sturdy and durable enough to withstand the elements and provide a long-lasting fence.

These factors will determine the strength, stability, and visual appeal of the fence.


By following proper techniques and using the right tools, individuals can transform large logs into sturdy fence rails that enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of any property. Whether one is a professional woodworker or a homeowner embarking on a DIY project, the process involves precision, patience, and a deep understanding of the wood's natural tendencies.

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