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This year's big project is a graveyard, and I'm starting with the fence. Trying to do this without spending much money because after buying the fog machine and a bunch of supplies to do some Terra-style tombstones, there's not much left in the budget. Luckily, though, we had some pallets lying around that we had originally acquired for another project that we decided not to do.

The first step was to disassemble the pallets and sort the wood by size. I had several pieces that were about 40" long, and a bunch that were about 35", and several that were in between. I cut the 40" pieces into strips about 1.5" wide. They are about 3/4" thick. If you don't have pallets or the time to mess with them, Home Depot, Lowes, Menards--any of these big box hardware stores have furring strips that are essentially the same dimensions, except they come in 8-foot lengths. These 40" strips will be my fence rails. Here's a picture of my bucket o'rails:


The pallets did not all use the same species of wood. Most of the wood was pine--a softwood--but quite a bit was oak--a hardwood. This will be important later, when I get to the staining.
For the pickets, I used the 35" pieces, and cut them down to about 2.75" wide. Some of the pieces were pretty wide, and I had pieces that were 1.5"-2" wide as scrap. I kept those and used them, too--they will look like boards that have split and broken due to years of exposure. I also have several pieces that already had really great weathering on them--cracks, splits, busted ends, etc--and I just left those as they were. So I ended up with a bunch of pickets that were mostly the same length, but of varying width.
I made a paper template with a simple profile for the top of each picket, and very roughly cut that out. I freehanded it, and tried to be a bit rough with the cut--I didn't want it perfect, because after sanding it, I wanted it to look worn and aged, not new and crisp. Here they are, cut and ready:



Here's a picture of them lined up after staining (which I'll get to in a minute)--you can see how the widths vary. I like this effect--it'll give the fence a kind of random, busted, worn look, especially when I put the pickets on crooked!



For the posts, I'm using 2x2s (which are actually only 1 7/16" x 1 7/16" now); I don't have separate pictures of those.

After all the pieces were cut, I decided to try the weathering technique of steel wool and vinegar. If you're not familiar with this, you take some regular household vinegar, put a torn-up steel wool pad in it, and over the course of a couple of days, the vinegar dissolves some of the iron in the steel wool and makes an iron-rich solution.
A couple of important notes about this process. You must unroll and wash the steel wool pad with dish soap first. Otherwise, the oil that is put on them to prevent rust will, well, prevent it from rusting, and you won't get much of a reaction. Second, I expected that the vinegar would start to look rusty or dirty as the reaction happened. Nope. I let my solution sit for about three days, and it was still perfectly clear when I used it. As you'll see, though, it was plenty strong and effective. Third, I read that the technique works better (that is, it makes the wood darker) on hardwoods like oak than on softwoods like pine. I'm using both. Apparently, you can use a strong tea solution to make the pine darker, but I didn't try that.
So after letting the solution sit for about three days or so, I brushed it on my boards. Within a few minutes, I could start to see the changes. It really did make the oak dark, and even turned it a bit purple. Some of the oak pieces were dark, almost black (there's a reason that woodworkers call this process "ebonizing the wood"). The solution worked really well on the pine--it really looks very weathered.
This picture shows four pickets (pine-oak-pine-oak) after staining, and two (pine-oak) that were unstained. It's a pretty pronounced difference.



And a couple pics of stained pickets and rails. Notice the purplish color of the oak.




Once all of the staining was done, I assembled eight sections. I was going to do 12, but decided to scale back due to a shortage of tombstones...I want the graveyard to look full, not bare, so I made it smaller. I'll probably make more next year.

Here are a few pictures of the completed fence. I set up the fence in the back yard briefly just to take some pictures. When I set it up for real, I'll drive the posts deeper, so there won't be such a big gap under it.









Next up...tombstones.
 

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Fence looks great!!! One question, what did you use to brush the vinegar mixture on, a paint brush or a sponge brush?
 

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Thanks, everyone!

To apply the vinegar solution, I used an old paint brush. I imagine that a sponge brush would work just as well, though.
 

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Thanks, everyone!

To apply the vinegar solution, I used an old paint brush. I imagine that a sponge brush would work just as well, though.


Great!!! I already have some wood project steel wool soaking in vinegar, but funny thing. I re-read your post and saw that I should have rinsed off the steel wool before soaking it to get rid of the oils that protect it. I forgot to do this. So I just ran down stairs to check on it and the wool was floating at the top, already rusting. Guess I don't need to rinse this kind. It's the kind used to prep certain surfaces for painting, not the kitchen kind. Won't really be able to stain until next Thursday, so it'll get a really good soak.
 

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Great!!! I already have some wood project steel wool soaking in vinegar, but funny thing. I re-read your post and saw that I should have rinsed off the steel wool before soaking it to get rid of the oils that protect it. I forgot to do this. So I just ran down stairs to check on it and the wool was floating at the top, already rusting. Guess I don't need to rinse this kind. It's the kind used to prep certain surfaces for painting, not the kitchen kind. Won't really be able to stain until next Thursday, so it'll get a really good soak.
Yeah, my first batch of solution wasn't working after a couple of days, and I realized that it must be the oil. I think it would probably still work if you didn't wash the oils off first, but it would probably have to soak a lot longer.
 
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