Annie Hayworth’s house for my scene from The Birds has a classic white picket fence. It is just like the one around the house I grew up in. You can take the fence as a symbol of Annie’s desire for a stable relationship or as a sign of the traditional values of Bodega Bay. Or you can just see it as a fence protecting her house from whatever is outside it. No matter what approach you take, Annie’s house needs that fence.

Annie's fence

AnniesHouse

I thought it would be easy to find that fence in miniature shops or online but, alas, the fences available are really inferior and not realistic at all. Any fence with wire wrapped around it would not do.

wiredwrongproportions

oneinchscalewired

So I had to make my own. Here is how I did it

My first task was to find a real fence and measure it. I found this one at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Saint Michaels, Maryland (just happened to be there for a wedding). Nice weathering, good size slats and the correct style of the cut tops.

realfencehigh

I found out later that there are many styles you can use to cut the tops and space the boards:

fencetops

With these images and measurements in mind, I found some balsa wood the correct width (about ¼ inch). I used balsa because it was easy to cut but also because when I whitewashed it (with thinned white paint) the water would raise the grain and make it look like the weathered fence. I cut the tops using a tool called The Chopper (highly recommended although you can easily chop off finger bits if you are not careful). I set up the chopper so that the wood lined up at the correct angle. It comes with guides that do this but they didn’t work the way I needed so I taped some wood guides on.

thechopper
The Chopper with a wooden guide taped on.
cuttingtop
Getting the top angle correct was crucial. Have pieces longer than you need in case you have to chop the top several times.
cut balsa
Cut pieces.

Line up the tops along a straight edge with the crossbar underneath. Use scraps of wood the same width as the slats to space the slats correctly. Glue the slats to the crossbar and keep the spacer wood in place until the slats are dry.

setup
Slats lined up at top and with spacers.

Glue the lower crossbar in place after you trim the wood for the correct height. My first fence was too tall for my scene (even though the measurements in comparison to a real fence were accurate). Sometimes you have to adjust your miniatures so they look right even if they don’t exactly measure correctly.

finishedtootall
Too tall. I had to cut off the bottom and add a new crossbar.
finalfencecut
Correct height and whitewashed. Much better than those wired fences!