How to Build a Hi-Tensile Fence - A Pictoral Guide
Building a Multi-Strand Hi-Tensile Fence
for the Beginning Farmer
July 20th, 2009: I just returned from a few days of building fence in Iowa. Wow, they have some nice "dirt" up there compared to here in the Ozarks of Missouri ! I met Ethan Book in cyper-space nearly a year ago on his blog while checking links and search engine results for "powerflex posts". There were some interesting comments about fencing going on his blog at the time. His blog is called "The Beginning Farmer" and you can visit it at thebeginningfarmer.blogspot.com/
To make a longer story shorter, we talked over email off and on and I continued to check in with him over the next several months. Ethan had never built any hi-tensile electric fence before and I love to show people how to. So we finally got around to pick a date and I headed to Iowa. July 14th in the corn belt is usually hot, but we got lucky with some fantastically cool weather. Ethans wife, Becca, followed us around with a camera and got some really great photos during the construction. I'd like to pass these on to you as a step by step guideline on how to build a multi-strand hi-tensile fence. If you have not built much fence before, this should give you the basic steps in the process. So, here is a pictoral story of a 7 strand hi-tensile electric fence with wood corners and Powerflex line posts. Enjoy.
Ethan & Rebecca's farm is located near Knoxville, Iowa. When I arrived Ethan and Uncle Loren were in the process of installing the corner and end posts. I was a day early, so I jumped in and helped out. Working with "black" dirt was actually a special treat to me.
Above, Ethan cleans out an augered post hole, supervised by Uncle Loren, Hanna, and yours truly holding the post. This farm had been in CRP for the past 14 years and has some clay under great black topsoil. The holes dug easily to Ozark standards ! Vegitation at present is primarily switch grass.
The next step was to set the corner and end posts. This gives you points to attach your guide wire. In this case we were building a 7 strand fence, so we used the bottom strand as our guide wire. Your guide wire is very important with any fence and extra care should be taken to make sure that it is straight and tight. Once you have attached your guide wires to both ends a tensioner is installed and the wire is tensioned up. With dips and ridges it is important to walk the line and snap it up and down a few times to make sure it is perfectly straight. The wire dispenser (spinning jenny) is placed beyond the end post on a level surface. You can rather easily pull out a half mile of wire in this fashion, or you can use an ATV or other farm vehicle. This coil of hi-tensile wire is 4000' long and weighs around 100 pounds.
We made a some templates to mark our wire spacings on the end posts (and for later use to drill the powerflex posts) and drove steeples in partially to hold the wire in place. For this fence the bottom wire is 6? off the ground. The spacings are all 6? except for the top two wires are at 8? apart. Four of the wires will be electrified and 3 of them will be ground wires. They alternate with the top and bottom being electrified.
Next, we are going to attach our end strain insulators. To do this we use a piece of 12.5 gauge hi-tensile wire to go around the post and into the insulator. You can either hand knot these or use crimp sleeves. I prefer to hand knot, but we also installed some crimp sleeves so that Ethan could decide for himself how he wanted to do this task in the future.
In this photo, above, the end strain insulator is installed using the hand knotting techinque. It is now ready to accept the line wire when it is pulled out.
Above, Ethan is measuring and marking the Powerflex line posts. These posts are 66" long and we want to drive them, so that the top of the post is 48" off the ground. This will give us 18? of ground penetration. Our top wire will be at 46" on the post. Once we have them all marked we can begin driving them. We will stop driving at the mark and all posts will be 48" above ground level.
On this fence we also added some wood posts for line posts where there were terrain changes and transitions in the fence. The wood line posts were installed next along with our wood brace posts at the corners and ends. By not installing your brace posts before the guide wire is up, you can align your brace post, so that the fence wire runs straight.
After all of the wooden posts are set and aligned with the guide wire, you can begin installing the Powerflex line posts. We are using a 30 foot spacing on the line posts on this perimeter fence that borders a gravel country road. First we layed out and spotted the posts at 30' spacings.
On this first run of fence, I used a pilot driver,(blue tool down the fenceline) as I feel it gives you a straighter post. However, the ground was so soft and easy to work with here that the rest of the posts were just driven with a standard post driver. In fact the next day, Ethan and I drove about 70 posts in less than a half hour. (he was impressed, and I tried to keep my enthuasium to myself)
A view from the end post, with guide wire and line posts being driven in.
Next the brace posts and bracing were installed at the corners and ends. You will get a much straighter wire line if you wait to install your brace post after the guide wire is up and tight. Ethan had some HD steel U-bar that he used for horizonal bracing on these H-braces. We aligned it so it would be between the top and second wire, and out of our way. These bars had an upturned anchor point and were lagged into the wood posts. Two strands of #9 brace wire was used for tightning. A 20" length of Powerflex post was used as a twitch stick to tension the brace wire.
We have pulled the top wire in the picture above and working on the next one down which will be a ground wire. I decided to use wrap around insulators on the ground wires. It wasnt neccessary – we could have just wrapped the wire around the end posts. But, Ethan will be bringing in several different types of livestock in the future and he may want to electrify some of these ground wires in the future. So to give him some options and make it easy for him to redesign his fence in the future we did a few extra things from the beginning-just in case. Above, he is installing a crimp sleeve with a new Hayes 4 in 1 tool.
Here above, is Ethan pulling the fourth wire. We had some visitors during this day, Dave & Joyce, that came down to watch (and they helped out too). They are considering installing a simular fence on their farm. This run of fence was around 2000' long and had several transitions going around a curve in the road. So, there was some friction in pulling the wire. We put a pair of vice grips on the end of the wire to offer a handle to pull with. Some of the wires we pulled with an ATV, but Ethan being a strong young man, with a long stride, seemed to like walking it out, so I let him !
When one coil of wire runs out and you need to attach the next one during a pull, here is a simple joint you can do easily and quickly. Just install a C2L long crimp sleeve, leaving a foot of wire on each side, then hand wrap the ends. By leaving your crimp tool locked onto the crimp – it will give you some leverage on the wire to make the wraps. This makes for a strong joint and pulls thru the grass easily and without snagging on stobs or vegitation. Ethan picked up on this task rather quickly.
On a multi-strand fence like this one, I usually pull the top wire first and work my way down. After both ends are connected you can now tension up the wire. The tensioner should be located near the center of the fence run, rather than at one end. You will get a more uniform pull this way. If it is a very short run than its ok to mount the tensioner at the end. Pictured above is a round donut style tensioner (#EZT), that can be turned with a simple hand tool. While one person is doing this, another can be pulling another wire to keep the process moving.
Here is another leg of the fence, in which we used the #SCT1 spring clip tensioners. You will notice that the tensioners are somewhat staggered from each other. If staggered it is less likely that they could become tangled, should the wires get bounced around. As shown above, all 7 wires are now tensioned.
The next task is to drill the Powerflex Posts and install the cotter pins. While, this may sound like a time consuming job, it really does go quite quickly. For this we used the same template that we used on the end / corner posts to locate the wire spacings and keep them uniform.
You can use a cordless drill with a 7/32? bit. The posts drill quite easily. I have found that buying a good quality brad tip bit is a good investment and you can literally drill thousands of holes with one. If you have two people, then one can drill and the other follow installing the pins.
Here is a finished post with all seven wires attached with the cotter pins. The lower wires are spaced at 6? and the top 2 are spaced at 8?. You can vary this depending on the type of livestock that you are containing. For strictly cattle, a 4 or 5 wire perimeter fence is adequate.
Notice that we do NOT wrap the cotter pins around the fence wire. We want the fence wire to have free travel with NO restrictions. We simply bent the cotter pin tails around the posts and they are resting on the fence wire. I am not aware of any problems with cotter pins pulling out installed this way.
Above, Ethan (left) and I, have just hooked up our jumper wires at the end post at the driveway. I wanted to make sure that he had a good understanding of how to route his jumpers and wire feeds. With this 7 wire fence we have 4 hot (electrified) wires and 3 ground wires. We used insulated wire to make these connections. We used the CT4 open tap crimp sleeves to make the connections to the fence wires. We also drove a 6 foot galvanized ground rod to better ground the ground wires.
The bottom wire is not permantly electrified. We talked about this and chose to give Ethan some options. There will be times that he has only cattle along this fence, so it is not imperative that the bottom wires be hot. So he can easily use a pair of quick clips to power the bottom wire at times when he has baby pigs, goats or sheep along this fence. The bottom wire will likely incur a relatively heavy grass load.
We also used a wrap around insulator where the ground wires go around the wood post. The reason that we did this is so that, at a latter date, he decides to make some of those hot, he can do so without the grief of adding insulators.
Ethan chose the Stafix X6i Energizer. A good choice for his operation. It has 6 output joules and should give him plenty of power. It has a light bar plus a digital voltage display. This energizer has a fourth terminal (black) which is for earth monitoring – it will let him know how his grounding is working and if he should add more ground rods during dry soil times. The yellow terminal is a low output terminal, which he may use around the house, with 3 small children present. This unit could also be hooked up in bi-polar mode if he should ever chose to do that. This would put positive charges down the hot wires and negative charges down the ground wires.
The X6i also comes with a remote control to allow him to turn the energizer off or on anywhere on the farm. The remote also serves as a voltmeter and current meter. Additonally, it will run off of either 110V plug in or a 12V battery. In case of an ice storm or power outage, he could always run it off of a battery.
Before i left we installed 3 each 6 foot ground rods at the energizer, then at a few hundred feet away we drove in 4 more 6 foot ground rods for his lightning protection.
I really enjoyed my stay at Stoneyfield Farms,
and the hospility offered by Ethan & Rebecca Book.
(Rebecca is a mighty fine cook too, by the way.)
How to Build a Floating Brace Assembly
Building a Floating Brace Assembly
By: Jim Gerrish
American Grazinglands Services LLC
The Floating Brace Assembly has several advantages over the traditional "H" brace.
- Only one post to set in the ground
- Equal or greater bearing strength
- Greater side-to-side stability
- No insulators required for second post
- Less time required to build
Begin by either setting or driving a corner post. For 2 to 4 wire fences, use a 5-6' corner post. For 5 or more wires, use a 6-8' post.
Attach the first wire to the end post so the brace can be properly aligned.
The brace should attach to the corner at about 2/3rds the height of the fence. Setting the brace too high is the most common mistake made when building this corner!
Cut a notch approximately one inch deep in the face of the corner post. It should be just tall enough to accommodate the end of the brace.
Cut the upper end of the brace on a taper to fit squarely in the notch.
A seven foot brace will provide enough support for up to five strands of hi-tensile wire. Add six inches to the brace for each additional wire.
Cut a notch just the thickness of the bar on each side of the base of the brace. The cut should be parallel to the ground surface. This is to accommodate the brace wire.
Place the end of the brace on a support base. Bridge planks, flat rocks, concrete blocks, or disc blades all make good bases. This spreads the strain over more soil
The brace wire is run from the base of the corner post around the end of the brace pole. Staple it at the base of the corner post about 2-3" above ground level.
The brace wire can split a pine brace post. A piece of insultube works nicely to protect the post. Cut a notch on each side of the brace to accommodate the wire and insultube. Staple it in place.
You can also use the slice cut out of the notch on the corner post as a shield to protect the end of the brace post.
Tighten the brace wire just about as tight as you can get it. When the corner post starts pushing backwards, that is tight enough!
Secure the brace to the corner post with a jack fence spike or 3/8" x 5" lag bolt.
This finished brace assembly can support a 5-strand barb wire or up to 5 hi-tensile wires tightened to 250 psi each.
Line Post Options for Electric Fence
Your choices in line posts for electric fencing should be a major consideration for you. Line posts costs are a big part of your cost per foot of fence. They also represent a high percentage of the maintenance that may be required for the life of the system as well. Sometimes the appearance of the fence is a priority, in which case you may be willing to pay more for a line post that not only performs functionally, but has added eye appeal as well.
As we travel to different parts of the country, we notice that geographic location influences choices as well it should. Driving through Texas you may see a lot of cedar picket line posts, spaced close together. Local fencing folks explain that in their area cedar posts were inexpensive and plentiful. With an abundance of forests and sawmills in the pine forest of the Southeast USA, they also use a lot of wooden line posts. The use of wood line posts is a great option if you have local resources for them and your soil types allow you to auger or drive them in. The equipment you have on hand may also have a bearing on your choice of line posts.
When using wood posts just remember to use good quality insulators and consider the longevity of the different wood species. Black Locust makes a good wood post in the east, and Hedge (also called Osage Orange or Bois D�Arc) in the mid-west. Hedge posts tend to be very crooked, which we like to refer to as �character�. Because of the wood density and consistency of Hedge it absorbs very little moisture therefore conducting very little electricity, not to mention adding tremendous longevity. Even stapling electric wire directly to Hedge results in rather insignificant energy draw from the fence. It�s a favorite choice in our area for end and corner posts.
It may be apparent that we are not in favor of using steel posts in electric fence systems. We feel that steel is the enemy when it comes to electric fencing. A steel post is basically a ground rod. However, sometimes it is necessary to use T-posts and in that case we recommend that you use the best insulator you can to help keep shorts at bay. Black or dark green insulators will have carbon added which is a natural UV stabilizer. Yellow insulators don�t have the UV stabilization and when the sun dries them out, miniscule cracks form. When those cracks fill with moisture it causes a short. The other problem is that if the wire is knocked off the insulator and touches the post it results in a rather major short.
It is our opinion that self-insulated line posts are your best choice for electric fencing. Powerflex posts, and fiberglass �sucker rods� are all non-conductive. Some fiberglass rod posts are treated to reduce the amount of slivers involved with them, some are not. You will quickly become aware if you happen to have the ones without coating. Fiberglass is slicker and hard to drill in the field, so you need to purchase pre-drilled posts or drill them yourself in the shop. Powerflex posts hold in the ground very well and are easy to handle. They can be drilled in the field very easily and with little to no run-off. With these self-insulated options, the fence wire is generally attached to the post with an inexpensive clip or cotter pin.
Powerflex and fiberglass posts both have some flexibility and they do allow hi-tensile fence wire to be springy and bouncy as it is intended to be. This flexibility allows for a lot of forgiveness regarding wildlife damage and tree limb problems. We like to think more flexibility and less fortress. Remember that with electric fencing, the electric shock is a psychological barrier rather than a physical one.
In summary: by using a non-conductive line post, you will be assuring yourself of much less maintenance down the road. Looking for broken or cracked insulators is a very time consuming job.
Build an Electrified Rope Fence for Your Horse
Build an Electrifed Rope Fence
Building a rope fence for your horse is a pretty simple endeavor that most people can do on a weekend after some basic preliminary planning. The basics are pretty much the same in most fence building. Without giving you a 25 page PDF file, here are the highlights.
- Lay out your area on paper.
- Locate all corner and end posts.
- Locate all of your gateways.
- Indicate all ridges and dips in your fence line.
- Clean out and mow your fence line, preferably so that you can drive throughout your project.
- Now that you have all the basic design in front of you, take some measurements so you will know the distances to figure your materials list. Put those numbers on your design sheet.
- Choose the type of corner or end post that you will use. The "Mule" corner or end system is great for rope fencing as you can deal with an insulated corner post, which eliminates the need for end strain insulators and a lot of tying off to insulate your electrified rope from your corner/end posts.
- Other choices would be treated wood or steel. They can be built as a standard "H" brace or the "floating" brace. Take a look at our "How to" section of this website to look at different ways to build your corners.
- Choose the number of strands that you will use. With Rope fencing for horses we generally recommend either 3 or 4 strands. These will be all wired hot.
- Choose the types of gateways you will use. There are many choices available. Locate your gates to best facilitate movement of animals as well as any equipment that you will utilize in your paddocks. Brace your gate posts properly. Plan to install underground insulated wire under your gateways. Installing this into conduit will assure long life as well as facilitate maintenance down the road.
- Identify where your energizer will be installed and think about how you will route your power around your system. The use of jumper wires with proper clamps will make this rather easy.
- The first step is to locate all of your corner post, gate posts and end posts.
- Install all corner and end posts, but do not install the bracing just yet. Do not install your in-line gate posts yet.
- You now need a guide wire or rope to establish a good straight fence line. Since we are going to install a rope fence system we recommend that you use rope for your guide wire. It will latter be used as your bottom rope. For horses there really is no need for your lowest rope to be below 18" off the ground, so connect a rope to your end post and stretch it to the next corner or end post at 18" off the ground. Take some time to stretch your guide wire ( i.e. snap it up and down and get it tight and straight). If you have a rise in the lay of the land, go to that point and make sure that you have a straight line going over the rise.
- Once you have a guide wire all the way around, you can now tension them up with your tensioning kit (this kit is simply a ratchet pulley system that tensions the rope and it's very easy to use). Now you can locate any in-line gate posts, knowing that they are in a straight line with the fence.
- You can now install your bracing to your corner posts and gate posts. With the guide wire tight you can line your bracing up so that the ropes are all straight.
- The next step will be to install your line posts. The Powerflex Posts can usually be driven with a standard manual post driver, such as the ones you use for steel T-posts. Or, you can use a pilot driver or a drill, should you have rocky soils.
- Now, you will have all your corner, end, gate posts and line posts installed. So you are about ready to stretch your rope.
- Mark all your posts, indicating the location of your strands of rope. It is quite simple to take an old yard stick or something similar to use as a template. This will assure that your rope is equally spaced thru-out your system.
- If using insulated fiberglass "Mule" corners, then skip to step 11.
- If using wood or steel corners, you will now mark the locations of your end strain insulators that you will attach your rope to. You may use either rope or hi-tensile wire to attach the end insulator to the end and corner posts.
- Now you are ready to start attaching and tensioning your rope to the posts. Attach one end to the end insulator, looping it thru the insulator, and then use a rope clamp to secure it. Using a broomstick or dowel, walk the rope to the other end. Attach your tensioning kit around the other end post and tension your rope. After you have achieved adequate tension, secure the rope with a clamp.
- Now you are ready to attach the rope to all the line and brace posts.
- It is recommended that you allow the rope to "settle in" for about 24 hours, and then re-tension the rope.
- Install all jumper wires to transfer power from each leg of fence to the next.
- Install your energizer and grounding and energize your new fence. With a voltmeter, check your fence voltage. For horses normally 5KV or 5000 volts should be adequate.
- I would recommend that if you have horses that are not familiar with electric fencing, that you introduce them in a smaller area if possible. Taking the time to lead your horse around the perimeter of a newly fenced in area is probably a good idea also.
I hope that this helps you understand the basic planning and installation process of rope fence.
Other than the equipment needed to install the end and corner posts you will need only a limited number of hand tools such as: pliers, hammer, screwdrivers, marking pencils, etc.
Happy fencing! And, by all means, please feel free to call us anytime with any questions or comments. 417-741-1230