Creating Realistic Chain Link Fences

Written by Mike Cougill, photos by the author.

Chain link or woven wire fencing is an everyday item in the landscape. Adaptable to a variety of situations, chain link fences employ a support structure of posts and rails, to which the woven metal fabric is attached. The most common post and rail size is 2-3/8” O.D. galvanized tubing, although tubing up to 4-3/8” is used for large-scale commercial fencing.

Post spacing varies from six to a maximum of ten feet and fence heights can reach up to twelve feet. Fences higher than eight feet often have a middle rail for additional support of the fabric. Some applications also employ a bottom rail.

Chain link fencing is easily modeled in most scales with simple materials and techniques. I work in quarter-inch scale and needed a considerable amount of fencing (nearly sixteen actual feet) next to the backdrop on my layout. The method I used is an old one and I don’t remember where I first learned of it.

Years ago I found some wedding veil material while nosing around Walmart. The mesh size looked perfect for quarter-inch scale and the cost of a fabric yard was a no brainer. They even had it in a gray color that resembled galvanized steel.

For the posts and rails, I used 0.080” Evergreen styrene rod, which comes out close to the four-inch outside diameter post and rail material of full-size fencing.

Since my fence is a background item, I wanted it to blend in and not call attention to itself therefore I didn’t put a lot of detail into it.

The framework is simplicity itself: just lengths of styrene rod glued end-to-end for the top rail. The posts were spaced and glued with butt joints using styrene cement. I didn’t try to profile the post ends for a better fit as the glue softened the plastic and made a good bond. If I felt that was required, I make a jig to hold the posts and use a round engraving bit in my drill press to make short work of it. If the fence were a foreground item or in danger of being snagged by clothing or bumped, I would look at a soldered assembly of brass tubing.

I don’t have specific dimensions to give, as I made my fence by eye to fit the space. I did space the posts a scale ten feet apart to reduce their number.

The wedding veil fabric is so lightweight that cutting it can be a nuisance. I rough cut strips with plenty of extra material and glued them to the posts and rails with more styrene cement. CA might be tempting but it’s a sure way to glue your fence to the workbench. (I’m not speaking from experience, at least not this time.) I let the whole assembly dry overnight and trimmed away excess material the next day.

Painting and weathering depend on location and your modeling taste. As mentioned, I wanted the fence to blend into the background, so I sprayed it with a gray primer and lightly weathered with some drybrushed rust tones and powders along the top edge of the rail to tone it down.

In the photo above, the author is test fitting the fence sections. Notice that the scenery behind the fence is already in place.

Placing the fence in the landscape was a matter of locating and making holes for the posts, which I left extra long for this purpose, and then positioning the fence in them. I made that sound easy but manhandling a 24-inch long piece of flimsy fence is an entertaining exercise in patience and persistence.

I located my fence a couple of inches out from the backdrop to allow room for vegetation behind it. I added plenty of weeds, shrubs and trees along the length and these also disguised the gaps between sections.

About the Author

Michael Cougill's picture

Michael Cougill

I’ve been active in this hobby for over forty years, working mostly in HO scale before settling into P48. It's been a deeply satisfying journey of discovery.


eTraxx's picture

Well .. darn. I have a roll of the tulle (wedding veil material) that .. yes .. I got at WalMart awhile back. Now .. I will have to make my own fencing .. drat it! :D

"I drank .. WHAT?"
--- Socrates

Michael Cougill's picture

Well there you go Ed.


eTraxx's picture

Thanks again Michael. My attention was drawn back to this article by Shawn who posted (re?) on Facebook. It just so happens I know where that roll of tulle is ...

"I drank .. WHAT?"
--- Socrates