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Thread: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

  1. #1
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    Default life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Here is the life expectancy (in years) of some wood fence posts, from the Virginia Cooperative Extension:
    Black locust, 20 to 25
    Hickory, 5 to 7
    Honeylocust, 3 to 7
    Osage orange, 20 to 25
    Red cedar, 15 to 20
    Red oak, 5
    Southern pine, 3 to 7
    Sweetgum, 3 to 6
    White oak, 10
    Yellow-poplar (Tulip tree), 3 to 7

    After reading this maybe we should be using more black locust in boat building.

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    Default

    We had a bunch of old fence posts put into n by my great-grandfather mad of Osage orange. Couldn't hardly drive a staple in the dang things. But there is still a pile of them on the farm (the barbed wire fence was torn down in the early 80s). I am certain they had an infinite life expectancy.
    Last edited by peb; 04-25-2017 at 07:30 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Life expectancy is not the only thought. Black locust is indeed very rot resistant and the endgrain is so tight that there is almost not water uptake. Mostly the grain is fairly straight so you can get some lengths that are useful for flooring and heavy posts.

    But it's very heavy, so you'd not want it for boat decking. And totally out of the question for spars. It's super stiff so even if you could get the length, it would be a difficult choice for planking or framing. Besides trunnels, it's great for small parts like cleats, block shells, and fair leads. In bigger parts, you might try it for floors, though if you're going that high end you might use purple heart. And I suppose it could be an interesting choice to fill in a stretch of the deadwood.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    When we moved onto an old farm that hadn't been worked for 25 years, back in the early 60's. There were several ricks of Osage Orange logs standing behind the buildings. Most of those logs were 10" in diameter and 10 feet long. I expect it took generations of pruners to make the wood grow that straight. It made good firewood, but it was so hard it had to be cut with a handsaw.

    The railroad ties we used to build the fences for hog lots, were much lighter.

    regards,
    Joe
    These days, everything I do is just "puttering around"

  5. #5
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by slowpoke View Post
    When we moved onto an old farm that hadn't been worked for 25 years, back in the early 60's. There were several ricks of Osage Orange logs standing behind the buildings. Most of those logs were 10" in diameter and 10 feet long. I expect it took generations of pruners to make the wood grow that straight. It made good firewood, but it was so hard it had to be cut with a handsaw.

    The railroad ties we used to build the fences for hog lots, were much lighter.

    regards,
    Joe
    You burnt up that godsend? I weep.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I have hand split redwood posts on a fence line acrss our property that was put in when California was made a state, so maybe 150 years? The (early) bob wire is long rusted away but the posts are still standing...

    edit to add; Old growth Redwood is far more durable than second growth. We used to "harvest" logs that had been lying on the growth for a century or more. The bark and sweet wood was long gone but the heartwood was perfect. The mills pay a premium for that stuff.
    Last edited by Canoeyawl; 04-25-2017 at 10:36 AM.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts


  8. #8
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Bob Darr uses a lot of naturally curved black locust for framing.

    http://www.arqueschl.org/

    If I were to start over all of my fence posts would be concrete.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    You burnt up that godsend? I weep.
    I don't. There are a few good uses for bois d'arc, but I think it is so heavy and hard to work, it is rather limited. I had a cockpit grate made out of it, I replaced it. I have a short bowsprit on my boat that I fly an asymmetrical spinnaker from, it is a solid piece and works fine. But I tried to build some other stuff with it and it was quite frustrating. Hard on tools.
    Its quite common around here, and when the trees get cut down for some cause, it is rarely if ever saved.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I'm using as much BL in my builds as I can. I spoke with Bill Peterson in the fall of last year. Heartily endorses it for any boat part. I'd never use it for masts but any structural elements, hull sheathing (yes sheathing surprised me as well) as well as any little blocks, cleats, chokes, knees etc as Ian said. It's hard on tools. As Bud Said, the only thing BL is missing is a little advertising. And I'd say some protection from locust beetles. It's the best kept secret in the hardwood world. It's got all the qualities of the exotic hardwoods like Teak and Mahogany save perhaps the aesthetics of the grain. It bends well, takes nails or screws well, paints, steams, glues well. It's rot resistant (to the point of nearly being rot proof but NOT quite) dense, grows very fast, coppices well and grows in many types of soil. Due to it's strength giving density, it burns very hot so it's great stove wood. Just coppice when the trunk is a few inches across and cut to stove lengths. The only things it's got going against it from my perspective is weight (not mast material) aesthetics if you don't like it's look, propensity to rot standing and those blasted locust beetles that eat the wood before it's mature. It can provide long straight boards if you tend the trees. I can't sing the praises of BL enough. OO is very similar in most respects except that it grows all gnarly most of the time meaning knees and not planking material. If you can get some longer lengths it makes great trim pieces because it darkens so beautifully very fast. Oh, and they're both hard on tools but that's to be expected. Teak is as well and it costs $30/bf vs BL's $6/bf around here. If you can find it.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by peb View Post
    I don't. There are a few good uses for bois d'arc, but I think it is so heavy and hard to work, it is rather limited. I had a cockpit grate made out of it, I replaced it. I have a short bowsprit on my boat that I fly an asymmetrical spinnaker from, it is a solid piece and works fine. But I tried to build some other stuff with it and it was quite frustrating. Hard on tools.
    Its quite common around here, and when the trees get cut down for some cause, it is rarely if ever saved.
    Yes, it is a specialty timber. And for the things it's good for, there's little to match it. Still weeping.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  12. #12
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Oh, and the coolest feature of BL? It glows green under black light. How cool is that?
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts



    Double sawn futtock frames on the schooner Sultana are naturally curved Osage Orange. Trunnels for the planking, too.
    Steve Martinsen

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    It's legend in New England that a black locust fence post will last a day longer than a granite one.

    New Hampshire boatbuilder Gordon Swift referred to it as "New Hampshire teak".

    Some of the Concordia yawls have cleats toerails and other outside trim of locust, presumably a German variety.

    I love it for tillers.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    You burnt up that godsend? I weep.
    55 years ago, I was just the kid on the other end of the crosscut saw. Since that was so traumatic, I won't tell you what else he turned into firewood after I enlisted :-)

    regards,
    Joe
    These days, everything I do is just "puttering around"

  16. #16
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I enjoy working with Black Locust. My only beef is finding it around here. And that most of the logs have a lot of rot which usually starts at the pith and leaves some awkward shaped timber to be got out. It is tough, stiff, and durable. And I like the way it looks with finish. Here are some fids I turned in BL --

    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I've had great luck with Black Locust. Steamed all the ribs in my boat out of it, as well as the coaming. Used it for gaff jaws, main mast partners, belaying pins, small cleats and various toggles. Used it for sole beams and floors as well. Super strong and interlocked grain makes it split resistant. Looks great finished bright. And for durability? Made some 8' x 8' raised beds for our garden from 5/4 x 8" planks of it, no sign of rot despite years of being in contact with wet, fecund soil. It is cut as a weed around here.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Black Locust's main rot resistance is when it stays wet and not exposed to air. So the part below grade lasts the top part is rot resistant.

    The problem now is that it's trendy and it's being harvested too soon. The grain is not like the old growth tight grain stuff.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I'm a fan of black locust. It's very heavy, but doesn't seem noticeably heavier than white oak. In my limited experience with it, it wasn't easy to work, but no more difficult than oak. The grain is a little more squiggly, so that could cause problems. I've seen enough old black locust fence posts in good condition that I wouldn't hesitate to use it instead of white oak. I think the main reason we don't use it more, at least in my neck of the woods, is just because there's so much beautiful oak everywhere, it's hardly worth it to seek out long clear black locust. There's probably half a dozen white oaks on my ten acre lot alone that would be suitable for large skipjack keels.

    As for osage orange, I only have one experience with it, and it was one of my very first woodworking projects. I used it to build a jewelry box for my then girlfriend. The inside was lined with Purple Heart. The colors were jarring, to say the least, but still really beautiful. Man, she better be taking care of that dang box, because that was probably the most difficult wood I've ever worked. It was rock hard, but the real kicker was that the grain went every which way. Maybe I just got a funky board. As I recall, it seemed surprisingly brittle. I remember at the time it was extremely frustrating. I didn't have such a good understanding of grain orientation yet, so it seemed like every time I touched it, a chip came flying off. Now I don't think it would be so bad, but I don't think I'd go to the trouble of bringing it up to varnish quality in a boat. Again, it's very heavy, so it would be a good white oak substitute for keels, stems, etc. Now I'm thinking, the grain might be squirrelly enough that maybe I could find a couple decent natural knees in a flat board. Hmm.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Yes, black locust is pretty close to white oak in weight/density. W. Oak might be a smidgeon denser.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  21. #21
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    W. Oak might be a smidgeon denser.
    Nope, other way around.

    Black locust is a weed tree that's ideal for fence posts. It's very fast growing and will produce fence post sized trunk in under ten years. Using locust for other applications is troublesome because of the many defects that the tree produces. It's very difficult to find clear, straight grained stock longer than four or five feet, or wider than five inches. Out of a thousand board feet you might pull two hundred that might have reasonably clear sections. The rest will be garden grade or firewood.
    Last edited by Jim Ledger; 05-07-2017 at 10:29 AM.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    ^ Unless you select also for knees, which is actually best done from full trunks and branches.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    Nope, other way around.

    Black locust is a weed tree that's ideal for fence posts. It's very fast growing and will produce fence post sized trunk in under ten years. Using locust for other applications is troublesome because of the many defects that the tree produces. It's very difficult to find clear, straight grained stock longer than four or five feet, or wider than five inches. Out of a thousand board feet you might pull two hundred that might have reasonably clear sections. The rest will be garden grade or firewood.
    Just make dang sure you put the top of the post in the ground.

    Hmmm . . . That doesn't sound quite right.

    Put the end of the post that was nearest the sky, as-grown, in the ground.

    It probably doesn't matter so much with posts split and dried, but if you stick a round in the ground sky-end up, she'll sprout.
    Rattling the teacups.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    ^Now that would be a long-lived fence post. Just keep it pruned I guess. That would even work with willow.

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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    I'd think that would be a plus, fence posts growing roots.

    I heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, that Black locust rots easily in the green state and only develops its rot-resistant qualities after drying out.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    There are several houses in my area of 200 or more years old built on locust posts and still standing. Should be rot resistant enough for anybody, given the boggy land they are driven into.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    Nope, other way around.

    Black locust is a weed tree that's ideal for fence posts. It's very fast growing and will produce fence post sized trunk in under ten years. Using locust for other applications is troublesome because of the many defects that the tree produces. It's very difficult to find clear, straight grained stock longer than four or five feet, or wider than five inches. Out of a thousand board feet you might pull two hundred that might have reasonably clear sections. The rest will be garden grade or firewood.
    I agree... the challenge is to get usable stock. In terms of weight... they're close enough that variation between individual sticks is probably as large as the difference between species. I got curious, and pulled a couple of references down... and they both say - on average - w. oak is a bit heavier. Both Lincoln and Porter call white oak out as 47#/cu.ft. and black locust at 45#. But the online Wood Database cites 48# for b. locust. <SHRUG>
    Last edited by David G; 05-07-2017 at 12:18 PM.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  28. #28
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    I'd think that would be a plus, fence posts growing roots.

    I heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, that Black locust rots easily in the green state and only develops its rot-resistant qualities after drying out.
    A great concept, I think humans have been doing this in Europe for millennia.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    In terms of weight... they're close enough that variation between individual sticks is probably as large as the difference between species. I got curious, and pulled a couple of references down... and they both say - on average - w. oak is a bit heavier. Both Lincoln and Porter call white oak out as 47#/cu.ft. and black locust at 45#. But the online Wood Database cites 48# for b. locust. <SHRUG>

    I suppose if you live in a part of the country where locust is something you mostly read about then making a chart might be the best option available. Me, I like to get some chucked in the lathe in order to get a feel for the stuff. You turn locust for a few days, your hands get strong and everything else after seems kinda sawft, white oak included.




  30. #30
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    i hope that you don't paint that but instead install black lights in your garden

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post



    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Jim, my understanding is also that standing, it rots readily but once down and milled, it is like granite. When I can get clear pieces out of my BL, I love it.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  32. #32
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor View Post
    Jim, my understanding is also that standing, it rots readily but once down and milled, it is like granite. When I can get clear pieces out of my BL, I love it.
    That's the way I understand it, too, and it fits the logs I've seen cut.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    I suppose if you live in a part of the country where locust is something you mostly read about then making a chart might be the best option available. Me, I like to get some chucked in the lathe in order to get a feel for the stuff. You turn locust for a few days, your hands get strong and everything else after seems kinda sawft, white oak included.


    What a fun project! I've only turned a tiny amount of it. Mostly it's been rectilinear stuff. I did turn some fids from black locust, and it was nice to turn.




    A companionway door, using up the very last of the stock from one log.

    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  33. #33
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    check out that old school stanley tape measure
    i have one like that that i found under the robins egg blue bathtub when i tore the bathroom out for its remodel 13 years ago
    it had been there since 1978

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post





    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    That's me... old school in many ways.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  35. #35
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    Default Re: life expectancy of some wood fence posts

    check out that old school stanley tape measure
    There's prolly a Vintage Tape Measure Forum one can join.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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