• Toothpick Fencing - Following The Ways Of The Ancient Ones

    There is lots of commercial fencing available, most of it rather expensive. So having read lots of old paper magazines and books some dating long before I was born, I found some concepts they followed that may be lost to those who rely on the internet and buying ready to use materials.

    The big take away is this…
    If you cannot find something you need commercially, look in your own house.

    This principle lead to using plaster for surface terrain and many other techniques we use today.

    What got me started on this project was a little scene I wanted on the Snowton Christmas layout. I envisioned a transient Christmas Tree Sale in an empty lot. The scene started with a Wiking camper, some tiny pine trees and other stuff I had on hand.

    Here's the empty lot…

    The space goes from the sidewalk to the building across the alley. But I wanted the scene to have an backside. A tall fence would do the trick. But the balsa I had was too thick to make a decent fence without having to cut and sand every piece to a scale thickness. As noted, a commercial fence suffers from being costly. So I contemplated my options. The Ancient Muses came to the rescue. A fence I could build for pennies not dollars.

    Now scale lumber like a commercial laser kit can drain the wallet quickly, I needed an alternative. The kitchen offered a solution.

    Matchsticks are a good idea, but they scale out around a foot square. Much too thick for fence boards without a lot of thinning by sanding.

    Flat toothpicks make excellent fodder for a random width board fence. By alternating the angled thin wood, you can produce a straight shape.

    Step 1
    Stain the toothpicks in thinned paint. Don't put all of them in the paint for the same amount of time and you'll enhance the random nature of the staining effect. If you want a more even color, paint the fence after assembly. But remember the glue used will affect how the paint or stain will take to the wood.
    After pulling them out and letting them dry, toss the various batches into a pile several tines to mix them up.

    Step Two
    Tape a square to your working surface. I used part of a protractor/square on glass. I marked on the tape the height of the individual panels (long tick marks) and the cross-members (short tick marks). I started the eight foot panels to eliminate the rounded ends. You might want to keep them for a fancier fence. Here's the square with some toothpicks already in place…

    Step 3

    Stacking the toothpicks. Now this can be a tedious process and the slightest touch can upset the toothpicks. Having to reset them several times is not out of the question, but it's easier than all that cutting and sanding. Note in the picture that I have alternated the direction of the toothpicks.

    Step 4
    Keep putting the toothpicks side by side until you have about two inches or a toothpick's width of panel.
    I then put some white glue on the working surface so that I could easily apply it to the cross-members.

    After generously applying glue to the thin edge of another toothpick, it is lined up with the appropriate tick marks and stuck on the panel…
    Be sure to get glue across the entire toothpick. Any spot without glue may be a problem later, as a board may become loose when separating the panels. Be sure to alternate the thick ends of the cross-members. We'll fix the height differences later.
    When all the cross-members are applied the panel will look like what's below. The glue smears are from adjustments to aligning the boards to the tick marks. It will disappear as it dries. If you are more careful yours won't look as messy.

    Let's let this dry and start again in the next post.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. NellsChoo's Avatar
      NellsChoo -
      I forgot about flat toothpicks! I wonder... do they still sell them?
    1. ChicagoNW's Avatar
      ChicagoNW -
      In a word - YES!

      Google says look here…

      Of course the easiest way is just look for them next time you are in the grocery store. You just have to look carefully at the box. If you don't see them, ask the grocer, if they can get them. Unlike most food items they won't have a spoil date on them. You also might check the liquor store, too.

      Then again, they seem to have morphed, into a craft item, like headless matchsticks.
    1. ChicagoNW's Avatar
      ChicagoNW -
      The article continues here…
    1. subwaync's Avatar
      subwaync -
      Quote Originally Posted by NellsChoo View Post
      I forgot about flat toothpicks! I wonder... do they still sell them?
      Yes they are still for sale. Not as cheap anymore. Neat idea