Up-Cycle An Old Cedar Fence

A few weeks ago I was presented with a section of an old weathered cedar fence that had been knocked down in a storm.  It was brought in by a coworker with the idea we could up-cycle the material into something cool.  We came up with the idea of using the CarveWright with a v-bit to route a vector graphic across the multiple pickets to make one large image.  It sounds more complicated than it is.  This is a super simple project.

The raw fence

stock-vector-black-tree-silhouette-isolated-on-white-background-vector-102856430Searching online for vector graphics turned up several options.  We wanted something organic and nature related. Trees, grass, flowers, etc. Something with good lines too.  The idea is to just rout the outlines, so a simplified graphic shape will make that much easier. We settled on a really nice tree design.  Many free vectors can be found online, but we ended up purchasing one from Shutterstock.

The vector file was in .EPS format, so I opened it in Adobe Illustrator and exported it as a .DXF file.  Any vector drawing program can do this, including the free Inkscape.

Once the file is in DXF format, we can bring it into the CarveWright System with the  DXF Importer software.

The DXF importer is what makes this project so simple.  With it, you can define the size of the individual fence pickets, how many pickets there are, and scale your design to split across the multiple boards.  All of this with just a few clicks.  See the video.

Now that the design is prepared and uploaded to the memory card, a jig will need to be built.  One thing that I found when measuring the fence pickets, was the inconsistency in their width.  Some were less than 5.5 inches and some were almost 6 inches.  To accommodate this and ensure all the fence pieces lined up after carving, I created the jig a little wider to cover all widths. See the drawing below to see how the jig was made.


I made the jig 8ft long just in case I wanted to do some other lengths at some point.


Now it’s time to load the first picket and start carving. This project is going to use the “place on corner” positioning option for the machine, so we will be aligning the pickets on the back corner on the keypad side.  This will ensure each board is indexed from the same position making the design lineup when finished.  This jig is also pretty long, and a little heavy, so you will need to have some outfeed support rollers on both sides to keep the board from cantilevering.  Last, use some masking tape across the width of the board and position that tape under the cutting truck when you load the board.  This will help the optical board sensor read all the way across the board when measuring the width.  That sensor looks for edges by sensing differences in color, and with all the edges in this jig, it is possible for it to detect the wrong one.  The tape eliminates that issue.


When you run the project follow these commands at the keypad.


It will ask you to load in the 90º V-bit and run through the bit find routine.  When it gets to the board find (touching the bit to the board surface), hit the stop button once and select option “3 ) Jog”.  Then use the arrow buttons to position the bit over the actual picket and select enter.  This will make the machine see the picket’s surface as the level to carve on.  The pickets can vary in thickness, but by doing this, you can keep the rout depths more consistent.

Then, it’s a matter of repeating these steps for each project and watch the design take shape.

tree_finished_shop1 tree_fence_finished

It was such a nice piece when we finished, we decided to hang it in our lobby, but not before we promised to make another one for the wife of the coworker who had brought the fence in to begin with.

tree_fence_hung2 tree_fence_hung1

So, this piece went from an old fence to a nice up-cycled piece of artwork, but now we wanted to actually do a fence.  We went down to Home Depot and bought some cedar fence pieces and started working on another design.

This time, with an actual fence in mind, we came up with a design that could be a repeating pattern for various lengths of fence.

This design can be repeated along any length of fence

We followed the same procedure as the first fence and ended up with this.

grass_fence18 grass_fence7 grass_fence5 grass_fence13

It’s subtle, but it should age nicely.  I’m sure many of you will come up with some great ways to finish a design like this.


While doing the second fence carve, we came up with a way of quickly loading the fence pickets into the jig to crank these out faster. We did this by creating some spikes that we put into the end pieces of the jig.  Then, when you load the picket, you can quickly jam the ends of it into these spikes to hold the piece in place.  This also has the added benefit of not needing to add screw holes into your fence pickets.

We made the spikes from a piece of metal banding material we had around, and cut out some small diamond shapes with tin snips. Then sharpened them a little on the belt sander.  Then by using a hex nut, tapped these into place on either end of the jig.  I had to create a sliding block for the front end of the jig that could be slid into place on the top end.

spikes quick_load_jig

I hope to see some carved fences from my readers now that I’ve showed you how.  It’s such a simple process, but the results are  really pretty spectacular.

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