Model Realistic Balsa Plank Fence

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

If you are like me and spending enough time looking around your local hobby shop or hardware store, you will find some very inexpensive modelling mediums, such as Balsa wood sheets.

In this blog I will show you How to build a Balsa plank fence. The balsa wood shown here are in HO scale, but could be scaled down or up to a variety of scales.

This is not a quick process but if you are willing to give it the time and have some patience. I will show you how I made this.

Start by purchasing some balsa wood sheeting. Balsa comes in a variety of lengths and thicknesses I choose 1mm thick few dollars a sheet. Sheet sizes are 60cm (L) x 7.5cm (W) x 1mm (H) or 23.6(W)x 0.29 (W)x 0.03 (H) inches

I bought these from my local hardware store’s art section. Be careful not to buy sheets that are twisted and warped. This creates more work in the back end.

First of all you need to establish the height of the fence. A good place start is to a put a scale person down on your cutting mate against the proposed height of your lumber.

Cut the balsa sheet into 5-6 scale metre portions (16 feet). I then cut them into their individual planks of lumber, utilising a Micro Mark Wood Strip Cutter #14568. Remember to cut enough for two rails (horizontal beams) per section of fencing. The cut planks of lumber are about 2mm wide. Use a fresh blade.

Cutting Balsa sheets

Micro Mark Cutter

This is the item I use:

Once a number of planks have been cut, I like to add the first layer of weathering at this point in time. I mix together some acrylic paint 1/10 burnt umber, 2/10 black and 1/10 yellow or sienna and 6/10 tap water in a jar and shake vigorously. This makes a very watery wash, which gives a nice ageing look. It looks a bit green, but don’t despair once on the wood it is a nice brown colour.

Ageing Wash

Dip a bundle of planks into the jar. Depending on the intensity you desire, I would either do 1 or 2+ dips into the wash. Place the planks out on some baking paper and let dry between washes.

Aged Planks

Top 2 planks, no wash the others dipped in wash.

Now for the fun part-construction.

The easiest way I find to level the planks and get them straight is to use some masking tape and stick down a metal ruler/straight edge on your cutting mate.

Securing Scale Ruler

Arrange the plank vertically; a good pair of pliers or tweezers is handy. This will represent the vertical panelling on the fence. I place the scale figurine against planks as a last gauge of height of the fence.

There a two ways to arrange the vertical planks, either neatly to model new fence or more random spacing to model a ram shackled fence (like the fence I am making) by leaving small gaps between the palings &/or slightly different length palings. The choice is yours.

Now for the rails of the fence (horizontal beams). I use the 5-6 scale metre lengths we previously cut. I place some Tacky Glue (quick drying PVA) along the entire length of the rail.

This is the item I use:

Tip: I don’t use super glue as it is can be brittle and break. Use PVA or similar

I use the scale ruler to get the palings in order before cutting.
Sizing up fence with HO figurine

I use the scale ruler to align the palings before I cut them to length.

I carefully place the rail on the palings trying not to disturb them (this can be difficult depending on the size of the fence.). Arrange the rails horizontally so the fence is all nice and square. Leave aside and let dry.

The next stage is up to the modeller. But I add another stage of weathering by adding a grey wash. The acrylic paint grey wash is made as follows: 2/10 black, 3-4/10 with 1-2/10ths of Burnt Umber of brown and the rest water.

This adds a nice grey/brown colouring. At this stage you can either install the fence on your layout go to the installation section of this tutorial.

Apply all over the fence.

Palings with various intensity of the wash

Top fence: 1st wash only

Bottom fence: grey wash.


Weather further with some chalk whites and blacks and streak with either rubbing alcohol or water or other weathering products. These products are very strong so build the colour with several applications. These products will add a lot of depth/highlights to the fence. Personally this step is a must.

Weathering Pastels: black, grey and white.


Previously, I have installed the fences utilising two methods:

The first method, I glue the fence posts-2x2mm balsa (using white glue) directly to the rails and then once dry, install the fence on the layout, using super glue (CA Glue) to the ground surface.

Tip: The great thing about using white glue to fix the rails and posts together is the glue remains a little flexible, which comes in handy with all the little lumps and bumps on our layouts.

Gluing in Fence Posts

The second method, I glue the fence posts to the ground first (using CA glue), then glue the fence to the posts.

Now for some creeping ivy and posters

Some of the links on this Blog are Affiliate links where the author will receive a small commission. All funds are put back into the website/blogs and Youtube channel, for buying new equipment and paying off equipment already purchased.

Thank you for your support in advance.

184 views0 comments