Making Chain Link Fence

Making N scale Chain Link Fence


Chain link security fence with barbed wire outside the service facility on the BARR

Please note: This tutorial was originally published on a web site I had years ago. I've changed computers several times since then, and thought I'd lost this along with the files for the rest of the website. In moving recently, we found a large cache of 3.5" disks and this was on one of them.

Materials & Tools

Fence Materials:

  • 24 ga. Printed Circuit Board Buss Wire (Radio Shack #278-1341, $4.49 for 50 feet)
  • Silver Bridal Veil material (It's actually gray…) Most fabric stores.
  • Masking tape
  • ACC glue (super glue - use a low viscosity or 'thin' glue, not the gap filling kind!)
  • Gel Spun Polyethylene fly tying thread, 10/0 (for barbed wire)

To make an assembly jig:

  • Wooden Yardstick (any hardware store - be sure it's straight and flat)
  • 1/16 x 3/4 x 36 basswood strip (Hobby shop or art supply)
  • Wood glue (NOT Gorilla Glue - the foaming action will move the jig pieces out of alignment!)
  • Double sided Tape
  • NWSL "Chopper" (for making jig)


  • Wire cutters (in good shape - able to cut fine wire)
  • Fine-point soldering iron (Buy a spare point and file it down. A drill makes a good lathe for this purpose!)
  • Solder paste (Radio Shack Solder Weld, #64-029, $3.99)
  • Toothpicks
  • Wood screws, small hex head bolts, or 1/4" or smaller nuts
  • At least 2 sets of pliers
  • Tweezers
  • Very sharp pointed small scissors (surgical, sewing, or fly tying scissors)
  • Fly tying bobbin


The general concept of this fencing came from an article in the May/June 1999 N Scale Magazine by Clayton Berry. I've refined it a bit, making it less expensive, easier and faster to produce. The longest fence I've made so far is one continuous run of just over five feet in length. (800 feet in N scale!)

For small fence segments, it's probably best just to draw the fence by hand on quad ruled paper (or with a graphics program on your computer, as below.) and use ordinary Scotch double-sided tape to hold the pieces. For long fences and/or high volume production, make a jig as per example below with a yard stick and basswood strips.


Prototype fence posts for industrial fencing are usually either 8 or 10 feet apart. 10 foot spacing gives a slightly less cluttered look, and is less work! It's also easier to build the jig, because it's exactly 3/4" in N scale. Industrial fences are typically 8 feet high, and topped with 3 strands of barbed wire on brackets mounted at 45 degrees, facing outward. For modeling purposes, this can be reduced to 2 strands and still be very effective.

Residential fencing is typically 4 feet high, with no barbed wire. This can be built on the same jig as the industrial fence, if you remember to remove the fence from the jig before soldering on the bottom runner. Just clip the top posts even with the top of the fence before attaching the 'chain link'

Laying out your work

Make a jig to make a jig

My Chopper disappeared during a recent move, so I had to improvise. A little styrene and a few moments with the dial caliper got me what I needed.


I used the 1/4" square Evergreen tile because it was A) what I had on hand, and B) easy to snap to the dimensions I needed in a straight line with a minimum of fuss.


I marked some of the "working edges" with a black marker so that they would show up better in these pictures.


Slide a piece of balsa or basswood in between the side pieces…


… push it against the end stop a scale 8 feet away…


… and chop off with a single edge razor blade held against the blade guides. Repeat a bunch of times… and you've got your spacers.


This is laid out on a ordinary wood yardstick. 1/16th x 3/4 x 36 inch basswood is crosscut into segments to provide the vertical spacing between the top and bottom runners for the fence. 3/4 inch is 10 feet in N scale, so this gives you an even 10 foot spacing between fence posts with little effort. The spacer blocks are glued to the yardstick , using a piece of the bus wire as a spacer between them. Don't glue the wire in!

A second yardstick tacked to the first with a couple of track nails serves as a straightedge to keep the top of the spacer blocks aligned. When all of the blocks are dry, a couple of lengths of stripwood or plastic glued across the top about 3 scale feet above the spacer blocks provide a stop for getting the fenceposts even on the top. I'd advise building the jig the full length of the yardstick. Even though you may only need a foot of fence now, once you see how simple it is to do you'll be putting them everywhere, just like the prototype… and you can bet they'll get longer as you go!

For smaller or odd-sized projects, you can use just a piece of paper with a drawing of the fence layout and ordinary double-stick tape (sticky both sides) applied over the drawing. Just press your posts down onto the tape and it will hold them long enough for you to solder the runners to them. Put a piece of cardboard under the drawing when soldering if you're on the kitchen table… I'm not defending you to your spouse!

Building the fence framework

Select your prototype, and prepare appropriate drawings and/or take measurements for the fence.

Unwind and stretch a length of the PC board bus wire with two pair of pliers. Pull hard until you feel it stretch in length. This straightens the wire.

Cut a number of small pieces to be the upright posts for the fence. Every third or fourth post , and every corner post, should be 1/4 inch or so longer so that it can be planted in the scenery. Insert the posts into your jig, or press them onto the double-sided tape on your drawing.

Stretch a length of wire several inches longer than the total run of the fence segment you are building. This will be your top runner. Put it in place on top of the posts on your jig. If necessary, use pins to hold it in place.

Put a small dab of soldering paste on the intersection of the first post and the runner. Heat with the iron and check your joint. Note: The bus wire is pre-tinned and solders very easily!

Prepare the next group of 5-10 joints with solder paste, and join them. Repeat until the top runner is soldered to all posts. Yes, it really is that simple!

Do the same for the bottom runner, again working from one end to the other. Soon enough, you'll have this:


When finished, examine all solder joints, looking for any cold or incomplete joins. (An Optivisor helps here…) When you are sure all joints are secure, gently remove fence assembly from jig. I usually lift one end of the fence to clear the spacer blocks, then slip a long, thin knife blade or piece of styrene under the runners and slide it down the jig. The fence pops right out! DO NOT bend the fence to its final shape at this time!

If diagonal or horizontal bracing is desired, (see photos of finished fence) it can be applied at this time. It's usually easiest to attach the bracing first, then clip it to length. If applying diagonal braces in pairs (as at corners) bend the wire to the approximate angle needed, then solder the bend in position. Finally, solder the loose legs, using a toothpick or tweezers to hold them in position.

No painting or washing required! This method gives you a ready-to-use fence framework!

Attaching the chain link

Cut a length of the bridal veil material a couple of inches longer and wider than your fence framework. Tape it down at one side of your table. Place the framework under the material POST SIDE UP, RUNNER SIDE DOWN, and slightly stretch the material over the length of the fence. Tape down the end. (I finally added photos! Yay! This fence is going to find a home on my Einewinkle Chemicals module))


Use a toothpick to lightly spread a small amount of ACC over the first post, right over the material. Do the same to the second post. Do NOT apply ACC to the runners! This will allow you to bend the fence runners to follow the contours of the terrain when you install it.


When ACC has been applied to both posts, place a small weight (1/4-20 hex nuts work well, are inexpensive in large quantities, and easy to find) in the middle of the panel to keep it in contact with the post. Apply ACC to next post, place a weight, and repeat until finished.


When all ACC has dried, remove tape from ends of material. Use a very fine and sharp pair of scissors to trim the material close to the wires. I use fly-tying scissors for this job. Iris scissors will work as well. In my experience, X-acto blades, razor blades, even scalpels are not suitable for this. You need something that will shear, not slice the fabric

When all material has been trimmed, bend the 'extensions' for the barbed wire 45 degrees to the outside of the fencing by holding the extension in the pliers and bending it while holding the main portion of the fence . Make other bends as needed for shaping the fence, using pliers for nice, crisp corners. Install fence where needed. Drill holes for the longer posts (you did remember to make every third or fourth post longer, didn't you? And all the corners, too?) as you go, and set in place with gap-filling ACC.

If you're really a masochist, then you can install the barbed wire on the fence. I use 10-aught (10/0) GSP (Gel-Spun Polyethylene) fly tying thread for this, and a fly tying bobbin. A couple of turns around one of the extensions holds the thread long enough for ACC to be applied at the first post.


When it is attached, just go down the fence making a single turn around each extension, as close as you can to the fence. Wrap and glue at the end. Repeat for the second strand, trying to keep the spacing even. You will be able to adjust it slightly by sliding the wraps on the barbed wire supports. Wrap and glue at the end of the run, then trim the excess thread with sharp scissors when dry.


WARNINGNEVER attempt to break GSP thread in your hands or wrap it around your fingers! It is exceptionally strong (stronger than steel wire of the same size) and will quickly slice through your fingers clear down to the bone! This is the same material the new superstrong fishing lines (Spiderwire, Fireline, Power Pro, etc.) are made from.


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