Telephone Poles for Fence Post
Kevin Felts 01.24.17
Decades ago rural farmers used railroad cross ties for fence corner post. Farmers knew the best treated wood did not come from the farm supply store, it came from the railroad. That is because the railroad used an industrial grade treatment process.
While pulling up an old fence line, I noticed just about all of the small two inch fence post had rotted. On the other hand, the cross tie corner post that had a datenail of 1924 in it was still solid. Datenails were used by rail roads to note the year that a cross tie was put under the tracks.
Used cross ties are sold in various hardware stores all over the nation. However, today there is a better option for a corner post than a cross tie, and that is culled telephone poles (aka utility pole).
Industrial Grade Treatment
Fence post sold by hardware stores are pressure treated. This means the board is put into a chamber, coated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) solution and then pressurized to force the CCA into the wood. This is a basic consumer grade treatment.
Telephone poles are put into a vacuum chamber. When exposed to a vacuum, moisture is pulled out of the wood. Either CCA, creosote, or both, are injected into the chamber and the vacuum reduced. The wood then soaks up the CCA and/or creosote. Pressure is then applied to further force the solution into the wood.
Some companies produce poles with just the CCA treatment without the creosote. These are easier to handle the creosote treated poles.
Culled Telephone Poles
During the treatment process, a pole may warp, or while being moved around the storage yard, the pole may become damaged. Treatment facilities use large forklifts to move the poles. The forks may chip a piece of wood off the pole, or a pole may fall off the forklift and become damaged.
Since the poles are damaged, the power companies reject them. Rather than letting the poles sit in a yard, they are sold to the public at a discounted price.
Sometimes the telephone pole manufacturers will cut the poles to length and will load them in your trailer.
When I buy poles for corner post, I have them cut eight feet long. When the poles are set, I put 3 feet in the ground.
Handling Creosote Post
Allowing creosote to touch your skin can result in a first or second degree chemical burn.
- Long sleeve work shirt. I use a shirt that is kept separate from everyday clothing.
- Leather work gloves.
- Safety glasses.
- Work pants.
- Leather steel toed work boots.
Creosote treated poles will be heavier than regular timber. You may want to use machinery such as a tractor or get someone to help.
If you want to save yourself the hassle of dealing with creosote, get poles that are just CCA treated.
Fence Post That Last A Lifetime
Chances are the telephone poles you use for fence post will last a lifetime. I have several railroad cross ties on the fence here at the farm that date from the 1940s to 1924.
The treatment process used in utility poles is far superior to anything found on a consumer grade product line. The creosote treatment is designed to last decades buried in the ground.