Old Style H braces on the east coast were notched with a chain saw to support the horizontal post, and also cut about ½ inch to provide the brace wires a channel to slide in. We want to compare the old vs new approach to build H braces for field fencing.
Traditional H braces
I have built H braces the way we had seen them made, by notching the vertical posts with a chain saw to support the horizontal posts, and I also made a shallow cut on the low end of one vertical post and the high end of the other vertical post for the brace wire to slide in. One disadvantage to this is that it exposes cut surfaces which allows rain and snow to enter and deteriorate the wood of the vertical posts, and another is the additional expense. Many times I have bought larger diameter posts than I really needed because after notching because we did not leave much wood left for the horizontal post to push on.
Improved H braces
The improved solution is to hold the vertical posts in place with two spikes, without notching them at all. Some recommend brace pins but I use hot galvanized 8 or 12” spikes from Lowes. Drill all the way through the two vertical posts with a 3/8” ship auger bit to be a pilot hole for the two galvanized spikes. It is better to have a helper hold one end of the horizontal post approximately lined up with the hole in the opposite post, then insert the ship auger bit back into the same hole you prevoisly drilled, line up the horizontal post and drill into to the end of the horizontal post deep enough for the length of the spike. After pre drilling, hammer the spike in with a hammer.
Best Brace Wire
I have used standard 9 gauge brace wire from Southern States Supply, doubled up strands of high tensile, and also barbless barbed wire from Tractor Supply. Once while paying for a roll of barbless barbed wire at Tractor Supply, a biker behind me in line heard what I was gatting, he laughed and said “ is that like a hoar house with no hookers?” It is half as expensive; An 80 rod roll is 1320 feet long and costs 59.99 or only 4.5 cents per foot, where the 171 foot rolls of brace wire are 15.99 which is 9 cents per foot. The barbless cable is two strands of 12.5 gauge galvanized wire, compared to one strand of 9 gauge wire so either are strong enough for the tension which will be on it. Besides the barbless wire being half as expensive in initial cost, it is also less wasteful because with the many rolls you will go through making braces with the standard brace wire, there will be a wasted piece at as you come to the end of each roll that is not quite long enough for one more brace. If you use eight foot horizontal posts in your braces you will need around twenty or twenty two feet of wire per brace.
Best Horizontal Posts
I have read in USDA fencing guidelines that having a ten foot horizontal post in H braces makes them equal in strength to a double H brace using eight foot horizontal posts. I don’t know if they are THAT much stronger, but I do use ten foot long by four inch diameter on the horizontal braces that will support a gate depending on the length of the gate. There is an increased cost involved as I buy my ten foot posts from a place called Barn Loft at fourteen dollars each, and for most H braces I use an eight foot long by five inch post which is around nine and a half dollars.