Build A Western Saloon Kid's Fort With Standard Fence Boards

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Picture of Build A Western Saloon Kid's Fort With Standard Fence Boards
Howdy pardner! So you think you have what it takes to wander into the Wild West? Have you got a posse of pint-sized pistol packers? Well grab those gunslingers, get in your garage, grab your gear and giddy-up! Y'all are about to make a western saloon fort... with standard fence boards.
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Step 1: Sketch Out A Plan

Picture of Sketch Out A Plan
There is a bank vault full of fort plans on the Internet. My posse and I took the elements of forts we liked and combined them into our own design.

Our first inspiration was a "Frontier Fort Playhouse Built From Stockade Fencing" designed by John Lewis, and available free on the web. While small, Mr. Lewis's design is cost-conscious and looks easy to build. Unlike ours, his is made without framing or siding the walls one board at a time. Instead, he simply uses pre-fabricated and spaced stockade fencing PANELS turned sideways, and uses a lightweight roof. We take our hats off for Mr. Lewis for inspiring us with his fine concept... but I reckon it just wasn't all we we wanted.

What we wanted was a much bigger fort (ours is bigger in every dimension, twice the volume, and the ceiling high enough that an adult can stand inside). We wanted a stronger fort (ours will hold the weight of a heavy cedar shingle roof plus a dad and kids who want to sit on it to look at the stars). We wanted it to be craftsman quality (ours is framed with 2x4's like a house and is sided with individually routed and cut pine fence boards). And we wanted ours to have a Texas-sized personality (ours has saloon doors, rustic trim, a wood burned sign and lots of other "extras"). And we didn't mind too much if it took more time and materials to get there.

It's impossible to give credit to all that inspired us. Some our ideas came from just looking at Old West buildings at an amusement park.

There is a link to our plans on this page which we followed until we got to the roof structures.*   This Instructable will show you what we did.
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SmashedWord4 months ago

great instructable mate makes me wish i had kids to build this for. will keep it in mind for when i do, thanks and very entertaining :)

jhawkins14 (author)  SmashedWord4 months ago

Much obliged, feller.

That was grate I'm sure the kids love it. I would love to build this for my grand kids to play in. I want one for my self. Grate Job.

idk if you're sarcastic, but you spelled great wrong. not trying to be ,mean or anything :)

EthanJP1 year ago


Wow that is awesome. How long did it take you?
jhawkins14 (author)  annabenson61 year ago
Hey thanks! We started in July and finished at the end of October, so about 3 and a half months. An evening here and there... and Sunday afternoons that weren't filled with other plans.

I feel like my middle son actually grew an inch taller while building it. He didn't fit through the doorway as well by the time we finished ;)
good job boss.
Daemonikk1 year ago
Great work, and thanks! I scaled up the design a bit and tweaked a few things for my particular needs, and now this is gonna be my new workshop! I'll have to add pictures once it's done.
duresti1 year ago
Awesome idea for the kids!
ledshed1 year ago
Nice... got me thinking... scale up and real bar :-)
bajablue1 year ago
fenikkusu1 year ago
I'm confused what did the router do to the boards? This is asked due to a lack of knowledge as to what the particular bit creates in the wood...sorry I have no clue about that one thing...This is amazing and awesome though! I LOVE LOVE LOVE how you even reminded us about digsafe! You are awesome! People forget those simple things that could turn a project into a disaster!
jhawkins14 (author)  fenikkusu1 year ago
If I told you that, I'd have to kill you. Well, maybe not. Here is a picture of a round-over bit and what it does to a square edge of a board. What I did is run the fence boards through the router, each twice so that if you looked at the profile of the board, it would look like the letter "D" If that doesn't make sense, take a look at the close up pictures at the end of the instuctable. You can see the edges of each fence board are rounded smooth.
jhawkins14 (author)  jhawkins141 year ago
Sorry, I couldn't successfully post a picture in a comment. Here's what you can do: Google "roundover bit" and hit the "Images" tab. You'll see a picture of what the bit looks like. The router itself spins that bit super fast, and shaves one edge of the board so that is rounded instead of sharp.
jhawkins14 (author)  jhawkins141 year ago
Finally, if you look at the one photo taken from the inside of the fort (Step 10, top picture), you can see those edges are not rounded, they are sharp 90 degree edges just like fence boards look when you buy them.

Excellent question. Thank you for asking.
You absolutely rock! Thank you for answering my question about the roundover bit! Your kids have THE...BEST...DAD!!! Please keep posting your projects. I think I speak for everyone when I say. This was just a pleasure to take a look at! ...(even more fun to read!) lol. Two thumbs way way up!!!
Congratulations on your win. Top notch instructabling.
YPF1 year ago
Thanks for sharing such a great instructable. You've done a great job!
thehaze441 year ago
Good thinking, was wondering why the overkill but heads are more valuable than gold nuggets!
This is way too cool
vote vote vote
good luck with the contests
kmdill1 year ago

I enjoyed your Instructable so much I had to sign in and VOTE!! LOVE the finished pictures of you and the Buckeroo's!
SparkySam1 year ago
Great idea and what an awesome memory for the whole family! Even though I wasn't looking to build a cool fort today, I couldn't stop reading your story! It made me smile! Love it!
cbeatty11 year ago
Very cool. My cousins son wants a fort like this and this would make an awesome one! Good Job!
olbuzzard1 year ago
This is jhawkins14's dad. Several parents got prematurely grey during that tree house construction adventure he posted about!! They were working 30 to 40 feet up. His older brothers were the instigators of the project. We did require that they fashion a rope harness and tie themselves off to a limb while up there building. They used assistants on the ground to tie materials and tools to ropes for hauling them up. There was absolutely no adult help what so ever. I don't recall that there was a single injury, not even a smashed finger.

There are still a few boards and remnants up there, but alas the thievery continued with the subsequent generations of kids along the wooded creek. No telling how much recycling of tree forts has gone on. Wish I could find the pictures of it. It was a beauty to behold and was the talk of the neighborhood! I don't know of a single adult who ever got the courage to climb up there.

I don't know how much longer the old tree is going to survive. Each year more and more roots get exposed from the creek eroding the bank. It's leaning quite a bit now.
Stargazin is a mighty fine way of passing the evening. Jus don't drift off into a nap or you might come down to earth all of a sudden like!
I'm building a raised platform framework with a sturdy roof myself! T'aint as purty as your Saloon and way simpler, Don't have the room or the money for anything more. But I guess the kids will dream it into more things than a cloud thataway too (Ships that ply the air, seas or the ether to a cabin/roost/hide etc). I'll post some of those fancy photographic images when it's done. Might be another week though...
jhawkins14 (author)  OrientalHero1 year ago
You speak Pirate! This is going to be good...
lol, it was supposed to be cowboy, but seeing as we don't have any this side of the pond... (other than the cowboy builders!).
jhawkins14 (author)  OrientalHero1 year ago
This just made my day. I'm laughing at myself for the misunderstanding.
astockton1 year ago
I love this and was wondering how much you would charge to make one? Email me back at
jhawkins14 (author)  astockton1 year ago
Thank you for your message. It is quite a compliment to be asked by someone to make a fort like this.

We built the fort on-site on concrete deck blocks, which I think is ideal. Moving it after it is built to the desired location in your yard may not be possible, or if it is, would probably be expensive and may tear up your yard.

If you really want one and can get the materials, I would suggest contacting someone locally who has the tools to help you.
jhawkins14 (author)  jhawkins141 year ago
This is probably an obvious point, but something to consider: if you don't own a power saw or some other tool, don't use that as a reason not to build the fort of your kid's dreams, and don't just run to the store and buy one.

I borrowed a mitre saw from my brother-in-law several times before I finally got one as a gift ;) I still borrow a router whenever I need one, which isn't that often.
godson19521 year ago
ebeier & leroybucket took the words off my key board before i eve finished reading.But must say you'll the the 'Dad' ,'Father','Pop's' of the lifetime.Don't about the comments from other people,For sit tall in the saddle of life for the comments the kids give you are the best,greatest,truely most up lifting.
ebeier1 year ago
I love this so so much, I don't have kids, but I want it for myself =D Best fort ever!
jhawkins14 (author)  ebeier1 year ago
Thank you kindly, maam.
fuzzynurse1 year ago
Great build! I wonder how long it'll be until somebody gets the idea to start a saloon brawl and throw another somebody out the door. That's what I would've done. Ahem, as a kid, of course. Dunno, maybe kids now don't watch enough westerns to realize that's the best use of those kind of doors. I know my kids don't. :-(
jhawkins14 (author)  fuzzynurse1 year ago
My experience has been that with boys, occasional brawls inside and outside the saloon are inevitable. If we could just get them to do that through the saloon door, ha-ha.
wil4aim1 year ago
DAD of the year and years to come!
Oh my gosh that was awesome u have my vote
VinceJDJ1 year ago
Very nice, you have my vote!
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