, Salem, MA

Local News

November 8, 2013

Labor of love

Carpenter's work recalls era when a fence was a work of art


“There were probably a lot more fences around in those days,” Pattison said. “There’s only a few surviving.”

Pattison began this project by tearing down an old pine fence that had rotted.

It has been replaced by a fence of mahogany upper and lower rails, spindles and caps of Spanish cedar, all adorned with dramatic, carved urns.

Pattison had never made a fence like this before and, as a result, had to buy lathes and chisels and teach himself to turn and carve. He spent countless hours doing research online and made a detailed study of McIntire’s work, especially one of his gems, a hand-carved urn at the Glen Magna estate in Danvers.

“I spent so many hours just walking around the urn and taking pictures of it,” he said. “That’s the most amazing carving.”

Pattison is quick to stress that his urns are not replicas of McIntire’s, but they are influenced by the grand master.

“I just tried to get the feel,” he said.

It took many tries to get it right and resulted in him throwing out more than a half-dozen urns along the way.

The fence, he said, is strong and well-made, with braces and fasteners — but no exposed fasteners — and layers of epoxy to seal it tight like a ship.

“It’s not a piece of art,” he said, standing under a work tent in the rain. “I’m a little way from that. But it’s a nice, solid, sturdy fence with, hopefully, a lot of years ahead. ... And it makes me smile.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at

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