Build & Install a Picture Post, by John Pickle

Step-by-step instructions of building and installing your own picture post in any location, even in your own backyard!

Materials

(Cost ~ $20-$30)
7 to 8 foot 4" x 4" post (consider pressure-treated lumber or plastic composite lumber)
9-inch diameter plywood disc, 3/4" thick
5-inch plywood octagon (2-inch sides) 3/8" to 1/2" thick
Permanent marker or paint with fine tipped brush
Four 3" to 3.5" coarse thread exterior drywall screws
Glue (exterior quality)
Polyurethane (exterior quality)

Construction Tip!

Consider purchasing a plastic lumber post top - it will last for many years with no maintenance!
The plastic top can be drilled just like wood, or attached to an existing structure. Click here for purchasing information.

Equipment

    Portable drill and 1/8" drill bit
    Saw
    Shovel or post-hole digger
    Compass
    GPS (Global Positioning Satellite device)

Step 1: Build the Post Head

Cut 9-inch disc (or cut a 9-inch octagon-see example on right)
Cut 5-inch octagon
Center and glue 5" octagon to 9" disc
Polyurethane with several coats

Step 2: Placing the Post

Choose a location best suited for your interests (e.g. your garden, wooded area, meadow, favorite tree, pond, etc.).
Consider accessibility by others. 
If public, make laminated instructions to post.

Step 3: Installing the Post

Dig a hole at least 3 feet deep and wide enough for the 4x4 post.  You want 4 feet of the post above ground.
For stability, the bottom of the post must be below Frost Depth.  For the Boston, MA area, this is 3 feet.  Talk to local builders to see what is recommended in your area.
You may attach post head to an existing post or secure structure.
Keep the post vertical, back fill the hole with dirt, tamp dirt until firm and post is stable.

Next Step, Assemble the post ...

tools

post top diagram

a picture post with sign

dig a hole

screw in the post top

 

Step 4: Assembling the Post

Take GPS reading from the top of the post to find the latitude and longitude.
Center and level post head (from Step 1) onto post.
You will need to convert your GPS readings into decimal degrees when you add your post to the website. You can convert your GPS readings here.
Hints: In the USA, latitude will to the North, that is, between 0.0 and 90.0 degrees;
longitude will be to the West, that is between 0.0 and -180.0 (Note that longitudes in the USA are negative).

Find True North for your location using the information at http://www.thecompassstore.com/decvar.html For Boston, MA area in early 2006, magnetic north is 15 degrees west of true north (see photograph of compass to right). Notice that the compass is held so that the white tip of the compass, which points north, points 15 degrees west of north.
Align an edge of the 5" octagon east/west with respect to true north
Double check alignments and drill four holes through the post head into the post.
Secure with the drywall screws.
Using permanent marker or paint, label the post head with location information and basic instructions (see photograph in lower right). Seal with polyurethane.

Now, PHOTOGRAPH AWAY!!

Check out the Gallery section of our website for other tips and to view our help videos.

compass

completed picture post wooden top