DIY Project: Repurpose old fence for photography prop

I am obsessively reflective.  I could suggest this is an excellent trait that has only good effect on all outcomes, and it can much of the time, but it often leaves me with many new ideas instead of one completed task.  It’s annoying.

I begin to think about those new ideas, jot notes on stickies which seem to multiply in the night, gather materials, then begin work.  It would be logical to choose one idea, plan a bit, then work on it until it’s complete, but I am incapable of that, so start all of them.  I can walk into most areas of my home and see evidence of something in progress on most days.  It’s beyond annoying.

Let me begin with my kitchen as an example right now:  There are four enormous artichokes sitting on the counter waiting to be roasted (which, since beginning this post, have been successfully roasted).  I still have quite a few grapefruits and oranges my brother shared from his trees over a week ago, and yesterday, my sister-in-law gave me more oranges and some avocados.  The preserved lemons I cured seven weeks ago are ready and waiting to be used — hopefully this weekend with the lamb shoulder chops I have in the freezer.  We still have banana bread and banana caramel nut froyo to finish, but I’ll count that as two tasks completed since I was able to use all of the ripe bananas I had on the counter, in the fridge, and the freezer.

I have drapes begun for my office, but no curtain rod hung in readiness.  My dining room drapes have needed hemming since I hung them long ago — in fact, so long ago that I’m considering different window treatments now.  My son’s room is in decent shape since he’s away at school, but there are a couple of shelves in need of fixing.  One is hanging precariously, and the other is leaning beneath it, still waiting to be hung.  His bathroom is in a functional but bare bones state, ready for gutting so that it can be remodeled — and yes, I’m considering doing much of the work myself.  Some day.

Our own bathroom is in need of remodeling, but hasn’t been started, our closet was prepared for a reorganization, and isn’t close to being finished, but happily, the patio behind our house is optimistically in progress.

You’re wondering what all of this is about considering this is a food blog. You stopped by for a recipe you might be interested in trying instead of reading about my unfinished projects. Yes, Sass & Veracity is a place where I’ve shared recipes with you for four years — but think about it.  Fat-free opinions on a food centric life could encompass quite a bit more.  And it should because as much as I can relate most things to food, there is certainly much more to life worth sharing, isn’t there? Absolutely.

I live in a beautiful place with temperate weather most of the year and love to cook and garden, so wouldn’t it make sense to have a pleasant place to eat outside?  Not just when a special occasion is planned — any time.  The French doors in my family room are open to the patio on most days, so it makes sense to have a place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, a good book, or eat a meal with my sweetie.  I have to drag him out there, mind you, so part of the plan is to make the patio more attractive and welcoming.  Perhaps he’ll wander out there by himself someday.

Therein lies Project #1 — Patio Renovation — which provides a beginning for an expansion of Sass & Veracity.  Keep an eye on the tabs at the top of the page.  I’ll feature seasonal recipes from the archives, projects I’m working on, and soon, field trips out and about in San Diego — something long overdue.

I’m not quite ready to share the progress on the patio, so instead I’ll let you know what I did with part of the old fence we tore down when the project began.  If you’ve got a food blog and have wondered about props to shoot your food on — something weathered and old, then you might be interested.

Re-purpose wood from an old fence, outdoor table, or old wood paneling.

Line up the pieces you like best and secure on both sides of both ends with cross boards using 2″ finishing nails to secure everything.  Use a stiff bristled brush or scour pad to clean off old debris.

I used Old Fashioned Milk Paint (see information below in my notes) that I purchased in 2000 for this project. Yes, you read that correctly.  It was on close-out sale at Restoration Hardware and I thought it might come in handy some day.  At the time, I though some day would be on my summer vacation later that year.  No, I’m not a hoarder, but I do understand it looks like I might be.  All of these products fit nicely into a small bag which I kept with our other painting supplies, so it wasn’t all that bad.  Okay, it’s bad.  I agree.  There are two colors, some “Extra-Bond” to use on non-porous surfaces to help the paint adhere, and a “Clear Coat” for sealing the paint if desired.

I decided to use “Buttermilk” because I love this soft yellow color and thought it would be a nice change from white.  The mix is a 1:1 water to paint.  The paint is added to the water slowly while stirring.  The thicker the consistency, the more the paint will cover.

It needs to be stirred about 3 minutes.

I went with a thin consistency to see what one coat looked like.

One coat is completely done.  I used a rag to wipe the boards as I went to allow some of the wood grain to show through.

I decided to give it another coat, going heavy over those dark spots.

It took only an hour or so to dry, but the wood was extremely dry and soaked up all the paint quickly.

After it was completely dry, I used a coarse brush again to remove a bit of the paint here and there.  Then I put the sealer over it which gave it a soft sheen.

The back side of the panel is the original wood, so I can use either side, and the panel is easily placed anywhere in the house, or outside that has great light.

Start to finish, this project took less than 3 hours.

spinach feta sun-dried tomato crusty rolls


  • Genuine Old Fashioned Milk Paint is alive and well and available for purchase here. It is considered environmentally safe, and kid friendly.   I think after all these years, I’ll finally get to order the white I originally wanted because there happens to be another project in my bedroom, just waiting for new knobs and a fresh coat of paint.
  • Bakers Royale recently wrote an excellent piece on “How to make antiqued wood boards for food photography” which is a great resource if you don’t have access to an old fence in your backyard that needs to be torn down.
  • Ilva of Lucullian Delights has a terrific series on Food Photography Props.  If you’ve not seen it, she invited other food bloggers to share their photography props in a series of posts.  It’s great reading, and you’ll get lots of ideas.  I could camp out there all day enjoying it all.
  • With the exception of that first shot of the torn down fence, I took all of these photos over a two day period of time.   The morning I painted the panel was completely overcast, then finally giving in to sunshine.  The first food shot was taken outside in the shade of my house.  Look how flat the photo is!  I tried and tried both with camera settings and processing to get it to liven up a bit and finally gave up.
  • The second shot was taken inside the house the next morning next to the patio doors.  It’s unfiltered, soft light.
  • The third shot was taken in the same spot, and it’s difficult to tell, but I used the unpainted side of the panel.
  • The recipes for Wholesome Banana Oat Macadamia Nut Bread, Banana Caramel Pecan Froyo, and Spinach Feta Sun-Dried Tomato Crusty Rolls are coming soon.  Very, very soon.
  • I’m thinking I should now build a few fence panels for our patio instead of paying someone $1700 to do it.  What do you think?