According to Tom Sawyer, the whitewashing of a fence is the sort of job that not just anyone can do. In the fictional world created by Mark Twain, only the most gifted and talented of boys are capable of correctly mastering the fine art of whitewashing. While this version of the facts is amusing, the whole point of the story is intentionally misleading as applying a coat of whitewash is mechanically no more complex than applying a coat of ordinary paint. Developed before paint was readily available, whitewash was primarily used to protect exposed surfaces from the elements and to give everything a clean, well-tended appearance. Today whitewash is used to add a historical finishing touch, or to give wood an authentic 'weathered' look. If an old-fashioned flavor is what you're trying to capture, follow the steps in the guide below and even without Tom Sawyer's expertise, your fence will be whitewashed with relative ease.

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Whitewash a Fence

Step 1

Make the whitewash. To begin, place a metal bucket or tub on a flat surface. Add 5 pounds of hydrated lime and 2 gallons of water, and mix until the two are well blended.

Step 2

Combine 1 pound of salt and 2 cups of hot water in separate container, stirring until all the salt has dissolved. Allow both mixtures to stand overnight.

Step 3

Drain any excess water from the lime mixture and then slowly add the salt water to the lime, stirring well, until the combination has reached a batter-like consistency.

Step 4

Test the whitewash by brushing it on a piece of paper and waving it gently to encourage quick drying. Adjust consistency if necessary. If the mixture is still too thick, pour in additional salt water solution. If mixture is too thin, white school glue or Portland cement may be added to thicken.

Step 5

Check the fence and ensure the posts are free of dirt and grease.

Step 6

Soak the fence by spraying it briefly with a garden hose. A wet surface will help to ensure the whitewash spreads more evenly.

Step 7

Dip the bristles of a wide paintbrush into the whitewash. Apply the whitewash to the fence using a smooth, swinging arm motion, moving more from the shoulder and less from the wrist than you would when applying regular paint. Try not to bend the bristles of the brush as you move. Whitewash is a bit thicker than paint and subsequently, the application is not quite as effortless.

Step 8

Allow the whitewash to dry for 24 hours before deciding you hate it. At times, the whitewash will look spotty or uneven when it is still wet, but it dries to a dazzling and bright white.