Good fences make good neighbors, or so it's said. But how to make a good fence?

This one is simple and utilitarian. With the addition of wire fencing, it can be used in the backyard, for example, to enclose a dog's exercise area or separate the swimming pool from the kids playing in the sandbox.

To make posts, use four-by-fours of either cedar (not fir) or pressure-treated lumber. This will give strong posts that won't rot away at the base in a few years.

If you make the fence four feet high, you should sink the posts about two feet in the ground. Dig the holes about 30 inches deep and fill the bottoms with six inches of gravel for drainage. Place a flat rock on top of the gravel to form a base for each post.

Place the post in the hole and make sure it is plumb (dead vertical). Two braces will hold the post in place while you pour concrete to anchor the post. Overfill the hole slightly and trowel the excess so it slopes away from the post. Once the post is set, let the concrete harden for at least a day before you nail on any rails.

You can use two-by-fours or rails across the tops of the posts. Rails across the bottom will strengthen the fence and to give a firm anchorage for the bottom edge of the fencing. If you space your posts eight feet apart -- outside edge to outside edge -- you can lap the top rails with a scarf joint.

Install the bottom rails by using metal framing angles, which you can find at a good lumberyard or home-center. If not, rest the rails on short blocks of wood cut from two-by-fours, and nail. Either of these two techniques will give you a joint strong enough to hold up if someone decides it might be fun to climb on the lower rail.

Use dipped(not electroplated) galvanized nails at all points. These will resist rust and therefore last longer and won't stain the fence. Use galvanized staples for the fencing, too.

If you stain the framework, do so before you put up the wire. A preservative-type semi-transparent stain such as Cuprinol is a good choice. For the fencing, I suggest green vinyl-covered wire. It holds up well, and more or less disappears against the background of a healthy lawn.

Our final suggestion: You might also consider using cedar post-and-rail fence parts, sold at most home centers and lumberyards. This system features rustic cedar posts with holes cut in them for two rails. The rails are rough, log-like cedar with the ends shaped to slip into the holes in the posts.