John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Fence Wire

Fence wire is one of the last steps in building a fence. It must be stretched tight and fastened securely to the posts. This is fairly easy once one knows the secret. Here we will be installing and stretching a woven wire fence meant to contain livestock and exclude predators.

Stretching the wire is really one of the easiest parts of constructing a fence, once the process is understood. We have found that the best method is to tie the wire off at both ends and stretch it to the middle.

It is quite satisfying to see the wire stand itself upright, and when it is crimped off it is the sign of job well done.


Installing the Fence Wire

Installing the fence wire is a relatively easy and quick task, once the fence posts have all been installed. The technique that we use involves rolling out the fence from both corner posts on the run and stretching it to the center. The basic process includes:

  1. Tie off a roll of fencing to each end of the fence run being installed
  2. Roll the fencing material out flat on the ground until it meets in the middle
  3. Using a come along and/or fence tensioner, stretch the two ends towards the middle
  4. Crimp the horizontal wires together
  5. Staple or clip the horizontal wires to the line posts

Using this technique has proven to be much easier than trying to stretch a single roll from one end of the run, and then tying it off on the opposing end. A much tighter fence can be built with much less work by stretching it all to the center.

Let take a look at this process in more detail.

tied off fence wire

To begin, we need to tie off each horizontal wire to the end corner posts. The "knot" is pretty simple, as you can see in this picture. Basically we just wrap the wire back around itself. Be sure that there are a minimum of three turns to the wire. Also be sure to wear good leather gloves as your do this. The clipped ends of wire can be razor sharp. Once the wrap is made, clip the end off the wire so that there are no sharp points poking out that may injure your animals.

Once all of the horizontal wires are tied off on the corner posts, roll out the fence material from each end until the two rolls meet in the middle.

wire gripper

Now we attach a wire gripper to the top wire, and with a come along begin tensioning the fence. There are several types of grippers. We picked up the one in this picture at a local feed store several years ago for about ten dollars. Made of cast iron, it has a spit ring over a cone shaped central shaft. The principal of all wire grippers is the same. As the tension is increased, the gripping mechanism grabs on to the wire with more force.

There are tensioning bars that will grip the entire width of the fence fabric at one time. These are expensive though.

Our basic technique is to begin with the top wire, and then work our way down, effectively "zipping up" the fence one wire at a time. We have found this to be quick and effective.

fence tensioning

Here you see my favorite tool in use - a buffed out teenage boy. You will note how the come along is being used to draw the wire together from the two ends of the run. Note also how the fence is beginning to stand itself up as it is tensioned. At this stage it may be necessary to help the fence fabric a bit along the run (especially if you are going around corners) since it may tend to snag on the ground here and there, or jam up some on the corner posts. Also, keep in mind that the longer the run the more slack there will be to take out in order to properly tension the fence.

It is wise to take an occasional look at your corners during this stage. We have, more than once, became so engaged in taking up the slack that we failed to notice that the tension had pulled a corner post straight up out of the ground.

fence standing under tension

Here is another view of the fence fabric standing itself up as it is being tensioned with the come along.

You will know that the wire is tight enough when the factory made crimps begin to straighten out. At this point, slip on a couple of swage sleeves and crimp them tight. You are then ready to move on to the next horizontal strand. Continue down until all strands have been tightened and crimped off.

Remember, the wires in the fence will expand and contract with changes in temperature. For this reason, it is important that the fence not be over-tensioned.

All that is left to do is to staple the horizontal wires to the posts, or if using metal posts to use clips. Again, keeping in mind the normal expansion and contraction that the wires will go through, do not drive the staples all the way into the post. The staples and/or clips are meant to support the horizontal wires at the proper height. The wires must be free to move through them as they expand and contract from temperature changes, or from animals putting pressure on the fence.

Using the technique above we have strung runs of fencing well over 1000 feet long around multiple corners. My two teenage boys and myself put up over 2000 feet of fence, including 14 ninety degree corners in only three days of work.


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