How to Build a Barbed Wire Fence

Techniques to safely install a long-lasting fence.

| March/April 1984

Anyone who's ever tackled the job of building a barbed wire fence will have to agree: There just ain't no way to avoid some nicks and scratches when you're stringing that "ol' bob wahr." And that's the good news. The fact is—if you're not real careful—you can get seriously hurt.

Rick Compton, one of the stalwart staffers out the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco-Village, remembers well the time a friend of his was stretching a long strand of Belgium wire—a thin type that's particularly prone to snarling—while Rick was working near the ground at the wire's fixed end. All of a sudden, the line broke. Before Compton could get up, that prickly wire had wound back up and wrapped around him like a boa constrictor! "I could barely move my arms," he recalls. "My buddy had to cut the mess off me."

"Of course, that kind of accident doesn't happen often," Rick admits. "What's more common is having a snapped wire run through your hands while you're stapling. Now that can really tear you up."

It's no wonder, then, that whenever Mr. Compton is stringing barbs, he moves right cautiously and wears "the thickest leather gloves I can put on and still work". You should do the same.

With that warning out of the way, let us add one more note: If you think the techniques of building a barbed wire fence are downright obvious—you know, the "why, any fool can do that" type of thing—many of you will soon see there's a lot of difference between putting up a "temporary" barrier that'll start sagging after its first season and stringing a well-built fence that'll last for years on top of years.

You'll be glad to know, then, that Rick's got generations of fencing experience under his belt. "My grandpa built one out at our place ninety years ago that's still standing," he'll tell you. "Oh, we've had to restring it four times when the old wire wore out, but we've never had to rebuild it. We did have to replace two posts. My brother felled a tree on top of one, and my sister broke the other when she backed a tractor into it."
5/14/2018 11:19:25 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own fence – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

3/3/2015 10:56:13 PM

Is there a device available that can support a barbed wire to the post, but still allow the barb to slide thru it when you want to re-tension the barb?

6/3/2013 4:28:08 AM

Dear Rick, you said it very well.. "The simplest way to do this is to sink a pole at one corner of the intended enclosure, set another as far away as you can run a straight line of string, and then use that cord to line up the sites for all the posts that go in between . . . and continue the process all the way around the pasture or whatever you're enclosing."
Even the professionals follow this technique for fencing posts!

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