Barbed Wire

Barbed wire is usually made of steel, which is an alloy of iron and a small amount of carbon. The raw materials required to manufacture steel are iron ore, coke (a carbon-rich substance produced by heating coal to a high temperature in the absence of air), and limestone. To prevent rusting, the steel wire is usually coated with zinc. Sometimes the steel is coated with aluminum, and occasionally the barbed wire itself is made of aluminum.

Making of Barbed Wire

1. Wire to be made into barbed wire is usually galvanized (coated with zinc) to protect it from corrosion. The wire must be perfectly clean and dry to be properly galvanized. First it is cleaned in a bath of hot, dilute hydrochloric acid, then rinsed with hot water. It then passes through a solution of hot zinc chloride or ammonium chloride to prevent rust from forming as it is dried. After drying, the wire passes through a bath of molten zinc. Excess zinc is wiped off and the coated wire is allowed to cool. (Some-times the wire is coated with aluminum instead in a similar way.) Wire can also be coated with zinc by a process known as electrogalvanizing. The wire is given a negative electric charge and passed through a solution of zinc sulfate or some other zinc salt. The positive zinc ions are attracted to the negative wire and form a coating.

2. A single automated machine performs all the steps needed to transform galvanized wire into barbed wire. Two wires are fed into the machine and twisted together to form the cable. Another wire is fed into the machine from the side and twisted around one or both of the cable wires. This wire is cut at an angle on both sides to form a two-point barb. Two wires are twisted and cut together if four-point barbs are needed. The barbed wire is pulled along a set distance (usually 4 or 5 inches [10 or 13 cm]), and the process is repeated to space the barbs evenly. The barbed wire is wound onto spools and cut into 1,319-foot (402 m) lengths. These spools are then loaded onto trucks and shipped to the customer.

There are several ways to anchor the wire to a corner post:

Hand-knotting. The wire is wrapped around the corner post and knotted by hand. This is the most common method to attaching wire to a corner post. A timber hitch works well as it stays better with wire than with rope.

Crimp sleeves. The wire is wrapped around the corner post and bound to the incoming wire using metal sleeves which are crimped using lock cutters. This method should be avoided because while sleeves can work well on repairs in the middle of the fence where there is not enough wire for hand knotting, they tend to slip when under tension.

Wire vise. The wire is passed through a hole drilled into the corner post and is anchored on the far side. Wire wrap. The wire is wrapped around the corner post and wrapped onto a special, gritted helical wire which also wraps around the incoming wire, with friction holding it in place.

Barbed wire for agriculture use is typically double-strand 12½-gauge, zinc-coated (galvanized) steel and comes in rolls of 1320 ft (402 m) length. Barbed wire is usually placed on the inner (pasture) side of the posts. Where a fence runs between two pastures livestock could be with the wire on the outside or on both sides of the fence.

Galvanized wire is classified into three categories; Classes I, II, and III. Class I has the thinnest coating and the shortest life expectancy. A wire with Class I coating will start showing general rusting in 8 to 10 years, while the same wire with Class III coating will show rust in 15 to 20 years. Aluminum-coated wire is occasionally used, and yields a longer life.

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