Homemade spinning jenny

We mentioned a tool called a spinning jenny a few times while describing our fence building process.  This is a rotating carriage that holds a roll of high tensile smooth wire so it can be pulled off in a controlled manner.   Without this device, cutting the ties on a high tensile roll would likely produce a 4000′ slinky.

If I was building a lot of fencing (miles?) I would probably just buy one, but I feel like I’ve already bought so many tools for this fencing project that I might as well try building one with scrap materials.  Most agricultural colleges have articles about high tensile fencing, and they all suggest building a simple reel to hold the wire.  So I tried that, and mounted it in the yard cart for portability:

This design doesn’t work. We pulled about 500′ of wire with it and it was obnoxious.  Loose wires come off and bounce around, the weight of the wire roll (100 lbs) rests on the top point of the reel and THUMP, THUMP, THUMPs each time you turn it.

So, I rethought the design.  Version 2.0 needed bigger arms to contain loose wires so they don’t come off and a horizontal design that keeps the weight off the inside of the reel.  The result was this:

This was a major improvement.  Loops of wire don’t come off accidentally.  The only downside is that it’s harder to transport and still difficult to turn (albeit much smoother).  If I had some scrap casters I might consider mounting them on the bottom plate of the reel so they’d reduce drag.  As it is, someone still has to sit at the reel and turn it by hand while another person walks the wire out.

So, moral of the story: save money where possible by building your own tools, but don’t always expect them to work quite as well.

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2 Responses to Homemade spinning jenny

  1. Emily says:

    can you give any more details on the construction and operation of version 2 (the one that worked)? does it rotate on that pipe? Thanks.

    • lee says:

      Yes, it rotates around the pipe, which is driven into the ground where you want to pull wire. There’s a piece of plywood laying on the ground and a second smaller one which is attached to the reel frame and that rotates with it. So the drag is between the two surfaces of plywood turning against each other.

      I built this years ago and it is has since rotted away, so next time I pull wire I’m going to just buy one of the cheaper ones at the farm store. The biggest problem with both of my designs here is that if you pull on the end of the wire very much it forces that loop deeper into the spool and you eventually end up with a spool that’s very difficult to pull any wire from it. The store-bought models have very low turning drag, so they don’t suffer from this problem I’d guess.

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