'Handmade Garden Projects': Face-lift for wire fencing
Follow the simple instructions in "Handmade Garden Projects," Lorene Edwards Forkner's new book, and you'll discover that a pair of bolt cutters can transform something as prosaic as utility fencing into an sculptural tomato cage, an al fresco cocktail table or a garden chandelier.
The book features more than 30 clever DIY backyard projects, and each one lets you to clean out the garage while turning nothing into something.
Whether you're working with a leftover roll of galvanized fencing (also available at hardware stores in a 28-inch-by-50-foot bolt) or pieces of vintage scalloped garden fencing, Edwards Forkner says, the trick is to use a hand-held bolt cutter.
Once I tried her steps, I was amazed at how easy manipulating wire can be if you use a bolt cutter rather than wire cutters. A bolt cutter can be found at home improvement stores for less than $10. Save your wrists and buy one.
I set out to make one of the decorative wire plant supports featured in "Handmade Garden Projects." For this job, you'll also need a pair of pliers. Edwards Forkner uses the tool to bend and crimp decorative patterns. Other materials: one roll welded wire utility fencing (2-by-4-inch cell mesh), measuring tape and clothespins. Keep reading for more photos and step-by-step instructions ...
Step 1: Cut fencing. Cut about 4.5 feet from the roll, cutting down the middle of the cells. Following the natural curl of the material, shape the fencing into a loose cylinder. Trim the vertical wire of every other closed cell starting at the top and working your way down along one edge of the fencing. Repeat on the other edge, staggering the pattern so closed and open cells alternate when attached.
Step 2. Form cylinder. Fasten one edge of the cylinder to the other by wrapping the horizontal wires around the opposite upright. Trim wrapped wires neatly. Gently push the wire to make a uniform tube.
Step 3. Crimp. Count down three rows from the top of your cylinder and use a clothespin to mark the horizontal wire. This will be your first crimping row. Placing pliers firmly at the center of a cell, twist your wrist to the right at roughly a 45-degree angle to create a subtle ripple in the wire. Continue working each cell in the marked row all the way around. Moving up one cell to the next horizontal row, repeat the same twisting move, only this time twist a full 90 degrees to create a more pronounced crimp.
Step 4. Form the top detail. Divide the cylinder into four sections around the top opening. These sections will become "petal" shapes that crown your finished plant support. Place a clothespin marker at the side seam, then count how many cells make up the complete circumference; then divide this number by four. Make two "petals" slightly larger than the other two and mark with clothespins to determine which sections of wire are going to be removed, creating gaps between the "petals." (See above.) For example, if your cylinder has 26 cells, the pattern will look like this: clothespin, six cells, clothespin, five cells, clothespin, six cells, clothespin, five cells. The slight inconsistency between the sections will not be noticeable in your finished piece. Remove the horizontal wire marked with a clothespin, cutting cleanly at each end using bolt cutters.
Step 5. Final crimp. Proceed with crimping the next tier of horizontal wires above the last crimped row, this time twisting your wrist and pliers beyond 90 degrees. Work the very top wire, your divided row, in the same way. Holding the pliers as before, twist your wrist as close to 180 degrees as possible. This should form a tightly stacked series of "S" curves. Work carefully to keep from popping the wire welds on the tighter turns.
Step 6. Finish. Complete your plant support by rolling each of the top divided sections outward, splaying the curves into graceful petal shapes.
Although the project requires a bit of elbow grease, the result beats those garden variety tomato cages by miles. To Edwards Forkner, it has "the intricacy of a spider web and the allure of lace."
The book includes other projects that transform old-fashioned fencing, also called "hairpin fencing." Edwards Forkner used a similar fastening technique to create a cylinder for the base of a garden cocktail table, seen at the top of the post. Inspired by industrial-style gabion structures, this project is filled with rocks and topped with a piece of glass.
The author turned the same shape upside down to create a lovely, tree-hung chandelier, also pictured at top. She added three jelly-jar-style glass porch lights, votive candles and glass crystals to add a sparkling glow.
"Handmade Garden Projects: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting & More" is published by Timber Press and costs $19.95.
-- Debra Prinzing
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Photos: Lorene Edwards Forkner