Cheap, Handy Wire Roller

March 9, 2013 08:03 AM

Makes fast work of fence repairs

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A wire winder made by John Cotherman (photo) and his father Bill mostly uses materials that John had on hand.

A cattle operation uses lots of wire to create temporary paddocks and replace old fences. So finding a fast, easy way to handle wire was top of mind when John Cotherman of Gore, Okla., and his father, Bill, designed a wire roller.

The roller won first place in the Miscellaneous Category of Farm Journal’s "I Build the Best" contest.

The Cothermans considered purchasing a commercially manufactured roller, but figured they could save a lot of money by building one themselves. "We used mostly materials that we already had on hand," John says. "Dad was the engineer, and I was the builder."

The roller frame mounts on a tractor’s three-point hitch. It consists of an upright made from 2" square tubing and cross-pieces made from 4" square tubing.

I Built the Best

John made an axle from a 1" round steel rod. It is powered by a hydraulic motor, with a control valve to regulate the speed. "We wanted to be able to adjust the speed, based on terrain and conditions," he says. "But even more important, hydraulic volume varies with different tractors."

Between the motor and the axle, Cotherman installed a coupling to absorb some of the shock and protect the motor.

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For electric wire, the spool is replaced with this automobile wheel hub to wind and store the wire.

Tapered spacers. To roll up barb wire, Cotherman made a spool, which bolts to the axle. The spool consists of disks cut from a 3⁄16" steel sheet, separated by spacers made from 1" square tubing. The spacers taper toward the outside to make it easier to slide off a roll of wire.

"We use a pry bar to get it started," John explains.

In order to roll up electric wire, Cotherman removes the spool and replaces it with an automobile hub attached to a shaft. A Grade 5 bolt, which serves as a sheer pin, holds it in place.

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The roller is powered by a hydraulic motor, which is separated from the shaft by a shock-absorbing coupling.

"I bolt an automobile wheel onto the hub, and use it to roll up and store the wire," John says.
For safety, the Cothermans always operate the roller with a two-man crew. "The roller has a lot of power, so we always use caution," he says.

One person guides the wire onto the roller, while the second stands ready to shut off the hydraulic motor in case anything goes wrong.

"This is probably 10 times faster than rolling wire by, and you can get more wire into a roll," John says. "We’re very happy with it."

You can e-mail Darrell Smith at


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