Wargaming Barbed Wire

April 7th, 2021

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World War 1 was a horrible endeavor for combatants for many reasons and while some seemed even more gruesome (both the endeavours as well as the combatants) than others, there’s something that is intrinsically linked to the Great War: barbed wire.

If you look up images of WW1 battlefields, you’ll be met with muddy desolation, cratered fields, and miles upon miles of trenches. And there, among it all, with its tetanus-inducing thousand-toothed, spiked grin, lay double and triple the miles of barbed wire.

This simple coil of spiked iron is such an effective deterrent that my family used it to line the top of our fence in the not so safe neighbourhood where I grew up. It worked fairly well until a handful of burglars with a sweet tooth just got over the wall from a neighboring house and picked our cherry tree bear. Guess we should’ve gone for the minefield, instead.
In any case, there are already dozens of barbed wire tutorials out there, and mine is just a variant of Mel’s great one on making ‘spiky’ barbed wire coupled with some trial and error and a bit of elbow grease.

I started out with a rather simple attempt, using tiling spacers and wood sticks to fashion a sort of skeleton to wrap the wire around.

Unfortunately, wood and plastic don’t go(lue) well together (not with super glue, anyway) and it was soon painfully obvious that this wouldn’t work for my purposes. I have some ideas about snapping these together in the future, but for now I decided to go a different way.

V2 of the attempt seemed to take too long to make, although it looked pretty good and just consisted in wrapping the wire around the spacers without the need for a wooden bit. This helped give the pieces a more malleable style, so I realised this would help me wrap the barbed wire around more curved areas organically around the table if I wanted to. This also foregoes the need for basing, which makes the whole process faster and allows for a much wider use in terms of general terrain for the pieces to be on and near.

I liked the idea so I decided to keep at it and figured I could run wire through the tips of the spacers to beef them up a bit. I used a .50 drill bit on my trusty Makita to make this happen, but then I figured I could just do away with the hassle of wrapping wire around the spacers entirely with one small hole adjustment…

I ended up drilling through the middle of the spacers with the .80 bit and running the wire straight through.

Mel’s wire variant I’d made also had the added benefit of being much beefier and then I could just roll 2-strand wire coils onto the whole ensemble as it was and give each piece more meat and a more menacing look...

In terms of the “spiky” wire, I didn’t have any metal mesh on hand so I got by with some plastic one and again used my Makita to wrap the three strands together. It was a simple matter of tying one end of the ensemble to a metal pole in my basement and tightening the drill mouth over the other end and just letting ‘er rip while keeping the wires pulled taut.
Worth mentioning that the second strand of metal wire (green) was instrumental to the whole ensemble staying together as the plastic mesh strand has a tendency to unravel while pulling the spacers over it.

Ended up with about three metres’ worth of the stuff in around 20 minutes’ work, all said and done, most of which was spent cutting out the plastic mesh strand to size. Three metres is ten feet for the more stubborn of you who won’t admit they’re just plain wrong, by the way.

The whole thing still retains the malleability I was aiming for, so I’m looking forward to making some more segments and dropping some other sorts in between, for instance:

For the short pieces based on ice-cream sticks I only used a single coil as I thought it worked well enough with the wooden ‘support’ poles. The black-based couple pieces also have some bits of sprue mixed in and are based on foam core as I had experienced with various concepts beforehand.

And here are the finished examples, following a couple of brown layers (dark and light brown craft paint), some orange, and a bit of gun metal dry-brushing. The short pieces have had the final layer entirely dealt away with as I wanted to give them a more rusted look. The bases underwent the two brown layers of paint and the rocks, a couple grays, the lighter of which I also lightly dry-brushed on the bases right at the end. The wooden poles also took two browns and had a layer of sand yellow dry brushed on top before I got started on the wire itself.

After I’m done putting the rest of the segments together, I’m going to be attempting some craters and working on repurposing some old, unfinished wire trees I started ages ago to the more muddy battlefield styles of WW1. That way (hopefully) by the start of summer I’ll also finish up my trench system and have a full-fledged ww1 table for Blood and Valor to offset my initial foray into the game which was accompanied by some fairly plain terrain, as can be glimpsed in this article.

Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!

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Tags: Costin Becheanu, Grizzly Gripes, Miniatures, Wargaming