Introduction: Free Wire Twisting Jig

Picture of Free Wire Twisting Jig

I needed to neatly twist some small gauge electrical wire for a project to neaten the wiring. As I was sitting around waiting on some other stuff, I decided to make a wire twisting jig out of a paperclip and a coffee stirrer - two items that should be "free" to anyone who works in an office. The only tools needed are a small pair of pliers, knife or scissors, and some tape (and the wire, of course). I just used my trusty Swiss Army Knife.

It worked great!

I made two versions, one for twisting two wires and one for twisting three wires. The three wire one is documented here.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Large paper clip (or other suitable stiff wire)
Coffee Stirrer (must be hollow)
Pliers, scissors, and/or knife (Swiss Army Knife, preferably)
Small gauge wire to twist (I was twisting solid insulated wire-wrap wire, 30 gauge)

Step 2: Straighten Wire

Picture of Straighten Wire

Unbend the paper clip into one long wire

Step 3: Make Wire Attachment Points

Picture of Make Wire Attachment Points

Grasp the wire at the very end with the pliers and bend the wire around the jaws of the pliers. Then move the pliers to the other end of the loop and straighten the tail end.

Move down about 7/8" (2.1cm) from the end of the hook and bend another hook using a similar technique. Then move down the same amount and make another hook.

If you are only bending two wires, just make two hooks about 1.5" apart.

Step 4: Form a Triangle

Picture of Form a Triangle

In order for the wires to twist evenly, they must rotate around the center at approximately the same rate and distance, so now you need to form an equilateral triangle with a hook at each corner.

When you get them approximately equal, bend the last end so that it crosses the midpoint of the opposite side, forming something that looks like a 4.

Step 5: Form the Shaft

Picture of Form the Shaft

Approximate the center of the triangle and then put a 90 degree angle in the center, going away from the hooks.

Step 6: Add the Holder

Picture of Add the Holder

Cut off a small length of the stirrer and slide it over the shaft to give you something to hold as you twist.

Step 7: Form the Crank

Picture of Form the Crank

Now, make two 90 degree bends in the shaft to form a crank you can twist and you are done.

Step 8: Twist Some Wires!

Picture of Twist Some Wires!

Take three equal lengths of wire and twist or tie the ends of each wire to one of the hooks on the twisting jig.

Take the free ends and tape them to the table tightly (keep them spread apart a bit).

Now, hold the jig by the stirrer, pull the wires slightly taut, and crank the handle with your other hand. Continue to twist until the desired tightness is reached. Be careful not to twist so tight that the wires break. When you are done and release the crank, it will unwind a turn or two due to tension, but the twisted wires will stay together.

Cut the wires from the hooks and slide the remaining loops off the hooks and discard. Carefully pull up the tape and dress the ends of the wires to the length you desire, strip them, etc.


goldenshuttle (author)2016-11-08

how to make a twister for longer wires like 50 feet or more of 2 twisted wires?

SoDDiggerCpl (author)2009-08-02

You know, the easy way of doing this is to tie the ends of one side of the wire to a key chain or carabiner, and hook that to something, and stand on the other side of the wire with a cordless drill. close the chuck of the drill so the three prongs grab the end of the wire. stand back so the wire is taught, and then start drilling. end of instructable. Why does everyone want to do it the hard way?

I don’t know that this is the hard way. Your way is pretty hard if you don’t have a drill and a swivel.

ScottSEA (author)SoDDiggerCpl2009-09-24

There is more than one way to skin a cat. What if you have no drill handy? What if you're teaching a kid how to make something cool and useful? It was a well-written instructable that creates a useful tool.

schoonovermr (author)2010-06-29

couldn't you use your drill?

dewexdewex (author)2010-01-14

Cut a 4 inch diameter disc of 6mm plywood with an  100mm M6 bolt secured in the centre with a nut and a washer. Slot the disc radially from the cirumference at  30 degree intervals with a tenon saw to a radial depth of 10mm. Drill a hole of about 5mm diameter at the bottom of each slot. stick an eyebolt in a vice, then thread a continuous strand of wire back and forth between the slots in the disc and the eye up to as many times as the number of slots will allow, secure the two ends of the wire at the eye bolt, stick the end of the bolt in a drill chuck. wind it up, and cut it off. You can have from 2 up to 12 strands. Obviously, subdividing the disc further will allow more strands.

think3000 (author)dewexdewex2010-05-18

You should make an instructable about that. Or maybe you already do?

throbscottle (author)2009-11-17

This is sooo cool!  I'm well impressed.  Now that I've read how to use it, I would suggest one improvement (don't know offhand how you'd do it, you'd need a more complex twister) - if the individual wires were able to rotate freely (eg by hooks that could turn) - you'd get a self supporting twist (this is how rope is made) - ie less inclined to come undone.

Braunchitis (author)2009-08-26

I like using a hand-held mixer (the kind you use in the kitchen) for this. Wrap your wires to a door knob or whatever. Attach the other end of the wires to the mixer paddles. Then turn it on slow speed and let it do the work. Works quickly and twists the wire uniformly.

Nucleus (author)2009-08-02

I have the same multi tool :)

Redgerr (author)2009-07-20

pretty smart, it came out of nowhere lol.. i was like.. whats going on.. huh?... then OH YEAH there it is! thats smart O_o very nice

Micksta (author)2009-07-07

awesome idea! and i guess youve got a victorinox champ ive got a climber which has less than half the amount of functions but still one of the most useful things i have. i just can't imagine myself walking around with something that big.

TheGeekFather (author)2009-07-05

cordless screwdriver and an add on chuck works pretty good instead of a drill. It's a lot easier to stop in time. Think the chucks sell for 15 at home depot. You can pick up a cordless screwdriver for 19.99 at most hardware stores.

avwos (author)2009-07-02

Such a simple concept, but so frickin' useful!

bobank (author)2009-06-29

This is the way how genous think, I was always excited and real admirer of people that can invent some jig that there is no any preknowlege needed, just pure inteligence. If you ever tested you IQ, I bet it is high. Maximus

LauraLarsen (author)2009-06-24

Very nice, can also be used for jewelry work. Thanks for the tip!

lbrewer42 (author)2009-06-18

Great idea. I admit though, I just tend to use my cordless drill. I measure the length of wire needed (plus a guess at the extra length lost by twisting), clamp the wire in my vice, put the other ends of the wires into the drill's chuck, and let the drill do the work. Makes great twisted wire. However, since your method can be done just about anywhere - I like it!

jaime9999 (author)2009-06-12

If you want to be really fancy, you can twist the strands together around each other without twisting each wire itself. This is how twisted rope is made.

Doing so might have benefits for this application using metal wire, since too much twisting or other mechanical stress weakens metal, especially ductile metals like copper and aluminum. Of course that is negligible for short lengths, but might be significant if the twists were tight or the length a half foot or more.

Easy enough to implement a rope-twisting machine your way-- just use paperclips and bits of wood or cardboard.

altrobot (author)2009-06-04

This makes me regret even less buying this :

Fast Eddie (author)2009-05-24

Holy MacGyver! A paper clip and a straw. LOL If this problem ever arises for me, I'm coming straight back here. Ingenious!

M F (author)2008-05-26

my boss got us all a LEATHERMAN TOOL. I thought "I'll never use that! now much wiser. my LEATHERMAN pouch is wearing out. I need to find a good Instructable for making a new one

billybobjhonson (author)M F2008-07-07

wow, random

data23 (author)2009-05-17

2 things, if i ever need rope, and i have a paperclip, no need to revisit the cliff with Wilson, ill just twist it with this! 2nd, leatherman's are better!

david_baines (author)2009-04-15

It is amazing what can be done with a pair of pliers and a paperclip! Great tutorial with very clear photos. Thanks.
I came across an optician who came up with a way to make eye glasses using similar techniques.

chiao (author)2009-04-04

This is the same concept as a machine my father and I used to use for making rope from jute twine. Well done; I'd never thought of shrinking it down to use for wires!

Ben The Builder (author)2009-04-03

I like this idea, I'll probably never use it but it is simple and yet very useful, good job!

KD7CAO (author)2009-04-02

This is a neat idea for doing multiple wires by hand, for longer wires or for doing stiffer wire, use a cordless drill. Slow speed is always the best.

matrix828 (author)2008-08-11

sick swiss army knife! i got smaller version. where did u get it from!?!?!?!

ledzep567 (author)2007-12-24

wow, this is awesome. this can be modified to be a whip finisher for tying flys(as in fly fishing.)

zorro3355 (author)2007-12-03

i love swiss army!!!

Lotus14 (author)2007-11-30

Very crafty, I like can use the concept and make it out of a number of different bits.

girrrrrrr2 (author)2007-07-01

cant you take some sheet metal bend it drill some holes in it and then attach the metal to your table... instead of the straw?...

Bongmaster (author)2007-06-08

that looks kool :) will have to try that :) although that is a drinking straw not a coffee stirrer ;)

CMPalmer (author)Bongmaster2007-06-08

I think you'd get a headache trying to use it as a drinking straw since it only has two tiny little holes and it about 6" long. I realize that it's not a wooden coffee stirrer, but it is a coffee stirrer (perhaps not an eco-friendly one). A regular drinking straw would work in a pinch, but it is much bigger in diameter and would wobble a lot.

Bongmaster (author)CMPalmer2007-06-08

that looks so much like the very same drinking straws i used to make my minikite frames :S I'll take your word for it tho :)

CMPalmer (author)Bongmaster2007-06-08

Well, I'll have to admit the pictures aren't the best. I was using my camera phone instead of my good camera. That kite Instructable is cool...

Bongmaster (author)CMPalmer2007-06-08

thnx :) i need to get some larger paperclips i think :S

PKM (author)2007-06-06

/me seems to remember you are meant to twist wires going along the length, not from the whole length at once. Could you make the hooks into loops in the paperclip so that the wire feeds through them? Would probably be harder than this method though, and I have no idea whether that's actually the correct method for twisting wires- we did it by hand back in the good old days.... of GCSE electronics :P

CMPalmer (author)PKM2007-06-06

That is probably the preferred way of doing it, particularly if you are making long twisted pair cables. I seem to remember from my days supporting electronics manufacturing, that there were dispensers and lots of tools for creating twisted wire pairs. The idea for this jig came from a recollection of a jig for making rope and from an electric hair braider that my daughter used to have. The braider (and maybe the rope jig) used gears to spin the hooks in the opposite direction of the overall twist so that the friction and tension of the twists worked against each other to hold everything steady. Wires hold their shape better than threads and hairs, so I think the stationary mounts are fine. Also, this is just a quick and dirty way to make short (one foot or so) lengths of twisted wire, like for running wires to front panel components or jacks. I'm building the sound and light machine from Make issue 10, BTW. This technique and jig might also be useful for jewelry making and other decorative wire bending applications.

PocketSized (author)2007-06-06

Cool Instructable. This is definitely a handy little tool to have laying around.

mho1970 (author)2007-06-06

Great idea!! The cheaper the better. I used to use a drill or cordless screwdriver, long bit and tape. Does the same thing but faster. Only downside is you have to make a longer piece. Thanks to CMPalmer for the post

Trans_Am (author)2007-06-05

Simple but effective. Also a lot easier on the wrists than using pliers. +

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