Fake Barbed Wire Tutorial

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Fake Barbed Wire Tutorial

After making my real crown of thorns tutorial here, I mentioned that the Pope had been given a barbed wire crown of thorns made from the wire in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.  As far as I can tell, no picture exists of that crown so I had to use my imagination.  However, I got to thinking about how I might make some FAKE barbed wire that would look like real wire but not be capable of injury.  I got my initial ideas from an instructibles post and went a bit further with it by adding some additional paint to give it a more realistic metal look.

Supplies needed:

  • Thick cotton string
  • Elmer’s Glue (or similar)
  • Medium grey acrylic paint
  • Reddish-Brown acrylic paint
  • Scissors
  • Bowl
  • Disposable gloves

fake barbed wire supplies

Steps for construction:

Since I wanted enough faux wire to make a decent-sized coil for a crown of thorns, I decided to make about 12 feet of wire.   I cut two long pieces of string to 12 ft lengths and then with my daughter holding one set of ends and me holding the other ends, we twisted the two lengths around each other somewhat loosely.   I folded over an inch of string at the ends and clipped them with a plastic binder clip.  The fold-over is because my clips threatened to slip with only the two strings by themselves.

fake barbed wire ends clipped

In a small bowl I mixed about 1/2 cup of white glue with about 1 tablespoon of gray acrylic paint.

fake barbed wire grey glue in bowl

I dipped one end of the long twisted strings into the gray glue and squished it around to make sure it soaked into the cotton string really well.  Then I squeezed off the excess glue back into the bowl.  If you’ve ever make paper-mache the technique is similar.

fake barbed wire squeezing the excess

I hung the 12 foot length in a single loop, with each end clipped as shown earlier, from an overhanging bookshelf, and place some newspaper below it in case of drips.

fake barbed wire twists

Adding the barbs


While the longer strands were drying, I prepared the shorter string pieces for the fake barbs.  I used about 18 shorter pieces of string to make enough barbs for my 12 foot long wire.

fake barbed wire short strings cut

I dipped all 18 string pieces into the remainder of the gray glue and smushed them around well.  After squeezing off the excess glue they were ready for applying to my larger strand while it was still hanging.

fake barbed wire in bowl

It’s only been about 5 minutes but the 12 foot strand is already getting stiff, which helps when applying the barbs.   Starting at the center point of my long strand I added the first barb.    In trying to imitate real barbed wire, I just wrapped it around and around 3-4 times and then squeezed the ends so that they stood out to the sides.   The barbs are spaced about 6 inches apart.

barbed wire barb formed

After applying all 18 barbs, I went back to the first barb which was becoming more stiff as it dried and repositioned the ends of the barbs to make sure they hadn’t sagged out of place.

fake barbed wire finished and drying

An hour later, the whole thing felt completely dry.  I use my sharpest scissors to snip of the ends of each barb, at an angle, to shorten them.  Snipping them like this looked more like real wire than leaving the ends blunt like they were.

fake barbed wire barbs added

After my strand was completely dried I coiled it up around itself.

fake barbed wire dried just greyfake barbed wire coil

Adding more color

Now you could stop here and be done if you want to have barbed wire that looks brand new.  However, I wanted mine to look aged and slightly rusty.  So I used some reddish-brown acrylic paint to add some “rust” to my wire.  My paint color was actually labeled “Rusty Nail”, but whatever you can find that is close should work.   If I do it again I might even add a small amount of orange paint as well.  Whatever colors you use try to avoid glossy versions since rusty wire isn’t glossy it might tip off the fakeness sooner.

fake barbed wire rusty paint

To apply the rusty paint, I basically squirted some into my gloved hand and smushed it around in my palm, then just sort of grabbed the coil of my finished gray barbs here and there to add random rusty spots.  It dried very quickly and I was done!  The final result looks very realistic from only a few feet away, but remains flexible and the barbs don’t poke or scratch.  It’s pretty child-safe compared to a coil of real rusty barbed wire!  Guaranteed tetanus-free!

fake barbed wire last pic

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