Twist Yourself a Fork!

Twisted wire forks have been unearthed at several 18th-century military camp sites.1 These may have been available through the army sutlers, but more than likely were fashioned out of scraps of wire by the soldiers themselves. How were wire forks made? Their construction seems simple enough, but twisting a piece of wire that is stiff enough to perform it's intended function can be quite a task. Below is how I make them. This may or may not be how "they" did it, but it is quick, cheap, easy, and it WORKS.

You will need a vise, a narrow strip of wood, and wire. My experience has been that old coat hangers are the most readily available source, though perhaps a slightly thinner wire would be closer to the originals. You will need just over a foot of wire. If there is any paint on it, burn it off with a propane torch or stick in the fire for a while to burn this off.

fig. A fig. B
Next, find yourself a piece of 1x2 about a foot long. Pine works well for making one or two, but if you plan to make a fork for everyone in camp, you would do well to use a hardwood such as oak. Find the exact center of your piece of wood and drill two holes slightly larger than the diameter of your wire. The holes should be about 3/4" apart and on center (see fig. A). Bend your wire in half over a dowel or the bar on your vise to form a "U". Clamp the bottom of the "U" in your vise (they probably would have used a log with a slot cut in it or some such device). Slip your wooden former over the two prongs and, starting from the very bottom, start to twist in a clockwise direction (see B). As the wire twists the former will start to climb towards the top of the "U" -- let the wood creep up as you turn. When you get to your desired length (excavated specimens show 15-18 twists) simply pull the wood straight up to form the tines. Trim the tines to length, then sand, file or grind them to a shape like shown at right.


1) Two twisted wire forks were found in New York, the one shown here is from Calver and Bolton's History Written with a Pick and Shovel (page 19). A similar fork is shown in Neumann's Collector's Illustrated..., (page 109).