Once the posts were in, it was time to wire the espaliers. To save money, Geoff and I did that ourselves. We chose stainless steel, so we had to buy stainless steel wire and fittings, with the exception of the eyelet screws that our landscape designer had already installed on the posts. I’ve never done any hand swaging before but it’s not brain surgery so figured I’d be fine. [You can see our planning process and how to put in the posts in my previous post.]
I bought 15cm stainless steel rigging screws (also known as bottle screws) on EBay, by far the cheapest source and much less than you’d pay a marine or balustrading supplier, and they arrived within the week. Rigging screws can be hook, eye, hook – eye or jaw-jaw, as well as a couple other combinations. I chose jaw-jaw because they look neater than the hooks and offer the most flexibility for installation.
I chose 3mm stainless steel rope, available from marine and stainless steel suppliers or online, plus 3mm thimbles (the U-shaped guides that the wire bends around) and swages (the little tube that you squash together around the wire to lock it, also called ferrules). These are all expensive, but I have a friend who works in the industry, so got everything at a reasonable price. As well, I borrowed his swaging tool (most places that sell the rope hire out swaging tools for a few bucks).
Someone who’s good at measuring and experienced in construction would measure up everything and do all the swaging in a workshop, but I’m not confident in that department so I did everything in the garden, with a vise on the ground for half of the swages. I found I could operate the tool if it was in the vise with extra leverage, but simply wasn’t strong enough to close the tool in situ with the eyelets in the posts, so Geoff did all those. We took out the highest eyelets because, although it was time-consuming unscrewing them and then screwing them back in, it was easier than using the swaging tool at that height.
Here is a video showing how to hand swage.
Oh dear… so much for my brain surgery comment. When I watched that video, I discovered I should have done two crimps, not one, so we have to borrow the tool again and do them all once more; apparently three times is ideal for 3mm stainless rope but that’s just too much effort!
So how does it all fit together?
The rigging screw is at one end of each length. I unscrew it as far as possible minus a few turns before it comes undone completely, and then attach it to the eyelet. I then measure the distance between the jaw, and the eyelet at the other end of the wire, plus a few centimetres to allow for the doubling up of the swage at either end.
Geoff swages around the eyelet with me helping (you really need two people if you’re doing this in situ, one to hold the swage and feed through the wire, the other to hold the tool), then during the week I swaged the other ends with the swaging tool held in the vise. The swaging tool has a wire cutter on the side.
We then attach the rigging screw and tighten it, in the way this video shows:
The process was time consuming but not ridiculously so, and the two of us finished the whole job in about a day and a half, spread over three days. Plus the extra half a day next weekend for doing the extra crimps, it seems! Oh well, just as well I researched the process more thoroughly for this blog than I did for the actual job!
The wiring is the same throughout the garden, except for the bramble fruit, which are double wires, one on each side of the post. Next blog the fun part –training the berries!