A picket twister is a machine that can twist metal used to make gates, fences and decorative iron pieces. These picket twisters are sold at hardware stores and online, but you can also create your own to save money. This project requires basic welding skills, but is a straightforward process. When the project is complete, you can twist metal rods up to one-inch in diameter. You do not even have to heat the metal to form the twisted shape. Use the twisted rods for creating fences, building gates, embellishing walkways and general outdoor decorating. For best results, use softer metals, such as steel and aluminum rather than iron and other brittle metals.
3-inch I beam
1 1/8-inch rectangular tailstock
Schedule 40 pipe
Iron picket bars
1-inch square die
Cut a 3-inch I-beam to a length of about 4 feet using a metal saw. Wear safety goggles, work gloves and ear protection to avoid injuring yourself during the cutting process.
Put on a welding apron, mask and gloves. Wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself as you weld. Keep a bucket of cold water on hand to cool any metal that gets too hot.
Mount a 3-inch cylindrical headstock to the sides of one end of the I-beam using the welding iron. Allow the large end of the headstock to hang out over the end of the I-beam.
Weld a 1 1/8-inch rectangular tailstock to the opposite end of the I-beam. Position the tailstock so that it sits flush with the back of the I-beam.
Screw a schedule 40 pipe with a 1 1/8-inch bore to the headstock. The narrower side of the pipe should face the tailstock. Slide a smaller pipe into the holes in the end of the larger pipe to create a crossbar. This will be the mechanism that twists the metal into the desired shape.
Slide the picket bar into the tailstock and headstock. Use the one-inch square dies to stabilize the picket bar in the tailstock.
Twist the crossbar on the pipe to twist the metal. It should take about 10 revolutions for the metal to twist completely. The metal will be hard to twist. If you cannot twist the metal properly by hand, you can hook up a low-revolution motor to the crossbar to twist the metal mechanically. Take care not to overheat the motor or else you can destroy the motor. If signs of stress occur, turn the motor off.