Wire Tricks: Cobb and Co Hitch

This is a wire variation of the Spanish Windlass whose name harks back to the C19th days of Chris Cobb and his wonderful coach service which opened up outback Australia. Do you remember the 60s TV programme ‘Whiplash’ based on his adventures? Surprising they haven’t remade that one. I can imagine he or his coach drivers at times having to affect repairs in just such a way when they had a broken shaft, for example. It is a truly wonderful knot – which everyone should know. Just place the wires like this and turn until tight.

Update: You can watch this wonderful old TV series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoO83iWyHytdAnwbG0fGUlgV7CSUJ4VlW

I came across an old gold miner friend of mine Dennis Renowden one day on the Aberfeldy River who had used it to ‘replace ‘ a broken axle on his trailer. The wheel had completely gone, (probably close to a thousand metres in the valley below!) so he had secured a bush pole under one side with several such hitches and was towing the trailer using the pole on one side as a skid. His family used to be one of only three in the entire Aberfeldy Valley. There are even fewer today.

I have used it myself around the farm (and elsewhere) hundreds of times to secure two things together with ‘just a bit of wire’. I remember my grandfather, George had a saying that many things were held together with ‘just a bit of wire and some chewing gum’ which I’m sure from my own experience was true of his makeshifts and those of many other folks. The bushman must needs improvise with the materials at hand. I remember his old hammer shotgun’s stock was carefully wired up with many careful turningss of fine copper wire. As it was an ancient ‘Damascus Twist’ barrel worn to such paper thinness I wonder that it did not blow his head off. I would dearly have liked it as a keepsake but it went to a cousin of mine who handed it in years ago in one of those ‘gun amnesties’.

As you can see from the diagram above, it can be done with either a double strand (stronger) or a single strand (if you are short of wire!). It was traditionally tightened with a file or a rasp as everyone had these tools in their kit. Nowadays folks probably don’t understand the phrase, ‘S/he had a rasping voice’! Any bar will do the trick. A Phillips Head screwdriver works well. You have to be careful not to over tighten it or the wire will snap. The Spanish Windlass is capable of developing awesome power!

This is the knot I (and practically everyone else) uses to secure a wire to a strainer post.

There is a trick to winding that ‘tail’ of wire around the other. After you have passed it through the loop, bend the wire 90 degrees (twice) to make a ‘crank’, then it is a simple matter to wind the wire neatly and tightly around the other.

This is the ‘famous’ ‘Donald’ knot used to join two lengths of wire together. It works well with both plain and barbed wire.

The ‘figure of eight’ knot is much more elegant (uses less wire) and never comes undone. It is a variation of the ‘reef knot’ as you can see, but takes some mastering (for some reason).

Here is a great way to use the Spanish Windlass method to strain a piece of fence, if you have no tools. As you can see, you slip one branch through the loop behind the other, then turn it to strain the wore. When it is taut enough you can bend the wire 90 degrees to secure it, then unwind the sticks from the wire and wind up the end of the wire like the one below to finish the knot.


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