Here’s a step by step guide as to how I made my cactus including all the materials I used.
DIY Wire and Cement Cactus
So, if you happen to know anything about me and the types of crafts I love, you'll know I'm slightly obsessed with cement at the moment, and in particular, Rapid Set Cementall. Since discovering this product I've been inspired to make so many home decor pieces for our apartment, including this minimalistic cactus. Although this particular piece was a bit fiddly and time consuming, I'm so in love with how in turned out and would definitely make more knowing how good the payoff is.
Tools and Materials
- Gardening wire (made of 4 strands of thinner wire)
- Cutters and pliers
- Used soda/plastic bottle
- Used milk carton
- Ribbon (and needle and thread)
- Felt feet
Cut the Wire
Firstly, I snipped 3 pieces of wire off my spool. I didn’t measure anything, I just made cuts based on roughly how big I wanted my cactus to be. I did, however, make sure that 1 piece of wire was much longer than the other 2 so that when it came to shaping them, I had enough extra wire to make the little nobbly bit that sticks out on one of them.
Next, start gently bending and straightening your wire pieces where needed in order to form the nice ‘cactus shape’. Take your time with this part as getting it right will make the next steps easier and will of course add to a pleasing overall aesthetic. I laid my 3 pieces on top of one another at the end to make sure they all had the same outline.
I would advise at this point to trim your cactus shape ends to be all the same length as each other when lined up, again, just to make the rest of the project a little easier.
I would also suggest being mindful of the diameter of your future cactus and to make sure that you have an empty plastic bottle that is roughly the same diameter as your cactus.
Create Barbed Wire
Now, you could of course use actual barbed wire for your project and cut this whole step out completely and if that’s what you want to do, I don’t blame you, this is where the majority of your time will be spent. However, I can’t tell you the satisfaction I get from knowing I made mine from scratch.
So if you want to make your own too, here’s how.
The wire I used to make my cactus shape pieces was made up of 4 strands of thinner wire. I snipped many small pieces of wire, approx 2 inches in length, off this same spool and unraveled them all. Two pieces of this thinner wire makes 1 barb.
I cut a slightly longer piece of ‘normal’ wire that I hadn’t unraveled to resemble the thickness of each of my 3 pieces of cactus wire - my ‘dummy wire’ if you will. I wanted to make each barb individually and slip them off the dummy wire to thread onto my cactus wire pieces later as I figured that securing each barb on as I went along may ruin the shape of my cactus pieces (due to all the twisting needed) and that the barbs in situ may stab me as I work.
So, to make a barb, I had 2 pieces of unraveled wire ready. I took the 1st piece and wrapped it around my dummy wire. I did this using just my fingers mostly but use your pliers if necessary. I then took my 2nd piece of unraveled wire and wrapped that around the first piece. I then squished the 2 together along my dummy wire so that the intertwined pieces became a nice neat barb. I then slipped the barb off the dummy wire and put it aside for later.
If the barb doesn’t slip off easily, use your pliers to squeeze down on the middle of the barb knot. This should then allow the barb to slip off.
If once your barb is off and the 2 pieces of wire separate, don’t worry, just keep the 2 pieces together and roughly in the position they were in when they slipped off so that when you thread them onto your cactus later, they find their one shape again.
It’s therapeutic but does take a while! The number of barbs needed depends on how big your cactus will be and how spaced out you want each barb. I had one barb every 2 inches (roughly) on all 3 of my cactus pieces. This was about 20 barbs per piece (more for the piece with the extra nobble) so I ended up making about 70 barbs!!!
If you can persevere with that, then you get a big pat on the back from me!
Thread your barbs onto your cactus pieces and secure them in place with glue if needed. Alternatively, just give them an extra squeeze of the pliers once in place and that should hold them there.
Please, please, please take care doing this and all future steps as it’s barbed wire at the end of the day, it’s sharp stuff and will pull on your skin and clothes if you’re not careful.
Shape the Cactus
Next, stand your cactus upright and space each of the 3 pieces out equally from one another and make sure they all cross at the same point in the middle at the top. If not, it won’t hold it’s shape as well and will look a bit lopsided at the end. Tape the pieces in place to make the next step easier.
Cut your old soda bottle in half and feed your 6 cactus legs into the bottom end of the bottle. Tape each leg in place so that they are still nice and evenly spaced out. If your cactus stands up on it’s own and doesn’t lean in any funny directions, you’re ready for the next step. If you’ve got a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa on your hands then just adjust where you’ve taped down the legs to straighten it up.
This is where your cactus needing similar dimensions to your plastic bottle comes into play.
Mix the Cement
Mix up your cement as instructed on the box, however, I added a touch more water than recommended as I wanted to be able to pour the mixture into my bottle more easily. Just try not to make the mix too watery as this may affect how it sets.
Fill the Bottom of the Bottle with Cement
In it goes, and again, be careful not to catch your fingers on the barbed wire. Let the cement set for 2 hours.
Once the cement has hardened, cut the bottle free.
I then cut my milk carton in half and transferred the cement base into the empty carton bottom and once again filled with cement. I filled it to about 5 inches up the carton.
The reason I did a 2 step replanting-kinda process instead of going straight to the milk carton was for the shape. I wanted my cactus to have a rounded look all the way down to it’s base instead of taking on the milk carton’s shape at the bottom.
Wrap with Twine
Once your cement base has hardened for the last time, cut/peel off your milk carton base.
I then chose to partially wrap twine around the lower portion of the base to give it some more texture and to tie it in with other elements of our living room decor.
Add some felt feet to the bottom so it doesn’t scratch any of your surfaces.
Lastly I added some contrasting purple ribbon flowers. My husband wasn’t a fan of these but I thought they looked really cute and out-of-place in a good way (?), but the choice is up to you.
One last thing
And there you have it.
I absolutely love my cactus and I think cacti are kinda ‘in’ right now, so why not jump on the bandwagon in style!?
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