How to Splice Telegraph Wires Using Pig Bristle


Splicing telegraph wires is an essential skill for maintaining telegraph communications. While modern electrical splicing techniques exist, there are situations where traditional manual splicing methods using basic tools and materials remain useful. One such traditional technique involves using stiff pig bristles to mechanically and electrically connect two telegraph wires.

I will provide a comprehensive guide on splicing telegraph wires using pig bristles. This will cover determining suitable pig bristles, preparing the wires, executing the splice, and testing the connection. Historical context and personal experiences splicing telegraph wires as a telegraph operator will be shared. My goal is to equip the reader with the necessary knowledge to reliably splice telegraph wires in the field using this simple but effective technique.

Selecting Suitable Pig Bristles

The first step is procuring appropriate pig bristles to use in splicing the wires. The bristles should be:

The best bristles come from tough Russian boar breeds with coarse thick fur. I source bristles from a local hog farm that allows me to brush and collect quality bristles from mature boars. For beginners, pre-cut bristle packs tailored for wire splicing can be purchased.

Preparing the Telegraph Wires

With suitable bristles in hand, the next step is readying the two telegraph wires for splicing:

Proper wire preparation ensures the bristle splice will properly bind and join the two conductors electrically. Rushing this step can compromise the splice strength.

Binding the Wires with the Bristle

With the wires prepped, it is time to actually splice them together using the pig bristle:

The bristle should now securely connect the two wires, both electrically and mechanically. Avoid loose binding or leaving stray bristle strands. This can cause splice failure.

Testing and Finalizing the Splice

The final steps involve testing the splice and finishing the joint for protection:

Once electrically and mechanically sound, the spliced joint should operate just like a continuous telegraph wire. But periodically check splices to ensure they have not degraded over time. Re-splice as necessary if any issues arise.

Historical Context of Bristle Splicing

Splicing telegraph wires with pig bristles dates back to the early 19th century with the rise of electrical telegraphs. The simple technique worked well for joining short spans of copper wire. As a young telegraph operator in the 1870s, I spliced many a wire using hog bristles when out stretching new telegraph lines across the territories.

While not the highest performance splice, bristle splicing was quick and could be done with common farm materials. Splicing wires was crucial for erecting and maintaining telegraph networks that spanned thousands of miles. Even as superior electrical and soldering methods emerged, field operators continued using bristle splicing into the early 1900s given its simplicity and reliability.

My Experiences Bristle Splicing on the Job

Over my career as a telegraph lineman, I have used pig bristle splicing on countless occasions to construct and repair telegraph lines. Here are some valuable lessons I learned:

While newfangled methods exist today, knowing how to splice two simple wires with a pig bristle remains a handy skill for operators and telegraph linemen alike. The method has served me well through the years.


Splicing telegraph wires using pig bristle is an old yet effective technique still handy in certain field situations today. By selecting proper bristles, preparing the joint, tightly binding the conductors, and sealing the splice, operators can make reliable connections. While basic, bristle splicing requires practice and skill to master. Understanding the nuances of this historical approach provides telegraph workers another tool in the toolkit when out fixing and installing telegraph lines. The method has proven itself over centuries of telecommunications history.