Wire Making

About: Master goldsmith, gemcutter, setter.

Intro: Wire Making

OK, so this is also an overview as to how wire is made.

For this tutorial a basic jewelry workshop is needed.

All the components can be purchased at https://www.riogrande.com/ ( no affiliation)

Wire can also be purchase ready made.


In these modern times, many workshops will buy in rolls of pre made wire for use in the workshop.However, should the need arise for a piece of wire that is of an unusual diameter or shape, or if the workshop simply runs out of an existing size, which normally happens on a Saturday afternoon, it is essential to be able to make some replacement wire quickly.

Step 1:

First thing is to melt and cast cut-off and scrap metal into a bar.

This is done in an ingot mold.

I have another free tutorial under the Tools and Tips Section on "How to make an Ingot Mold"

Step 2:

The metal is then rolled to the appropriate thickness in the square sectioning of the roller.

A roller is probably the most expensive single purchase for a jewelry workshop.

They go from about $400 to several thousand dollars.

Step 3:

I have rolled this wire carefully down to 2.5 mm square out of my roller.

I want to make myself a few lengths of different diameter wire for stock.

Here I am annealing gold wire after rolling.

I'm using the torch in a circular motion, so that I heat the coil of wire evenly.

The torch I am using is a "Little Torch" but a normal plumbers torch will work just as well.

Step 4:

What I do is I roll the first 30 mm of the wire down to a point, especially when it is still a bit thicker

It is of course also possible to file it down if there is no roller and the stock has been purchased from a supplier.

Step 5:

Here I am using drawing tongs after lubricating the wire with a light machine oil or beeswax.

I start by pushing the tapered point through the draw plate hole.

The wire is then pulled through the consecutively smaller holes.

These holes will change in diameter in increments of about 1/10th of a mm.

As the wire is drawn through, and because the metal is being deformed in it's cold state, it will become harder and harder and will have to be annealed from time to time.

On average about four to six holes and then anneal.

If the wire is not annealed, it will snap or crack.

Step 6:

For instance, 18 kt gold as shown here does not need as much annealing as say, 14 kt, or 10 kt gold.

The rule of the thumb is that the less pure the metal ( meaning more alloyed) the more annealing will be needed. Therefore sterling silver, for instance,will go quite a way before annealing is needed.

10 kt gold, however will work harden much quicker.

Step 7:

Here is the finished result of a set of 18 kt gold wire for the workshop.

The bottom is 2 mm wire, then 1.5 mm wire.

The left coil is 1 mm wire and the right hand coil is .7 mm wire.

These are the most common thicknesses that are needed in an average workshop.

Step 8:

Draw Plates

There are many different types of draw plates.

The two shown here are made out of HSS ( high speed steel) or tool steel.

Step 9:

A different round type of draw plate is one that has tungsten carbide inserts in it.

Step 10:

Tungsten carbide is a compound made out of carbon and tungsten.

It is formed into the correct diameter dies and then inserted into the steel draw plate.

This draw plate is more expensive than a steel one but is able to draw materials much harder than gold, like titanium or steel

It gives a superior finish and lasts a very long time.

Wiki says:

A chemical compound (specifically, a carbide) containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. In its most basic form, tungsten carbide is a fine gray powder, but it can be pressed and formed into shapes for use in industrial machinery, cutting tools, abrasives, armor-piercing rounds, other tools and instruments, and jewelry.

Step 11:

Wire, by definition, need not be round.

As the draw plates above illustrate, metal can be drawn to virtually any shape, including hollow.

Common shapes, other than the two shown, include oval, hexagonal, square,triangular and star.

The most common used shapes are round and square, though.

Step 12:

Drawing Wire Troubleshooting

Making wire does not come without problems.

Most are easily solved, however.

The most common, without a doubt, is over rolling.

In this picture I have exaggerated the process, but what has happened is that the rolling mill has been tightened down too far.

This results in the metal "spreading"out of the confines of the square groove of the roller.

Step 13:

In this picture I have greatly exaggerated the process of over rolling.

The ribbed sides are known a 'flashing'

Step 14:

If one continues to roll the wire then the 'flashing' will fold over and back into the main body of the wire.

Step 15:

Should the wire then be drawn through a draw plate the result (some what exaggerated) will look like this picture.

The wire then is unusable and will have to be discarded.

The right way is to be patient and roll the wire through the rolling mill with only small reductions.

That is faster than having to melt it all down and start again.

Step 16:

Another problem with drawing wire, although not so common as over rolling, is under annealing.

This will cause the wire to snap or split.

If this action happens when the wire has been annealed, then the problem can be that the metal is contaminated with a foreign metal like aluminium or lead.

However, by the time that all the rolling has been done, contamination of the metal will have become apparent.

Another difficulty, although not a problem as such, is the drawing of very thin wire.

When wire goes beyond .5 mm annealing becomes most important.

It is also then that the quality of the draw plate comes to the fore.

The filing of the taper must be done carefully too.

Standard drawing tongs cannot be used.

Rather parallel jaw pliers should be used.




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