Avoiding mistakes when choosing rolling mills

I am somebody who often lurks here and I know this has been
discussed before but I can’t seem to be able to find past posts on

I want to purchase a rolling mill. I don’t want to make another
mistake as I have already had to upgrade my flex shaft because I made
a poor choice.

I wouldn’t say it will get a huge amount of use because I don’t do
production work. I want a machine that will do wire and sheet at a
pretty thick gauge because I like big jewelry. I want to be able to
make patterned sheet as well. I have never used a rolling mill, but
have done some research. I know the Durston and Cavallin are great
machines, but they are expensive and I’m not sure which model to
purchase. I read a good review on the Karat and there are several on
Ebay, but I only read one review, and I’m not so sure it is a wise
move. There is another 80mm 4.0 ratio on ebay for sale in the
auction, but there is no name brand so I am a little apprehensive
about bidding on that one.

Does anyone have any personal opinions for me? I would really like
to pay 400.00 or less but if I absolutely have to will go a few
hundred higher if I will avoid making a mistake. I have seen where
other people have gone for the cheaper model, say without extensions
(what are they?) and then the person was sorry. Then I read where
some of them need a lot of strength to operate. I am so confused,
help. Thank you in advance for your advice. Cynthia

Cynthia Cameron Design

Does anyone have any personal opinions for me? I would really like
to pay 400.00 or less but if I absolutely have to will go a few
hundred higher if I will avoid making a mistake. 

First, Ebay is not a good place to buy rolling mill. You pay for
shipping and if you want to send it back you pay for shipping again.
To ship rolling mill is not cheap.

In rolling mill you get exactly what you pay for. My advice is to
buy from reputable dealer and buy the most expensive mill you can
manage. I would rather delay purchasing until I have necessary
amount, than settle for lesser quality. Rolling mills lasts many
years, so price is really not important, if you consider how many
years of service you will get from it.

Leonid Surpin

Hi Cynthia,

As your post demonstrates you already know, don’t buy a cheap mill,
unless you have no desire to ever be serious about making jewelry. A
good mill will outlive you, a cheap one will need to be replaced if
you ever do get serious. This is most definitely a purchase that can
define being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Get one with a gear reduction. It will make your life much easier,
from the first piece you roll until the last piece on your hundred
and first birthday. Get the largest you can afford. Sooner or later,
you will run out of room on the rolls, even with a huge one. Maybe
not often, but it’s going to happen.

I have owned several mills and I can tell you unequivocally, that
Durston makes the best mill there is, possibly barring industrial
mills. A Durston 150mm combination mill will do virtually everything
you will ever need to do with a mill, and best of all, it will retain
it’s value. You can use it for years and sell it for much more than
half of what you paid for it. Pricey? Yes. Worth every penny? Heck
yeah. Every dime, and then some.

Of all of the features, the most important is the gear reduction.
Don’t skimp on that detail.

Best of luck,
Dave Phelps

Hello Cynthia,

I own a Karet rolling mill, purchased well over 10 years ago from
Kenneth Singh, an Orchidian. (Kenneth, you should chime in here as
well.) If you search the archives I know you’ll find several comments
about this mill, among many others.

It works quite well for my relatively occasional needs. I have the
rollers for various wires and patterned wires. The mill doesn’t have
much reduction and is manual, so it should be bolted down to a secure
surface with plenty of space for exerting muscle when turning the
crank. That is probably true for any manual mill, but I have no

I pattern metal with all kinds of textures using lace, cloth,
screen, sand paper - your imagination is the only limit. I wanted to
look at Kenneth’s selection of textured rollers, but he was not in
Tucson this year (darnit!). Although, I will say that changing
rollers is somewhat time-consuming and it is pretty easy to imprint
textures using the sandwich method. So, maybe I don’t really NEED a
textured roller.

You are welcome to email me off line with specific questions. Judy
in Kansas, where almost all the snow has melted. HOORAY!

The most important variables, in my experience, are the gear ratio,
how wide you can open the rollers, width of the rollers, and ease of
changing them out. Pretty much in that order, too. Plus generally how
well made the mill is.

Gear Ratio: The gear ratio converts your arm strength into "power"
for the rolling mill. Rather than using brute force, your arm
strength is multiplied by the gear ratio. Saves wear and tear on you,
the rolling mill, and makes it a more powerful machine. For doing
thick gauge and embossing with pattern sheet, you need as high a gear
ratio as you can afford. 4:1 is minimal; 6:1 is much better. Means
higher cost.

Opening width: this limits the thickness of what you can put through
the rolling mill because the teeth on the rollers’ gears must mesh
before you can turn them. Again, thicker gauge means wider opening
width, means higher cost.

Width of rollers: Needs to be wider than the widest pieces you
anticipate putting through the mill. If you get combo rollers, where
part of the roller is for wire and part for sheet, you loose some of
the width in exchange for having to change out the rollers.

Ease of changing out: Since you want to do both sheet and wire, you
will either need to have a combo roller or change them out from sheet
(smooth rollers) to wire (grooved rollers). Some mills are very
difficult to change out the rollers, others are not so hard. If you
anticipate going back and forth between wire and sheet often, combo
rollers would be more efficient.

General well-madeness: rollers need to be hardened steel so you
don’t end up scratching/imprinting your metal with them (costs more);
rollers need to stay parallel, and be easily corrected if they get
out of alignment; Calibrated tightening gear is handy, but not

You get what you pay for. Durston and Cavillin are the leading
manufacturers and stand behind their equipment with excellent
service. You might watch for a used mill, but have someone
knowledgeable check it out for you before buying. I have a cheap mill
that has limited usefulness. I use it for embossing. With its low
gear ratio, I really have to muscle the plate/sheet combo through it
and I’m pretty strong. The resulting embossing is not as crisp at it
would be with a better mill, and if I have to start and stop during
rolling while I’m taking a breath, ripples can form in the sheet. I’m
saving for a good one.

Hope this helps.
Emie Stewart


I own a couple of Durston Mills ( a double and a single) and a
Cavallin Mill. My Cavallin is a fine, strong, well built combination
mill, but without side rollers, it can’t make 1/2 round stock.

It sounds like you need something like a Durston C130 combination
mill with side rollers. You could pay a few more dollars and get a
wider one ( C150 mm), but you may not need that extra width on the
flat rollers. It has 6-1 gearing, I believe, which is a great help
for rolling heavier stock. Tough as nails, strong as you’ll ever
need. This will last many lifetimes if you maintain it properly and
don’t run goofy stuff through it to damage the rollers.

The removable side rollers become the individualized “creative” part
of your rolling mill. You can have a local machinist easily make new
rollers for you, with your own custom grooves! Many specialty
rollers, including ornate patterns can be purchased from Durston, or
just have your own made. Mine make 1/2 round stock from 12 mm wide
down to 1.5 mm wide, on either Durston mill.

Sorry, I just don’t think much of those inexpensive rolling mills
with the interchangeable rollers, etc. They are not very strong, and
one royal pain to swap out rollers. If you’re planning to roll out
heavy stock with one of those, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Better to have more mill than you think you need, and have more
potential, than have a lesser machine that is limited in what you can
make on it.

Jay Whaley

Hello Cynthia,

If you check back in the Orchid archives on the Ganoksin website,
I’m sure you will be able to find the discussion(s) about rolling
mills. I think, if I remember correctly, that no one has ever been
dissatisfied with either Durston or Cavallin rolling mills…they
are very well made and their customer service is ecellent. I know
that there have been postings about Pepe mills, but I’m not familiar
with this brand, so, perhaps, someone else could chime in here with
info on the quality and durability of Pepe mills.

If you go to Rio Grande’s catalogue on page 157, you’ll find an
image at the bottom of the page of a rolling mill with flat rollers
and a wire roller extension. Again, I have no experience with

I have had a great rolling mill I bought many years ago from
Gesswein. It has been a true workhorse for me, with no complaints.
The rollers are flat and 100m in width. I’ve been using it for over
20 years and it remains one of my favorite tools (OK, all my tools
are my favorites…I admit it).

You know me… I always have suggested to my students that
purchasing a less expensive tool is only OK, if the tool is
well-made and warrantied, the manufacturer has a good reputation and
good customer service for questions on use and care. You will never
regret waiting to purchase a Durston or a Cavallin rolling mill
(Pepe owners add your comments, here), if you can’t spring for one

Finally, unless a seller on an online auction warranties the rolling
mill, and, in the event of a defect, will pay for return shipping
(rolling mills are HEAVY), AND the mill is a made by a reliable
manufacturer, I would not buy this way. Go with a reliable jewelry
equipment supplier and you really can’t go wrong.

Hope you find this helpful,

A decent rolling mill should be high on your list of quality tools.
As others have said Durston Mills will last you a lifetime. I bought
my Durston D2 mills some 25 years ago and they are as good now as
when I first bought them.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG

I’ll chime in here also. It is better to have a cheap rolling mill
than no rolling mill IF you are sure you want one and IF you can’t
afford a Durston. I lucked into a VERY lightly used rolling mill, no
name brand, with multiple changeable rollers, for $75 including
shipping. Better believe I bought that puppy! And have been VERY
happy with it! Now I use it for textures - not really for rolling
sheet or wire, although it has the wire rollers…

When I started on this metalsmithing path money was tight, to say the
least - and I discovered that when I could, it was much better to
save and buy one really GOOD tool than several cheap ones I would
have to replace. BUT I also realized that it was sometimes better to
have a cheap tool than no tool… You are the only one who both knows
your finances and your budget.

Buy the best you can afford, or buy cheap until you can afford the
best and plan to re-sell the cheap one then. I can absolutely get my
money out of my rolling mill if I ever decide I need and can afford a
Durston - but for what I do my cheap mill works just fine. I would
rather spend the money on another tool [grin].

Beth Wicker


Make sure you get one with gear reduction. I didn’t do enough
research and bought one without it, and it is SO difficult to turn!
I even emailed the Durston people to find out if it could be added
on, and they said sorry but that is impossible. Other than that it’s
an excellent mill…

Rio has a good selection of mills in their catalogue.

Good luck,

And here is what happens if you don’t buy a first class rolling

We had an ancient little rolling mill that was ok for rolling out
thin sheet. Rollers were not aligned, it had no gears, but it got us
by.Then, a generous family member (with no jewelry experience)
bought us a Pepe Tools rolling mill. At the time I think it cost
about $350. It was huge and very sturdy looking next to the ancient
liitle one. We used it very little because we just didn’t have a
need. Then, a customer wanted us to melt down a bunch of herold gold
and make her a substantial cuff bracelet. The gold was melted, the
ingot poured, and the first time we tried to roll that metal the
gear on the Pepe Tools mill sheared right off. We called Andy
Kroungold at Stuller and ordered what we should have had all along,
a Durston. When we unpacked that baby, it made the others we had been
using look like toys. We were able to complete our project without
damaging purselves or the mill.

The resulting bracelet can be seen on our Facebook page:

Peggy Wilson
Harbor Jewelers

Hi Cynthia,

I’ll just pipe in my 2 cents, I bought a cheap chinese rolling mill
when I started making jewellery for about $350. I thought it was a
great deal when I got it, and it did allow me to get a start. I did
however find it very frustrating because the maximum sheet thickness
it could roll I think was 4 mm, and there were so many times I wanted
to roll something a bit thicker but couldn’t. When you say you want
to make chunky pieces, I would say make sure you can get enough
thickness through your mill. I bought a durston combo mill last year,
and every time I walk in my shop I want to hug it, cause it has made
my work so much easier! A thought for the people who make the cheap
mills- if you added another slightly larger set of gears for the
rollers, the maximum thickness of the mill could be increased by
switching gear sets.


Does anyone have any personal opinions for me? I would really like
to pay 400.00 or less but if I absolutely have to will go a few
hundred higher if I will avoid making a mistake. 

I am areally small small small business - jewelry artist. I
considered buying a 400-500$ rolling mill and looked at them on Ebay
(literally for a couple years) and looked for used and looked and
looked and looked. Almost bought one out of wanting because I could
not afford a good one. So, I just did without for about 5 years and
started saving. I had used Durston rolling mills in workshops and
knew that a $500 one would not compair and I had read the info on
taking them apart and changing the rollers - heard that was a
nightmare. One day about a week before Christmas - last year - a big
box was at my door with iron binding straps around it. What do ya
know my husband bought me a rolling mill for Christmas (probably so
would stop talking about it.) I could not even lift itin to the
house. It is the finest piece of equipment I own and probably just
one of the finest tools ever made. It cost 1200$. It is a Durston
C130. I would have made a huge mistake and wasted $500 to have
bought something less than this machine. It does everything I want it
to do - effortlessly in seconds. Changed the way I do everything in
my shop. What a great investment. I am afraid if I would have bought
less of amachine that it would just be sitting there collecting dust
and a waste of time to use and too difficult to use to get the job
done. Now this is coming from a novice, small potato, little tiny
jewelry maker.

Never under estimate your own potential and it can grow with good
tools. A $500 rolling mill is $500 lost (just my opinion obviously.)
Now that I have a good rolling mill and actually see what it can do
so perfectly and fast I would have paid twice what I paid for it and
bought it sooner - worth every single cent. A very happy roller


I’ve owned a Durston rolling miil for 20 years now and have never
regretted the purchase. My first rolling mill was an inexpensive one
and it was always a struggle to get flat and straight results from

Ian Davidson

Greetings from the looney bin, the name my 25 year old granddaughter
affectionately calls our home on facebook. (I’m sure she doesn’t
think I’m really crazy)

I asked for help on purchasing the correct rolling mill on March 3.
I kept looking at the emails I got and figured nobody had responded
to my question.

OK, I am not a rocket scientist. I am a 60 year old computer
challenged, wanna be master jeweler.

How embarrassing that today I am trying to look for the post
referring to a job offer for a jeweler. I see a few posts from
people who wish they could get the job, and I think to myself, I want
that job!, but I have never seen the original post and I don’t even
know where the job is. I’m thinking to myself, how can that be, that
I can’t find it. So I go to the website to look for it. I am about to
give up when I go into something that brings up old posts and all the
responses in one place. OMG, there is my post! 12 wonderful people
responded and I never saw one of them! Thank you to Leonid, David,
Judy, Emie, Jay, Linda, James,Beth,Susan,Peggy,Chris, and Joy! I
read every one of them. I am so appreciative. of your advice and I
agree with each one.

If you are interested in what I did, on my own, here it is. I spent a
long time researching rolling mills. I decided on the Durston
combination C130. My husband concurred with my decision and I was
about to order it when we had an unfortunate money sucking incident.
Most of my funds went for a hot water tank. Can you imagine? The

So, I got a 280.00 4.1 gear ratio, 80mm made in India rolling
machine. It’s fine. My husband has checked it out, secured it in a
big vise for me. He has taught me how to use it, and it seems fine. I
think while I’m learning, it’ll be OK.

When I want to upgrade, I will simply sell the one I have. I was
happy to see that I made the right choice for the durston and maybe
by the time I know what I’m doing I’ll have a better idea of the size
I want and maybe I’ll find out the Durston 130 is too small for me.

This is such a great group. I live in an area of so few jewelry
people that it is a hugh comfort to have this support. Thanks all.

Never did find the job offer. Too bad, I’d be so right for the job.

Cynthia Cameron Design

Hello Cynthia,

Bummer about the water tank, and your having to revise your choice of
rolling mill. I think you’ll be OK with the little mill you bought.
Save your $$ until you can afford the Durston - an excellent choice.
You may find that you want to keep your little mill and set it up for
texture printing or some such. Best of luck & like Proud Mary, keep
on rollin’!!

Judy in Kansas, where it’s dang COLD… brrrrrr.

You may find that you want to keep your little mill and set it up
for texture printing or some such. 

Or not. One of the main limitations of those small cheap mills is
that with a smaller diameter to the rolls, and often a less strong
frame, you cannot take as big a “bite” with each pass. That can be
tolerated when just rolling sheet metal down, since you just run it
through the mill more times. But Roll printing for textures usually
needs to be done in a single pass, and often requires a fairly sturdy
bite in order to get full depth to the texture. In my experience,
roll printing is one of the things those small mills are least able
to do well…

On the other hand… Those small mills (at least the ones sold by
Contenti or Otto Frei and similar, have available an interesting
range of pattern wire rolls, so perhaps that’s worth exploring. They
also come with several modest pattern texture rolls, which don’t
require such deep a bite to work OK, at least not in softer metal, so
if the texture printing you have in mind is simply with the supplied
texture rolls, then that would work.

For me, I have two of those small mills, used as secondary mills. My
most often used flat mill is an old as the hills (roughly 1920s)
manual mill that’s sturdy as can be, so it gets used for roll
printing and rough breakdown rolling of ingots for flat stock. But
after all those years, the rolls aren’t so pristene any more (another
reason why it’s fine for roll printing). So when I make sheet metal,
I get it almost to the desired guage, and then finish with one of
the small mills, who’s almost new flat rolls leave a much nicer
finish, and I’ve got the second one set up usually for half round
wire, or with a pattern wire roll. Yeah, I know that sounds like too
many rolling mills. You’re right, but I got good deals on both of the
small mills on ebay, only lightly used, and tool junkie that I am…
:-)… Perhaps one of the few advantages to being single, unattached,
no kids, etc, is that there’s nobody around to scream and yell
(well, the cats meow a bit, but usually it’s just because they want
to be fed, an expense that comes even before tools) when I blow a
little extra cash (when there is some, pretty rare these days) on
some tool I only vaguely need…


Good decision Cynthia. A small mill is better than none (I’m happy
for you that you got yourself one with a gear-reduction), and you
will be able to sell it later if you want to. I really like Judy’s
idea of keeping it for texture printing later when you finally get
that mack-daddy Durston. I kinda wish now that I’d kept my old one
around for just that kind of thing. I get really nervous getting
sandpaper anywhere near my Durston

Hope you get back in hot water again soon!

Dave Phelps

I have a small no-name-brand mill, and pretty much all I use it for
is texture… builds muscle ! No, seriously - I love mine, wouldn’t
trade it for the world! For what I do I really don’t need a
Durston… if I ever got into really running my own sheet and wire
yes… but for texture? no…

Have fun!

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

Hello Peter.

Yup. If I did a lot of sheet milling, I’d want to leave one mill set
up just for that. I hope Cynthia eventually gets her Durston… &
I’d like one too. However, I just can’t justify the cost, considering
my only occasional need. My little Karet mill meets my needs. I also
really like the patterns available for half-round wire - considering
the cost of buying the patterned wire, milling your own does become
cost effective.

It’s all about the profit, ya’ know.
Judy in Kansas