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Choosing between and rolling mill and an ultrasonic

I have a one person shop in my backyard. I have enough money for a
low end rolling mill or an ultrasonic cleaners. My work is mostly
fabrication at this point and I am wondering which item would be most
useful. I really like making textured and pattern sheets for one of
a kind pieces. I was looking at the Karat all in one 3" rolling mill
or an Economy rolling mill from A&A Jewelry supply. Any suggestions?
If I go with an ultrasonic cleaner, would a low end with a heater be
my best choice? Please send your thoughts.


Greetz Jena, I think you would get the most use out of a rolling mill
more so than an ultrasonic. It’s even possible that one can pay for
the other. You can roll you own wire and sheet to make pieces you sell
then purchase the ultra- sonic.

Nothing, in my opinion, beats a squidge of denatured alcohol mixed
with liquid soap and water with a tooth brush. It really gets parts
clean and I can use it on emeralds and pearls.

Hope it helps, Guy… Have 3 cents, that’s 2 if I gave it all I’d
have no “cents” at all.

Jena If you are going to be in jewelry making you should first buy an
Ultrasonic cleaner. This will help you in all types of jewelry that
you are currently making or will make in the future. It helps you
present your merchandise/hobby that others will appreciate.

You can always buy the Rolling Mill in the future and may be the
Ultrasonic will help you make the funds you need to buy the Rolling
Mill. We make the KARAT Rolling Mill & also sell the ELMA ultrasonic
cleaners. You can check our website

Kenneth Singh

Hi Jena, Go for the rolling mills. You can always clean jewellery
with warm/hot water and detergent and a brush. A set of rolling mills
will be so much more useful if you want to make real jewellery. All
the best, Rex

I have enough money for a Low end rolling mill or an ultrasonic

Tough call! I use my ultrasonic more than I do my rolling mill. On
the other hand, I have practical alternatives to the ultrasonic, but
the mill is indispensable in the role it plays. When you need a
rolling mill, you need a rolling mill! When you need an ultrasonic,
you can usually get by with manual cleaning.

Hope this helps,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

I vote for the rolling mill without question. You can clean with
ammonia, detergents, Simple Green and a
toothbrush…whatever, but a rolling mill (and a drawplate)
frees you from dependence on a supplier when you need a little sheet
or wire in a size or thickness you don’t have on hand. Jerry in

Jena, In my opinion there is no question: Buy a rolling Mill. The
ultrasonic can help you w/ one task whereas the mill allows you to
roll out stock from scrap, roller print and texture, roll forge (if
you have wire rolls) and, of course, change thickness of sheet. My
mill is one of the most useful and used tools in my studio. I use my
ultrasonic much more infrequently. (In fact, I value my steamer much
more than my ultrasonic.)

Good luck, Andy Cooperman

I’ll add my vote to the rolling mill side. I wish I had bought mine
years earlier. There’s so much you can do with it, saves time, saves
money. Embossing from etched plates, embossing with organic
materials, embossing for kum-bu, texturing, rolling ingots from your
scrap, straightening wire, getting the size sheet or wire you need
from existing stock, mokume, replacing hand forging in some
instances. It’s one of those things that quickly become indispensable,
ranking right up there with your torch.

Hello Jena, Good question. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
When funds are limited, you’ve got to use them where you’ll get the
most good. My suggestion: If you buy sheet and wire in the gauges
you need, and do a lot of soldering and polishing, you’ll get more
use from the ultrasonic initially. Also, a mid-size ultrasonic with
heater, is at least US$100 less than even the least expensive
rolling mill. That said, a rolling mill expands your options and
will give you a better profit margin. You don’t need to stock all
those different gauges - with only a couple gauges of sheet, you can
roll down to meet your needs as they arise. That means less money
tied up in material waiting to be used. If you get a wire pattern
roller, you could probably make up enough band rings that will sell
well, and you could recoupe your equipment cost fairly quickly.
Then buy the ultrasonic with your return! Here’s another thought in
favor of the mill. If you’ve not already done so, switch to the
water soluble polishing compounds. Clean-up is SOOOOooo much easier
and would make doing without the ultrasonic less problematic! Good
for you in asking for advice from experienced folks. Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936

I am pleasantly surprised that most of the Orchidians would choose
having a Rolling Mill. Out on the street (NYC jewelry District) we
sell more Ultrasonics and this may be because we deal with a lot
more with Retail Jewelers.

As far as cost prices you could get a decent 1/4 to 1/2 gallon
ultrasonic from $160.00 to $220.00 3" Combination Rolling Mill for $

Kenneth Singh being roasted in NYC, business is picking up & we may
see a christmas this year.

I too will vote for the rolling mill. When I learned smithing in
Taiwan many years ago, my teacher took me to the part of the Chinese
market in Taipei that specialized in jewelry making tools. He helped
me buy all the things he thought I would need upon return to the
States. One of the items was a Chinese made rolling mill. It was
only $50US and not very pretty to look at but, know what…I still
use it regularly. It has saved me many times when something needed
done but there was no time to ‘purchase’ the goods. I simply rolled
what I needed. I say… “just do it!”

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where the sun is
shining brightly and simple elegance IS fine jewelry!

  Here's another thought in favor of the mill.  If you've not
already done so, switch to the water soluble polishing compounds. 
Clean-up is SOOOOooo much easier and would make doing without the
ultrasonic less problematic! 

But Judy, cleanup of standard compounds isn’t that tricky either.
Just do it the way it was done before ultrasonics. Even with them
around, some shops still just use the old boil-out pots, since they
don’t damage as many things as an ultrasonic. An old saucepan on a
hot plate, filled with a moderately strong solution of lye, drain
cleaner, or any other strongly alkaline cleaner (even TSP does a lot,
though it’s not QUITE as effective on stubborn caked on compounds)
Use it with ventilation, and let it heat to a simmer just barely
below actually boiling. Work soaked in that for a few minutes will
not have polish compounds on them either. Save for all but a few
mostly organic stones, or those with oils or treatments that would
come out, but they can’t go in the ultrasonic either.

Ultrasonics are a convenience, saving you time. But they really
don’t do anything you can’t manage just as well, without one.
Rolling mills, on the other hand, are an almost essential tool.


Having already decided that I NEED a rolling mill, it now becomes a
question of which one! Cavalin? Durston? PePe tools? ( Allcraft has

I am hoping for 100mm of flat, but with the combination mills the
most flat surface I have been able to find is about 70mm. I looked
into the mills where you can swap out the flat rollers for the
combination rollers, but they weren’t very impressive mechanically. 2
Mills? Given the price tag I am hoping to buy ONE and that it will
last me a good long time!

Everyone I have talked to about this, to date, has had a serious
prejudice for one manufacturer or another of them. So lets hear it!
Which rolling mill? and WHY?


After all this discussion of ultrasonics, I have to pipe in with an
alternative, since I worked for many years without one and did just
fine. For normal cleaning, the old toothbrush, ammonia, soap and
water work just fine. When I had really stubborn dirt or build up,
especially that scum that gemstones get on them from months (or
years) of neglect that even ultrasonics have trouble removing, I
would use my microwave. Simply place the object being cleaned in a
bowl of water, ammonia and soap and bring it to a boil in the
microwave, usually 2 to 3 minutes. Of course, this can be done on a
hotplate as well, but the microwave is so much more convenient. You
have to excercise the usual caution with heat sensitive stones, such
as opal or emerald, but otherwise it is no different than boiling
using any other heat source (forget about the admonition regarding
putting metal in the microwave, the jewelry items are not large
enough to interfer with the microwave radiation). So, for those of
you who don’t have an ultrasonic, this is another alternative that
works as well (hey, this also qualifies as a handy use for something
other than what it was intended for!).


When you buy from Allcraft talk to Tevil there and let him know that
you are a professionalism. Some of the mills are provided with a
safety bolt in the handle that sheers if you try and pass a tough
piece of material through it or something too wide for the gap
between the rollers. This is there to prevent damage to the rollers
but can be a real problem if you know what you are doing and want to
push the limits of the toll. If he knows that you know what you’re
doing the bolt will be standard rather than a sheering bolt.

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

i bought a cheapie rolling mill from ebay for $250. (made by PePe).
it has one of the sheering bolts, and i cannot tell you how much i
hate this thing. i use it only because i don’t have any other rolling
mill, but you can only roll with very little pressure. i HIGHLY
reccommend paying a litle more for a rolling mill with the bolt, even
if you only have 50-70mm of flat rolling space. this is a very
important factor in choosing a rolling mill! if only someone had
told me about this!


  i bought a cheapie rolling mill from ebay for $250.  (made by
PePe). it has one of the sheering bolts, and i cannot tell you how
much i hate this thing. i use it only because i don't have any
other rolling mill, but you can only roll with very little

Have you tried replacing the shear ‘bolt’?

I’ve not seen the mill you describe, but it seems unlikely a mfg
would put a ‘shear bolt’ in a mill if it couldn’t be replaced. I’d
contact the mfg or a distributor of PePe tools & ask about a 'hard’
bolt to replace it.


Jeff The Karat Mill has been around for more than 10 Years. It has
been upgrades and modified after being used by professionals If you
go throught the articles on Orchid you will find several references.
It has been copied by many manufacturers with same colors etc. You
have 76mm of Flat and 76mm of Various wire sizes and a roller that
makes wedding bands and bracelet stock.

check website “” Kenneth Singh

 Which rolling mill? and WHY? 

I have Durston rolling mill…I am happy with it, but I don’t want to
make you think that is an advertisement. My suggestion is to get the
combination mil. It has a single set of rolls, half wire, half flat,
but what I do is stick my sheet between two clean sheets of copper
and roll it that way if I need wider sheet than my flat part will
accomodate, that way I get maximum flat sheet, and my rolling mill
was pretty affordable.

the mill came with 2 bolts. at first i did not know why. when one
broke, i understood! now i am very careful, as i will be without a
rolling mill when this one breaks. thanks for your email, though, as
i woke up this morning thinking about making a solid bolt my own self
to replace the “shearing bolt”. (i don’t even know for sure if this
is the proper name for this “bolt”!) but i will try to make one later
on today and let you know what happens. thanks! joanna gollberg