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Cleaning old drawplates

Hello all!

I’ve had a tremendous stroke of luck. A few weeks ago I able to buy
several drawplates for a very favorable price. Believe it or not,
they are all Joubert and Perelet! I did not think the seller knew
what he had and I was not about to tell him. They had few rust marks
on them and the holes are clogged with what looks like really old,
dirty beeswax. What is the best way to clean and prepare them for
use? Some of the plates are for pulling wire as small as 30 gauge,
is it better to use beeswax or drawplate lubricant for those plates?

Mychel Russell-Ward
Russell-Ward Studio

What is the best way to clean and prepare them for use? 

Steam… We use Vaseline for a lubricant…

I regularly clean drawplates ( two of my better ones are sapphire
lined) by a brief heating and then absorbent cotton ( i use old
nappies I found at a garage sale) to wipe the melted beeswax or
bur-lube from the holes and then give each a light oiling with high
quality watch oil on the better plates and a very light swipe of
cosmoline or lithium grease on the cheapies made in pakistan- that
work but are made of a high carbon steel. When rust does show up,I
use a 3M glass brush (available at auto stores and most walmarts in
the auto care section as a spot pen) to remove it entirely and then
go back over that area with tri-m-ite papers to smooth the metal
before resealing it with oil. I prefer beeswax to stick type
bur-lube type products as it seems to outlast them. I don’t use the
fluid bur-lube but presume it would be a good lubricant compared to
the crumbly stick types. I have also used oil of wintergreen in the
past - it worked fine particularly as the wire gets drawn down to
around 26-30 g. and seems to heat up with the friction caused by
simply pulling it through the drawplate and particularly if it is a
shape other than round, but beeswax is still my personal preference
even though it begs an occasional cleaning as it does build up on any

If you have a steamer it works well. If they are heavily caked with
old lube than soaking in mineral spirits or kerosene will help
dissolve the crud. Steel wool and mineral sprits will remove rust
and then if you examine the holes they should be highly polished if
not then felt bobs, soft wood or bamboo skewers held in a flex shaft
and charged with buffing compounds can be used to return the holes to
a reasonable polish.

The best lubricant is going to depend on what metal you are drawing.
You need a lubricant that will keep a film over the wire at the
extreme pressures that are present at the point of contact between
the die and wire. Very few of the typical jewelers studio lubricants
have that ability but lard oils or even just lard are excellent
drawing lubricants, much better than simple oils, beeswax or bur
lubricants. Simple soaps made from from tallow or lard also work
quite well but tend to be hydroscopic and will rust the steel if not
promptly wiped off. For gold or silver it is not as critical but
platinum and palladium really need that extra film strength to easily
draw them.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts