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Club Suspicious of Steel Texture Plates... Help

I’m the Training Coordinator and current President for our local silversmithing club. It’s an awesome group of folks - a great community and lots of good equipment. Each piece of key equipment has an “Owner” who oversees maintenance, training, and (if required) certifications.

Our (Durston) rolling mill Owner has a hard and fast rule - absolutely no steel texture plates what-so-ever, NO WAY!!!

The rationale is that someone “might damage” the mill and also may scratch the rollers, leading to “scratches on others’ work”.

This leaves an expensive piece of equipment limited to just brass, paper, and organic (e.g., lace) texturing of copper and silver. (No one fabricates sheet or wire in our club.) We thus can only use steel texture plates on a hydraulic press.

Given Durston’s 84 RHC hardness rollers and the jewelry community’s lonng use of steel texture plates at large - this makes no sense. (I wrote Durston for some technical and business support - they just refer to YouTube. Pepe tools endorses using steel plates. Local Potter U.S.A likewise supports their use.)

Has anyone else encountered realistic risks from using commercial steel texture plates? Of course we train and oversee equipment use, so it’s not like we leave equipment open for uncontrolled use by untrained persons.

Thanks for any tangible or moral support.


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I use Bonny Doon steel plates regularly and have not damaged my Durston mill’s rollers. However, I take the extra precaution of sandwiching the plate and often the silver as well between sheets of 90 lb. paper.

Your club could do that, or sandwich between sheets of brass.

What could be risky is texturing with sandpaper. Bits of grit could come loose and scratch the rollers.

Be that as it may, in a group situation you are at risk of someone not following the rules. In a community college class setting, someone once rolled some pickled, but not fully rinsed & dried metal, and the pickle etched the roller a bit.

So, steel plates can be used, and can be used safely between heavy paper or brass, but there is a risk of someone not being reponsible.

The person who owns the mill could require that those steps be surpervised.

Given the cost of a mill, fear of damage may prevail against all arguments, and there isn’t much that can be done about that other than the group chipping in to buy a mill belonging to everyone.

Best of luck.
Neil A

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Correction- In one Durston add it stated 84 RHC - elsewhere I have found 64RHC hardness noted, which makes more sense.

Thanks and I agree with your precautions.

Yes - In a community setting, there may be those who are clueless and cannot follow instructions - which is why for some equipment we require certification. Then and then - only then - are you given the combination to the lock for the equipment.

I roll mild steel and even some stainless through my Durston D158. I’ve had if 18 years. Never had a problem. But I always consider what is going into the rolls before I turn the crank.
Regarding scratches that might transfer to fresh metal: Little threads or bits of paper left over from patterning can absolutely mark the metal.

I don’t roll print very much, but when I do, I use old playing cards on the outside of the metal sandwich. Old playing cards are also great when you need to make a temporary shim to get one piece higher or lower relative to another one. As an example: when I am cutting a cab, I like to draw a line part way down the side to use as a guide to begin the dome cutting. I place the rough cab or sharpie on as many cards as it takes to draw the line an even height all the way around the edge of the stone. Another suggestion is to buy a used or new economy mill and make it the one you use to roll print. You can buy new rollers and they can also be easily removed and touched up on a lathe…Rob

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Thanks - I’ve considered and offered the option of getting an economy mill for such use. It makes sense to me if we cannot overcome the barrier. Economy mills are quite affordable.

Has anyone done texturing in an economy mill? I know the so-so gear quality and lack of a good gear ratio may present some limitations.

Look up Oregon Trail Silver. They have a wonderful tutorial on how to roller print with steel plates. Yes it takes sandwiching it between manilla envelope type paper. That little bit of extra cushioning makes the difference. They also run you through how to adjust the rollers so it is the proper amount of width for the bundle you are passing through it. Most don’t think about the opening amount, but it is as important as the paper.



I don’t blame them for forbidding the steel plates; my gem and mineral club has a Durston dual roller that someone (who should have known better) ran steel wire through and another who didn’t bother to clean of water and pickle before they ran the metal through. In community settings, people just don’t respect expensive equipment and abuse it and run away. They probably would never abuse their equipment this way; too expensive to replace.

The economy models often have inadequate gearing and some don’t open up enough to get plates and metal through. Maybe a better alternative is to look for a good mill with rusted and pitted rollers, like a Durston, Pepe or Cavallin. They often come up on Ebay or Facebook marketplace. That way, the damage is already done and doesn’t potentially destroy a high quality piece of equipment.


A clean and well made rolling mill plate will not damage the rollers of a quality rolling mill. Steel rolling mill plates have been in use for the last 160 years.
A clean, oxide free rolling mill plate measures in hardness about 70 on the Rockwell B scale. My Durston rollers measure at a hardness of Rockwell C ~ 60, which is a scale of hardness greater than the steel rolling mill plate. The rollers are much, much harder than the steel plate.
All of the commercially available plates, like from Bonny Doon, are made with an oxide-free steel, this is different than a hot-rolled steel you might buy at a local steel yard that appears black with a rough surface. Oxides on steel, also known as scale, is very hard and could damage your rolling mill.
The worst culprit for damaging a rolling mill are abrasives. Abrasives can be anything from residual sandpaper grit, to dirt and dust, and even the silica in certain types of paper. It is important to clean your pattern plate and material before rolling, and of course, make sure there is no pickle left on material.
We have rolled thousands upon thousands of plates with no damage at all to our rolling mill rollers.

Good point about how small the rolls open in an economy mill. I have never measured it on my old one, but I know that it was always a problem when I first started rolling ingots. My Durston opens to about 8mm before I become uncomfortable about messing up the gears.

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The econo mills cannot be used for the steel pattern plates. The rollers are not supposed to be set that far apart. The Durston works just fine for that.
I am careful as well and use only steel plates from sellers I trust.

I just measured my economy mill and there is a 3.23 mm clearance when the gears first mesh. Obviously you would want a little more mesh resulting in even less clearance. I engrave images on 16 gauge steel plates and transfer them to 20 - 24 gauge silver sheet. With 2 playing cards, one on each side, it will just fit in the economy mill. Thicker commercial plates would not fit. I take back my suggestion of an economy mill being the solution…Rob

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Excellent - well put. This is my message to the Club… will know this week how well received the message is.

BTW All - How does one reduce curvature in steel texture plates and/ can curved plates be straightened?

I’ve heard that excess curvature is a sign of too much pressure when rolling. True or myth?



With use all of the plates will eventually curve a small amount. But yes, if they are being rolled with too much pressure they will tend to curve excessively. Usually the mill should be closed down about 7-12 thousandths (.17-.3mm) beyond the thickness of the metal and the plate.
I have used a polyurethane hammer to flatten plates on my anvil, or they can be flattened easily on a hydraulic press with some acrylic platens.
I have also found that using manila or cardstock to “protect” the rollers will decrease the pressure going into your finished metal resulting in less depth of the print. So in order to get a good print on your metal you have to increase the pressure resulting in premature wear on the steel pattern plate.

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Maybe you could use this AcroHyde Die Film to protect your rollers. I have used it to protect outside design on rings when shrinking with my Kagen ring stretcher. Also good to protect delicate ring shanks when bending with pliers for sizing. Lots of possible uses in the jewelry shop. I have a 100 foot roll x 2". >015" thick. Cost $45.You can also buy it in .030" thick for more money. [Acro-Hyde™ Die Film, Press Brake Die Film For Sale]

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Hello Peter,
I have a question about your post. You state:
<<I have also found that using manila or cardstock to “protect” the rollers will decrease the pressure going into your finished metal resulting in less depth of the print. So in order to get a good print on your metal you have to increase the pressure resulting in premature wear on the steel pattern plate.>>

I wonder how you get to this conclusion. I would think that if you use cardstock and your pressure goes down, to get the same depth of impression you would increase the pressure (make the opening smaller) to go back to what you would have without the cardstock, and that would be the same pressure either way…so how would that result in more wear, if the pressure is the same? Is this something you’ve noted in use? Thanks for your help.