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Drawing Very Fine Wire

Last week I worked on manually drawing some fine round wire (22ga to
30ga range) in the studio with some frustration. The problem was wire
breakage. The larger gages are no problem but the finer ones break
off at the star of the pull. Do any of you have tips or hints that
may help? I just finished a search of the archives and Randy Smith
had a post that stated using pulling pliers with the teeth filed off
was an aide in reducing breakage on fine wire.

The draw plate was held in a vise mounted on a very hardy and sturdy
worktable in the forming area of the studio. The draw plate being
used is a high end one with tungsten carbide inserts. I was using
drawing tongs with teeth. The end of the wire was tapered. I did find
that making sure that a about 1/2 inch of wire protruding from the
pulling side and making sure that the wire was gripped as close to
the plate as possible was helpful. I tried work hardening the end of
the wire however that seemed to increase the amount of breakage. The
wire and the draw hole were lubricated. The wire with paste Bur-Life
and the hole with liquid Bur-Life. The wire was held level going in
the plate and pulled in one continuous level pull. There was no
problem once the wire was going well. The problem was breakage at
the start of the pull. Much care was taken to reduce the size of the
wire in very small increments.

Please offer your insight and suggestions on improvements in
technique that was result in less frustration and greater success.

Best wishes to all,
Cathy Wheless

Cathy, I sometimes encountered this too when I used to produce all of
my own crochet wire in the studio, particularly with 25 to 28 gauge.

The process as you describe it sounds just right. Making sure the
taper is long enough so that the end of the wire comes well through
the plate is helpful, at least 20 mm or so. Work hardening the end,
as you have mentioned, will only encourage breakage. Finer teeth for
the draw tongs does help. I have a nearly worthless pair of tongs I
bought eons ago which are inferior very soft metal and the teeth wore
away almost immediately when I first began to use them. I nearly
threw them out but found that they do actually work ok for pulling
the finest gauges of wire.

One last suggestion, for the final 2 or 3 holes try lubricating the
wire with oil (machinist’s oil or oil of wintergreen). This seems to
make it pull much easier for me than when using beeswax or dry
lubricants .

Michael David Sturlin


    Last week I worked on manually drawing some fine round wire
(22ga to 30ga range) in the studio with some frustration. The
problem was wire breakage. 

I put the point through the hole, grab it with a hemostat to pull it
a little further, maybe a quarter inch, then I move up onto the part
of the wire that is the full diameter coming through the hole. I
never use drawtongs on wire diameters of less than 0.030", generally,
because I’ve yet to find any with teeth fine enough not to savage the
wire ends and even cut through smaller gauges.


drawing fine wire is a pain.i’ve found that if you use a toothless
plyer the wire tends to break less. also filing the point extra long
and sanding out the scratches helps alot because the file scratches
tend to promote breakage at the tip . for a lube i’ve always warmed
the end of the wire with a lighter or very soft flame and used bees
wax. hope that helps dave

hi…this is my 1st timing replying…so i’m not sure of the proper
transit route… anyway…Re: drawing very fine wire.

i’ve gotten around the constant breaking when it gets down to around
27 or 28 ga. by using a small flat nose plier to grab the 1st teeny
bit of metal coming thru the plate. i anneal my metal alot (in a tiny
table top granulation kiln) and refine & file the starting end each
pull thru. with the plier almost up against & parallel to the draw
plate, gently grab and little pulls keep it coming thru until it’s
long enough to either change to the larger thongs or i use my gloved
hands from about 28 to 30 or to the last hole on my drawplate. i’m
pulling 22k wire and/but i don’t think the karat makes a difference.

i also keep the entire length coated with candle wax - for a
smoother run thru.

it is frustrating when getting down to the end & i always remind
myself that i do have patience somewhere!

hope this helps.
carol entin

I’m hoping you get some experienced advice on this because I’ve had
the same problem. I think that the problem is a combination of
trauma from whatever we use for draw tongs and fatigue from the
contortions we go through to taper the end of the wire to push
through the hole enough to grasp with the tongs.

One thing I have tried that helps is to start the wire a little ways
using the tongs to pull while grasping the wire close to the back of
the plate with parallel jaw pliers and pushing. Once you get a
little “fresh” wire through to grasp with the tongs, it doesn’t
break as easily.

One of the things I want to try when I have a little time is to
modify the jaws of some Vice Grip pliers into a die to press the
taper into the end of the wire. Getting the taper onto the end of
the fine wire frustates me to no end…

Howard Woods
Eagle Idaho


I would like to add a suggestion to those already offered. The alloy
that you are drawing down is also an important consideration. All 18k
golds, for example, do not have the same mechanical properties. An
alloy with a higher percentage of silver will be far easier to draw
down than one with a high percentage of copper. Additionally, most
commercially available casting alloys are engineered to harden as
they cool, and are likewise difficult to draw into fine wire. Even
sterling silver wire can have different compositions.

If you really wish to master this, get a copy of “The Theory and
Practice of Goldsmithing,” by Erhard Brephol. (translated by Charles
Lewton-Brain, and edited by Tim McCreight). This book belongs in the
core library of every goldsmith and silversmith.

Try making your own alloys. Once you get proficient with this (and
it won’t be that difficult), you may find yourself creating ductile
alloys specifically for fine drawing, or an alloy with high tensile
strength for ring shanks.


Douglas Zaruba
35 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21701
301 695-1107

I’ve drawn wire down to 28 gauge with pretty fair success but only
yards of it, not miles, so I may have just been lucky. In any case
here’s a few things that I found worked well and/or made the process

  • I’ve used beeswax lube for the heavier gauges but for the really
    fine gauge wires I’ve found it a bit tacky. I tried glycerine soap
    –which I also use a lube for my jeweller’s saw-- and that works like
    a charm. Just rub a chunk of the soap along the wire with attention
    to a little better coverage of the first few inches of the leading end
    (there’s no water involved here, just the dry soap). Motor oil is
    good too but it’s a bit stinky and you get it on everything. Oil of
    Wintergreen has been suggested but I’ve never found a cheap supply so
    it gets saved for “special” things, whatever they might be.

  • for the smaller gauges I’ve learned that the draw tongs are a
    no-go. I use either my parallel jaw pliers (the easiest) or a pair of
    hemo clams with the jaws ground down a bit and wrapped in copper sheet
    (5 thou) “booties”. The copper booties thing works surprisingly well
    since the copper seems “sticky” when clamped down on to the wire
    (sterling in my case).

  • the taper is definitely a tricky part of the process. For heavier
    gauges I generally forge the taper but that’s just too much like
    eyeball surgery for finer gauges. I used to use the grooved bench pin
    trick the both Tim McCreight and Alan Revere suggest but again, for
    the smaller gauges it’s a bit too tricky for me. My favoured method
    these days is something that I read here on Orchid: place two
    sandpaper disks face-to-face on a regular screw-top mandrel and
    slowly twist the wire while running the disks at a moderate speed.
    Using finer grade paper for the small gauges you can get a needle
    point on the wire in seconds. It takes a bit of fiddling about with
    this method in order to get consistent results but once you’ve figured
    it out it’s a real time saver. Learning how to cut your own disks
    helps a lot too because you can tailor the process to suit your
    preferences. The one downside that I’ve encountered with this method
    is that you pretty much need to twist the wire between those spinning
    disks in order to get a good taper. If you’re doing a particularly
    long pull that twisting thing can be a bit cumbersome.

  • for finer gauge wires in particular I’ve found that carbide insert
    draw plates seem a lot less prone to snapping the wire during the
    start of the pull than regular metal plates. It may be a plate/lube
    combination thing too, I don’t know. For me it’s the carbide insert
    plate and glycerine soap as mentioned above.

I hope you find some of these work for you.

Trevor F.

Vice grips with filed down of sanded down jaws to make them smooth
work well. Adjust the jaws nearly closed and pull through fabric
backed abrasive cloth strips. As the cloth and jaws wear down,
readjust the vice grips.

Old flea market original vice grips are my preference for modifying.
Also try the needle nosed vice grips for holding on to the sprue’s
of castings for cleanup before cutting the castings loose. Wedge the
casting and pliers into the V of the bench pin.

As a drawing lubricant, either resizing lubricant ( RCBS ) from
reloading ammunition supplies, or STP ( the undiluted automotive
lubricant ) in a stamp pad made for filling with ink for hand stamps
seems to work the best which I have tried. This both lubricates and
cleans the wire .

The STP is an extreme high pressure lubricant and works very well on
sizing down cartridge brass for resizing .



When I need very fine wire, say, 30swg I sometimes start with
solder free scrap plus granules from a bullion merchant, cast it
into a 5mm rod, roll it down to about 2.5mm then use drawing dies to
reduce it further. For tapering the end to insert into the dies
above 1mm, I use the time honoured groove-in-the-bench-peg and a
fine file method. At 1mm and below I use a solution of sodium
cyanide and a heavy DC current with the silver connected to the
positive wire and a piece of stainless steel connected to the
negative to etch the metal, controlling the taper by constantly
moving the wire up and down. It is just as easy to use nitric acid
for the etch or even warmed ferric nitrate. This method avoids
work hardening on the fine wire and the taper can be as long as
desired. Frequent annealing between die passes is essential, and
for annealing the thin wire; make it into a small coil and heat it
in a small CLEAN(!!) can, so the entire coil glows dark red. Then
tip the can to plunge the coil into cold water. I use a rub of
candle wax for the larger diameters, but a thin lube oil for less
than 1mm; and I use ordinary steel die plates held in a bench vice,
or or my home made mechanical draw bench. To draw fine wires, I use
a pair of pliers with pieces of thin copper sheet covering any
teeth, and held with double sided tape. I have drawn wire down to 30
swg over 20 feet long, by simply moving back to draw a metre, then
clasping the wire again near the die and repeating the process. All
drawing on fine wires must be done slowly and without any jerks, or
the wire will break.

Mind you: in a steel works, I have witnessed steel wire of 1mm
diameter being drawn continuously through water cooled multiple
carbide dies, lubricated by passing through a box of crushed, hard
soap at a speed of 60 miles per hour to make half ton coils! And
that was 50 years ago. Folk who need very long lengths of very thin
wire for knitting, crocheting, or on a loom buy it well annealed in
reels and pay the extra drawing fee. It’s cheaper than doing it my
way, if you use a good deal of wire, and if you pay yourself the
proper hourly rate to make a decent living. (I retired from my day
job 21 years ago!)

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ

Hi, Though I generally buy my wire already drawn and annealed, I
thought I’d share a sweet tip I heard from someone I met recently
while I was in Houston, TX for the opening of my exhibition at Fleury
Gallery. This lovely gentleman alloys and draws the wire for all of
his wife’s beautiful granulation work (I regret that I cannot
remember their names, having met them at a party after a very long
day). For drawing long wires, he wraps it around his waist. To pull
the wire, he walks across the room; when he runs out of space, he
turns his body, wrapping the wire around his waist while walking
toward the draw plate. Then, he draws the wire again, using his body
as the tongs, essentially, as he walks across the room. It sounded
like such an elegant dance, I just had to share this vision with all
of you wire draw-ers. I love the vision of the human spool, and that
this couple works together so beautifully.

Cynthia Eid

For drawing long wires, he wraps it around his waist. 

Having little space in my shed for drawing long pieces, I’ve been
using this method for a while. I quickly learnt however to put a
stiff piece of leather around my middle and draw it around the hips.
Makes the experience less sharp.

Cheers, Renate in Adelaide

Hi Cynthia!

I also draw wire by wrapping it around my waist. I wanted to write
in, but thought it would be kind of hard to explain…I do it
perhaps a little differently from the gentleman in Texas: I pull the
wire with pliers (using both hands)walking backwards across the
room. When I run out of space, the right hand remains waist height
but is drawn in to touch the waist, while the left one is raised to
get out of the way—then I just keep turning to the right while
standing in place until the full length is drawn. In this manner,
you can actually draw an infinite amount of wire—you just keep
rotating on the spot! I think this may be a bit easier (turning in
place instead of turning while walking forward towards the plate as
you said he does), since this way you would get more pull with a lot
less turning. Also, it’s probably easier to maintain a steady, even
movement, which is very important. In any case, its a kick, and one
of the many little gems I get to pass on in my filigree

Janet in Jerusalem