The question was where to find FINE silver tubing, not sterling, which is readily available. It is not too difficult or time consuming to draw your own tubing. Unless there is a supplier of FINE tubing, this may be the way to go. J.Z. Dule
I needed fine silver tubing and square fine silver wire for
enamelling projects, and couldn’t find a commercial source that I
could afford. I like to fabricate rather intricate fine silver
skeletons for my enamelling work, and to tube-set faceted and cab
stones within the enamelled surface. I shopped around, and the
only firm that readily would do special order fabrication was
Hauser & Miller, but the cost was too high for me. So I now make
my own using a wonderful draw bench sold by Frei & Borel. (It
was cheaper to buy the bench than to special order commercial
tubing.) The draw bench consists of a boat winch anchored to a
48" long steel beam, with a holder at the opposite end to clamp
the drawplate. You could pull Alaska closer to Hawaii with one
hand using this thing! The winch is wrapped with the same kind of
nylon strap that they make seatbelts out of, and it is attached
to a clamp that grips harder the more you pull on it. I like the
belt because, unlike other wire benches I have used, it doesn’t
flip upward when the pressure is released suddenly.
It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll be turning out good
tubing in no time, with the right wall thicknesses and internal
diameter to suit your exact needs. I was always frustrated with
the commercially-available tubing was too thin-walled for good
stone setting. I got my tubing drawplate from Frei & Borel, too.
finished the inside surfaces of the holes a bit better.
Some additional points:
Always use eye/face protection when drawing. Be especially
careful to watch/control the position of the clamp [or draw
tongs, or vise grips, or whatever you’re using] when you are at
the very end of the length of wire/tubing, just as it is about to
leave the drawplate. There can be a lot of kinetic energy stored
in there, and when it pulls free of the plate, the wire and the
clamp can really jump.
Start with a strip with clean, flat, PARALLEL edges. As soon
as they curl in and meet, stop and solder the seam before drawing
down any further. Solder the seams of your fine silver tubing
with IT solder [very hard, for use in enamelling]. Solder the
seams of sterling tubing with hard solder, as it draws down very
well without cracking. If you’re drawing gold, use the hardest
solder you can.
Anneal often. When in doubt, anneal.
Use a good lube. The silicon-type works well, as does
beeswax, or olive oil in a pinch.
Start with a long strip of metal. Draw down to the first
size where the tubing is round and the seam has vanished. Slice
off a few inches, measure the inner diameter, wall thickness, and
outer diameter; mark this info on a masking tape flag, along with
the metal type, and stick that around one end of the tube. Draw
down a few more increments, then cut off another length and label
that. I do this for six or seven sizes, so I have a complete
inventory of graduated sizes from a single length of tubing.
This saves me an enormous amount of fabrication time, and means
that I can find just the right size for a particular stone. You
can do the same thing with square wire or any other form you are
Hope this helps!