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Hammer Textured Rolling Mill?

A couple years back I did some work for a nice lady who bought some
hammer texture (HT) brass from Metalliferous, which she sent to me. I
rolled it against some annealed brass, hardened that and used it to
roll HT into silver strips. That worked ok but was a bit faint. I
didn’t use the original brass because it was the master plate, and
the 2nd generation brass was the production plate(s).

I may go back to that method for the current customer if the current
idea doen’t work. This time they hammered out a thick piece of
sterling (peened on one side deeply. I took that and built a frame
around it and poured wax to get cast. Which they promptly did in
silver after I asked the big boss for bronze. That plate acts just
like peening when rolled against silver strips, but since it was also
silver it lasted, yes, about 3 rolls. I could get the plan to work
the bronze plate will have to be of uniform thickness and not concave
or convex, for the texture to be applied evenly. As I was banging on
the adjustment handle of the rolling mill to extract the plate and
strip that had gotten jammed because I had it too tight --this is a
rolling mill I put a gearmotor on, driven by a motorcycle chain, so
it has some beefiness to it-- I thought… " maybe this will work but
if there was a rolling bar with the negative peening in it, I could
hook that up and this job would be a whole lot easier ".

I had talked to a machinist a couple years ago about the problem, but
didn’t pursue it for various reasons . Not an easy thing to make, but
I know it can be done, though that isn’t the route I want to take
unless I have to (having one made ) So my questions are :

–Does anyone know of these HT rolling bars already made ?

–Or of a rolling mill that comes with one on it ?


Why not make one by hammering steel when red hot, a blacksmith
technique? You could then sandwich it with brass to protect the top
roller, and use it in the mill.


Why not make one by hammering steel when red hot, a blacksmith
technique? You could then sandwich it with brass to protect the
top roller, and use it in the mill. 

This would give an imprint of the negative of a hammered texture–
a pattern of bumps rather than dimples.


M’Lou Brubaker, thank you for catalyzing the following idea (and
thanks Jesse B. for all the other input to get my rollers turning, so
to speak).

MB’s idea of hammering a steel plate and running metal against it in
the mill is very good, because using a blank of ground flat stock
tool steel (my idea, and I work with the stuff every day) eliminates
the big problems of using a hammered block or plate to generate a
which gets cast into a roll plate. Those problems (I mentioned at the
start) are the need for precise, uniform thickness of the
and maintaining flatness along the short axis of the resulting plate
(about 6" by 2", rolling in the direction of the long axis). The
first casting I got demonstrated the high difficulty of achieving all
that, so I really like the idea of using a piece of say, 1/8" thick
tool steel and hardening it after it’s hammered.

MB’s idea only takes the concept I need halfway, because I need a
production plate with bumps on it, that rolls depressions into the
metal (24g ss), whereas a first-generation hammered plate with
depressions will roll bumps into the ss sheet. So I’ll need to use
the hardened steel plate as a master plate to roll production, second
generation production plates from, maybe in some thick brass which I
can heat harden in a kiln. These plates will have bumps and will
replicate a hand-hammered, peened texture. Yep, I think that’s the
way for me to go. Relatively cheap and easy ; I can do it in less
time and trouble than it’s taking to find out about having a custom
cylindrical roller made for a mill, and a wad of cash less costly.

Dar Shelton

The idea of hammering (ball pein) a piece of tool steel (0-1 flat
stock, 1/8" thick by about 1.5" ) is what I am going to do to create
a master plate. I made a small test plate and heat treated it after
peining and flattening it. Being hardened, it’s permanent and can be
used to roll production plates that will have bumps and deliver
depressions into the end-use material, duplicating the original
peining as faitfully as is necessary. The great advantage of hardened
steel is that it won’t curl, because the raw tool steel will curl in
the mill. It’s soft enough to hammer cold, and soft enough to curl,
and would wear out immediately if you were to roll another piece of
raw tool steel against it.

So, the master plate can be used to roll production plates also in
tool steel, and I did this with the test plate and a piece of 1/32"
flat stock. Some issues arose around how thick to make the production
plate, because it will curl and warp less, the thicker it is, but I
think 1/16" combined with a 1/8" master is all my particular mill
will handle, thickness-wise. Or perhaps 3/32" for both plates.
Regardless, the production plate will also be flattened and hardened
(quenched in oil and tempered to about 450-500 deg.F.( hard but not
too brittle, a smidge harder than a hammer )). It will not curl when
running silver strips in the mill with it. I had done a very similar
process a couple years ago, only with textured brass sheets as the
production(and sometimes master) plates, and these had short (but
moderately useful) lifetimes because of the curling. This process
took multiple runs through to get decent coverage, but with my test
plates, once through was perfect, because the pattern was not worn
(nor will it be ) and the plate is perfectly uniform in thickness.

One tricky part of rolling the production plate off of the master
plate is that the mill has to be set just right to give a deep
forming, but not so tight that the mill bogs down. I have a Pepe
188.00 (4" by 2" rollers) that I took the handle off of and put a 1/4
hp gearmotor onto, driven by motorcycle chain and sprockets. It’s
gotten stuck a couple times… not a good thing for equipment or
user… not particularly dangerous, I don’t think, but it gets the
adrenaline going!!. If it’s set too loose, the forming isn’t deep
enough and unless you can realign the plates perfectly (I can’t) for
another run, you have to start over with another plate.

Also out of all this came an idea when I was replying to a reply from
Durston Rolling Mills. I was inquiring about a custom made roller for
this job, but although they can do it, it’s cost-prohibitive for the
customer I’m doing this for. But that made me think of taking a raw,
unhardened roller from a mill company, or having a duplicate
fabricated, and hammering it. I don’t know how practical or costly
that would be, since I don’t know if there are gears machined onto
the rolers or not. If not, it’s probably a cost-effective idea for
some folks. Anyway, you’d pein and harden the roller and then running
production plates off of it would be simple. Or, because the bumpy
texture on metal rolled with a first generation peined plate also
looks very nice, one could simply use the peined roller to …um,
very nice looking bumpy metal in a one generation process. Smiles.

I am planning on taking some pictures and making them available
online after I get this job going. Oh, the job itself is to make bead
halves in hammer-textured silver, which the client will make into
full beads. I have to make some one-step, no-tab RT/Pancake dies for
the bead halves, so the whole project together will be fairly

Dar Shelton

Failure Is Not An Option (it’s required stops along the road to

So I found out the hard way that if you hammer (peining again)
depressions into a steel plate that are deeper than the thickness of
the metal you plan to roll through the mill with said plate, said
metal cannot be fully forced into said depressions, which, if I
so stubborn, would be depressing. Here, 24 ga sheet has lots of flat
spots where it couldn’t fill the low spots in the steel plate,
whereas 20 ga sheet has enough mass that it does get pushed fully
the pein marks. The customer is using 24 ga.

Now I have to hammer new plates, being careful not to hit very hard,
and really make sure the plate is flat before I harden it. Thick
plates warp less but can be almost impossible to flatten. Thin plates
warp a lot but flatten more easily.

The second massive lesson today was that my rolling mill motor (1/4
hp) isn’t strong enough to roll hammer texture into a 2" wide tool
steel plate, even if the plate is red hot. Maybe, just maybe it will
roll a 1.5" plate with shallower depressions, but I’m not very
optimistic at this point. That is not a fatal drawback to my project
because the customer likes the result rolled off of the original
hammered plate, that result being bumps, not depressions, instead of
the originally desired replication of hammered depressions.

I took some pix of all this and will let ‘you’ know when they go up.


Third time’s a charm, right?. The first two 6" by 2" tool steel
plates I peined were both done too deeply to work with the 24g metal
to be used in this project, so I hammered the third plate more
lightly. I had used a larger diameter hammer on one plate, and it
has roughly 65 depressions per sq. in., while the other too-deep
plate was done with a smaller head and has about 125/ sq. in… The
newest plate was done with the same small head, but since I was
hitting less hard the depressions are smaller, and there are about
250/ sq. in.

All 3 plates are 3/32" thick, and the first 2 curved from hammering,
and flattening became a big problem. The 3rd plate barely curved at
all, so it’s flatness combined with the shallower depressions
resulted in a plate that very nicely rolled it’s fine hammering into
24ga copper sheet. My machine almost bogged down from being nearly
overloaded, so I did not try to run a second generation tool steel
plate off of the new plate. If the machine barely works for this on
24 Cu, there’s no way it will work as well (as it needs to) on
steel. Oh well, I’ll find out today what the customer thinks about
1st generation bumpy sheet. I will also tell them that that is what
they’re getting , so they better like it (^8.


So I found out the hard way that if you hammer (peining again)
depressions into a steel plate that are deeper than the thickness
of the metal you plan to roll through the mill with said plate... 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads the progress of this project
with interest, sympathy, recognition (sounds like problems I’ve had)
and relief (not my problem this time!)

When you’ve beaten this project into submission, I encourage you to
consider offering these plates to the jeweling community (us)-- I’m
sure there’s a market for them. You might even end up making some
return on your investment of time, determination and ingenuity.


So I found out the hard way that if you hammer (peining again)
depressions into a steel plate that are deeper than the thickness
of the metal you plan to roll through the mill with said plate...

Have you tried putting several layers of paper towel between the
back side of the sterling and the roller, might push the metal into
the depression on the steel. The limitation of the HP of the mill
contribute to the struggle, as I have a 3HP power mill. The 3 HP mill
used with corrugated cardboard gives me a texture I am very happy
with, I use it a lot. Could not do it with a hand mill, tried,

Richard Hart

Continuing even though the customer is happy with the way things are
now, I thought about the way I have my mill set up, which is with the
original handle removed, and 1.5" gears on the mill and the 1/4 hp
gearmotor,and a motorcycle chain running things. It became obvious
that it was set up for speed rather than power, so I considered my
options there at 3:00 am (normal work time for me, a bit inconvenient
for running to the stores!) and decided first to try the mill with
it’s original handle. I even used a cheater bar but couldn’t roll
fresh tool steel deep enough off of my hardened master plate. Next
idea was to put a bigger gear on the mill itself --which I had, but
not with the right sized bore, so I stuck a rotary file in the drill
press and made it.050" larger in there, since I didn’t think my
little rubber-band-driven watchmaker’s lather was up to the job ! –
to get the torque ratio more in my favor, by a factor of about 2 .
This was very noticeably more beefy, and with a better attachment
than the last gear, the thing runs smooth and powerful, and ALMOST
rolls a fresh tool steel plate off of the master.

Almost, but not quite deep enough, so my next move is to either put
a bigger gearmotor on it or a bigger gear. Gears are a boatload
cheaper at the surplus joint where I got these gears and motor, so
that’s the plan. Running steel on steel today, I could hear the motor
straining under the load, slowing, slowing as the 6" by 1.5" plates
squeezed through, and just barely making it through without stopping.
No hammering the mill’s adjustment handle to open it up, but not
quite the whole enchilada on the resulting texture either. I am
somewhat uncertain about indiscriminately adding torque to my mill
but even with a gear twice as big as the one on now (which is twice
as big as the 1.5" one from earlier ) it still comes in substantially
less that the “handle-driven diameter”. That’s thinking in terms of
the length of the handle doubled, which can be envisioned as the size
of the imaginary gear driving the mill in manual mode. What I don’t
know is how much torque this mill is built to withstand, but I’m
thinking that since the motor was getting taxed, even as the metal
went through very smoothly, I have mill capacity headroom. Which
tells me I could either go for a little bit bigger motor, or a bigger
gear, as stated. It’s fairly close to what I need now, so I figure I
don’t need any drastic jump in power, so I’m thinking (thinking this
through logically right now) I don’t need to worry about my mill
being damaged. At worst, some internal gearbox teeth will be
sacrificed in the name of research. (At least I hope that’s all that
might happen… I haven’t opened it up to see inside about what else
could be hurt). So, with a $400 Pepe (4:1 gearbox ratio) , a $75 used
gearmotor , some spare parts and plenty of R&D, I get a setup that
would cost thousands otherwise. And judging from the lack of similar,
tool-steel-based experiments posted concurrent to mine, I may just
be adding a new bite of knowledge to the trade. Of course this has
all been done on a large, industrial scale before, but it’s new to
me. Also, when this all works itself out I plan to offer
hardened-steel, hammered plates for sale in some form or other. Seems
the obvious thing to do, since I saw and sand and bang and heat treat
tool steel plates (pancake blanking dies) all the time anyway.

Stay tuned,
Dar Shelton

Oh well, I'll find out today what the customer thinks about 1st
generation bumpy sheet. I will also tell them that that is what
they're getting, so they better like it (^8. 

I bet that looks really neat, Dar! I have seen that sort of surface
on industrial products, but never thought about how it was produced.
It might make a nice pink sheet wax impression, too, quite easily
and quickly, once you have the die made, that is!

I impress sheet wax in a screw press, with silicone spray as a
parting agent.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA’louBrubaker

At worst, some internal gearbox teeth will be sacrificed in the
name of research. (At least I hope that's all that might happen...
I haven't opened it up to see inside about what else could be
hurt). So, with a $400 Pepe (4:1 gearbox ratio), a $75 used
gearmotor, some spare parts and plenty of R&D 

Dar, as you probably are aware, you are no doubt exceeding the
torque capabilities of your mill. The gears, as you mention, yes,
but also shafts, bushings and even the frame itself. Likely just a
shortened lifespan, I’d think - hopefully not catastrophic failure.
Just a comment that’s likely not news to you - I for one am very
impressed with your whole project, though…


I’m delighted with the progressive posting of your hammer texture
experimenting–keep up the good work. May I add a couple of

  1. Your 1/4 HP motor will give you about the same torque as a 3 HP
    model when you “gear it down” to turn the mill input at 1/12th the
    speed of the bigger motor. As a loose generality the 3 HP motor just
    allows you to do the job FASTER, not better. Keep varying your
    sprockets and be patient with the speed.

  2. Have you considered using a very thin annealed high carbon steel
    for the working plate (perhaps a recycled thin wood saw blade),
    backing it with an even softer sheet while forming it through the
    mill. The working plate would then be heat-treated before using to
    emboss the work piece. It seems that this might take a great deal of
    the pressure off your “poor old mill”.

Upward and onward!!
Dr. Mac

The calm and reasonable thing to do would be wait till next week,
and order a new bigger sprocket (I’ve been calling them gears, but
they are sprockets) for my rolling mill to give it more power. The
patient thing would be to wait till it has more more torque, and not
try to run a hot piece of tool steel against the master plate, to not
risk jamming the mill again, or ruining the temper on the master
plate. The patient thing… the BORING thing !!!, and obsession just
doesn’t work that way, so of course I went ahead and tried that
anyway. The first plates went about halfway through as the motor
slowed and the gear teeth inside the mill started making that
frightening loud banging noise they do when they’re pushed harder
than they like… and then it stopped. Bang bang bang went the rescue
hammer to open up the mill, and I got a good usable section, so I set
the mill up again for another run, this time with my fine-hammered
master plate. The fine-hammered plate has a shallower texture, so I
didn’t need the mill to take such a deep bite as the previous run, so
that allowed it to run all the way through, just barely. Lots of loud
protests from those angry gear teeth, the motor slowed almost to a
halt, the mill pulled out of alignment on the table things are bolted
to, before it finally spit out the newly rolled plates. Not
surprisingly, the steel had cooled down enough so that by the end of
the run, it wasn’t forming as well as it was at the start, but there
is enough usable length for the project. Lots of boring details about
this whole adventure I’m not taking the time to write about. Some of
that is because I want to keep the process er… rolling along, and
write about what I learn afterwards also, instead of about all the
details that got me there(some of which may not end up being so
important), where I am not yet. But this was a big one, a hot tool
steel plate rolled against a hardened, hammered master plate,
creating a production plate that will deliver the desired hammer
texture as depressions in the subject metal sheet, 24g silver in this
case. As promised, pix will follow before long. I understand that
there are easier ways to go about this but those require spending
money and time waiting patiently. Today I don’t have a bigger mill
with a 2 or 3 hp motor, nor do I want to buy one now. Now is about
now, and now I want to use what I have and make it work ; I’m funny
like that.

Dar Shelton

Episode Seven : ‘I Need a Bigger Frakking Hammer’

The BFH in this case will be a more powerful gearmotor , because even
with a larger sprocket that gives me a 4:1 advantage over my original
configuration, the small 1/4 hp motor bogs down rolling steel off of
steel. The power problem does not appear to be greatly affected by
the sprocket ratios; the motor itself seems to be the real issue,
because however it’s setup, it starts to bog down at more or less the
same general area, as far as how heavy a load it will roll. There is
some advantage with bigger sprockets on the mill end, but not enough
to make a huge difference in mill performance.

The good news is that now I believe it was the chain skipping (after
the load had pulled the motor and the mill closer together) on one of
the sprockets that was making the loud bangs during the last few
tests. I think my mill can handle the extra force from a bigger
I do need to check with mill mfgrs about any differences in
construction of mills designed for manual use, and those with hefty
gearmotors driving them. If there’s some huge difference and they say
it’s really dangerous to put a bigger motor on my mill (though I
don’t see any motorized mills from Pepe in my catalogs, maybe they
have one, and I can get direct advice, but more likely I will have to
extrapolate from what Durston tells me) I guess I’ll keep it like it
is, because it’s ready for the job I started this whole thing for.

Now I have some pix posted on Photobucket

The titles should be self-explanatory. ‘First generation’ means
either the original peined plate and/or metal rolled from it, and
’2nd generation’ means a steel plate rolled off of the original plate
and/or sample run off of that 2nd plate.

Dar Shelton

Now I have some pix posted on Photobucket 

Very cool! The reverse (bumpy) surface is a new texture possibility,
very novel and attractive! I couldn’t see the incomplete (flat
spots) ones very well, but I wonder if they might not be interesting
in their own right. Not what you are working toward, but I suggest
you look at them objectively, or show them to somebody who has no
preconception, to see if they have any potential.


Cool pics, Dar! I like the dogs the best ;}. First a couple of links
for BFH’s:

The first one is the best, most likely. My only comment besides
"Good Job!" is that your rig is highly inefficient. Using chain and
sprocket is stealing much power, and the more chain the more loss. I
appreciate the shoestring budget and all, but a gearbox would give a
huge boost in performance. You’re not going to be able to mount that
with a C clamp either, though, so there’s that - the whole design
would have to be more robust. Great project, though, and good
results for what you have.

Just a brief update to the project, which isn’t quite done, though
the hammered texture, using-the- rolling-mill part of the project is
done and the one-step, no-tab, cut & dome pancake dies for bead
(“OSNTCDPDFBH’s” ?.. um… no ) are done. These are dies the like of
which I have made before


but I hadn’t written down everything about how to make them, which
led to me messing up one punch on one of them,which led to a
decision to make one especially for the purpose of writing down the
details, which led to the idea of really doing it up right with
pictures and text decipherable to other people, and posting that on
my website… or somewhere, eventually.

This is the sort of thing I just haven’t had the time or motivation
or mindset to do all at once in the form of a comprehensive book on
pancake dies, which would be great to leave behind, but may never
materialize. What is a lot less intimidating is a piecemeal
approach, documenting various interesting projects as they come along
or as I get around to doing them, which is what this no-tab bead
thing will be (part of). I can’t keep putting off documenting my
adventures, because I feel like I have a responsibility to leave a
record of how to do pancakes up properly. Such a simple concept on
the face of it , but with lots of intricacies, variations, and
devilish details when you take into consideration the range of things
people have thrown at me over the years. So that’s how that will

Meanwhile, back at the rolling mill… I haven’t found the right
surplus motor yet, as I’ve decided on a bigger motor instead of
adding a gearbox to the motor/mill setup as it exists now. I have
tried out about a dozen various textures sort of spontaneously
hammered, filed, punched and pressed into steel plates, just to have
a variety to show pictures of (fairly soon). As I said earlier I will
most likely offer hardened steel plates for sale at some point, but I
want to wait until my mill setup can handle rolling 2nd generation
steel plates off of 1st gen. hammered ones, on bigger plates that it
can now.

That wasn’t a very brief briefing though,was it ?..


Dar, this die boths forms and cuts the bead half at the same time,
right? Very slick! Regarding the documentation of your work, why
don’t you find a collaborator? I’ve never seen a book wholly devoted
to pancake dies and variations. I’ve cut about 20 myself (thankless
work and dozens of blades) and would love to have a book elaborating
what can be done.

Donna in VA

Yeah… I just had to keep pushing the poor thing, and it finally
gave out. Things were looking good there for a while; I had managed
to roll a 2.5" by 3.5" piece of tool steel against a master plate
that had been hammer-textured and hardened. It was hard to get the
full depth, and the machine --not sure at first if it was the motor,
the mill, or the chain& sprockets that were making the nasty, loud,
banging noise-- and towards the end the sandwich got stuck in the

I backed down in the severity of what I was attempting – I had taken
the.062" 0-1 tool steel down to about.055" with hammer texture
applied, all in one pass on that 2.5 x 3.5 piece-- but apparently it
was already too late because something froze up as the last thing got
stuck. Some disassembly revealed the extent of the damage, and it was
very bad: the bottom roller/shaft had shattered at one end, where it
narrows down and accepts the gear connecting it to the gearing inside
the box.

Now it’s completely taken apart and I’ve asked Pepe about a
replacement piece, which I think I can put in and reassemble the
thing properly. I have to say that this little unit took one hell of
a beating, far more than could ever have been administered with the
manual crank handle it was intended to be driven with