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Interesting texture with rolling mill


After my first ever post on Ganoksin about how to get a deep texture
with a rolling mill I sucessfully made it happen. Now I would like
to hear what people have used to get interesting textures with. I
have heard of:

feathers, cloth, textured paper, hair, window screen, cheese cloth,
a piece of metal that has a design etched on it (I did this and it
came out great) thread

Please let me know of other things~ Thanks!!


For an allover background texture with a matte or sandblasted effect,
try using cheap commercial paper toweling like the kind they use in
public washrooms directly on your metal; or try various grits of
sandpaper. Also try plastic netting like the stuff they use on bags
of onions. You can stretch it or distort it into interesting

Have fun.


coins were some of the things i used, the first time i had access to
a rolling mill.

you can get a couple of impressions before the ‘die’ becomes too far
gone. i use wires, and screen mostly now. there are other uses for a
mill, as well…i’ve been experimenting with fold forming and a mill
as an aide in recycling scraps into usable material should be

i may pull some spanish moss off a tree [or better yet, look for
fallen dried out material] and try that… plastic mesh might work,
too…i saved some from packaging and wanted to use it with metal
clay…just maybe…


Hi Debbie -

What ended up working best for you?

Holly Swanson



Since you mentioned textured paper, I would like to recommend a
source for a large selection of handmade paper textures. sells 3"x6" swatches for around $.85 which would allow
you to try out quite a few at a reasonable cost. Have fun with your
new toy!

vera meyer


Here a some ideas I recieved, Keep them coming!!:

There are many papers and fabric impart interesting textures. Even
simple manilla folder gives a texture. These can be cut with xacto
knives to create detailed designs. Corduroy, the wrong side works
nicely. I often encourage my students to think of the rolling mill as
a tool to create compositions by texturing metal partially in layers,
not only for the over all patterning that is usually learned first.

There is no limit to what you can use for imprinting, but there are
two points of caution for protection of your rollers: Any time you
use something which is harder than silver, copper, or brass, always
make a sandwich with a protecting piece of bread for the roller.
Always clean your rollers at the end of the day without fail. This
can be done with a nylon scrubbing pad and a little machine oil…
even WD-40 will work.

The point about cleaning the rollers is that dissimilar metal
residues can set up an etching situation, particularly if there is
any moisture involved, even if it just in the air or your hands
(sweat). The rollers

can end up with pits and whether you like it or not, you’ll be
roller printing your metals each time with a pattern you don’t really
want. wink! The true worst offender is pickle… that works really
fast and it doesn’t take much… just a trace is enough.
Additionally, after using the rollers, open them slightly so there is
a slight gap between them. That will prevent any possible
contaminates from spreading out between them and etching a line there
while sitting idle if there is a long period between usage.

It is possible to use most anything that is dry to imprint. The art
stores have some interesting handmade papers with a myriad of

Whiskers from an electric shaver… whiskers from a cat. Of course,
anything you use, except thicker metal will be destroyed in the
process. Dryer lint sheets…(clean well afterwards)… dryer lint.
Dried spices… clean well. Lace bought at the thrift store, paper
doilies, crumpled paper, crumpled aluminum foil, ribbon all work
well. If you go to the art store, get some blotter paper or museum
board. They usually come in different thicknesses. I found they work
a lot easier than paper towels and there are cool impression on them
too afterwards.

The hard stuff like etched metal, flat files, staples, coarse steel
wool, 3-M scouring pads, coarse sandpaper, all will work with a
protecting sheet and cleaning afterwards. There is some limitation
due to thickness and how far you can open the rollers. You may want
to check into using photopolymer letterpress printing plates. They

no chemicals for developing… just water.

A piece of index card or old file folder will be good to cut or
punch with different shapes for a pattern.

Etching metal can be pretty simple by use of laser images and a few
simple chemicals. A hard brass plate can be made that will work for
a lot of impressions if you don’t use any excessive pressure. Be sure
to use a piece of metal large enough to cover the entire “master” or

get impressions back onto the master from the edges of your silver
or copper… ruins it for larger sizes from then on.

You can also take a nail, punch, graver and make mechanical
impressions on a thick brass master plate… about 3/16". Even
hammered textures transfer well.

Buy brass stock from a copper supplier rather than further down the

chain… it will cost a lot less. They will cut it into lengths for
a small extra fee.


What about a sand picture glued onto a piece of cardboard. It could
be abstract or selected design. The sand should probably be graded
(all the same size) and all the same type of material so that the
grains hardness would all be the same.

If the grains of sand are crushed as it goes through the rollers, I
don’t know what the outcome would be. Try carefully and see. —
Clean the rollers and gears and everything carefully afterwards so
the left over grains of sand would not contaminate the machine.

Larry E. Whittington
Larry E. Whittington Lapidary


Burlap, rick rack, mesh bags, brocade, lace (not something you
value), feathers, ribbon, dried flowers or weeds, dried
Wheat,… on and on.

Bobbie Horn


My favorite was when I used dried ferns on copper and enhanced it
with liver of sulphur/Black Max. I’ve heard of people using things
as delicate as dragonfly wings successfully (not that I recommend
running out and decimating the dragonfly population).I’ve had
success with various types of fabrics, Cheap sheers & laces work
great. Fabrics with tighter spun yarns work best. Velvets, heavy
fabrics, and those with loftier yarns as well as embossed papers
(like wallcovering & paper doilies) tend to break down very easily
and haven’t worked well for me.You can get creative with your fabric
sources:=09* I’ve used old lace scraps from homemade family wedding
gowns. =09* If you know anyone who sews they will probably have an
assortment of small scraps they will be happy to part with. 09* Check
out the discontinued section at your local fabric store and buy an1/8
of a yard really cheap. =09* You can ask at upholsterers’ and
decorators’ stores for old, discontinued samples (books or loose
ones sometimes called “memo samples”). They may even have leftovers
from projects. I’ve pulled and distorted brass window screen which
also can be a nice twist on standard screening.You can also cut
patterns into papers. Some people use craft punches to do this.I
hadn’t heard of trying hair. I’ll have to try that one. Have fun.


Just a word of caution about using sand paper. The big problem is
that if you keep your rolls well greased, as I do, there is a problem
of some of the sand getting on the roller and causing a problem the
next time you roll out something. You will find little indentations
on your metal caused by the sand that was trapped in the grease.



I have seen a lovely texture with a soft sheen made using old linen
napkins. The fabric breaks down so a constant supply is provided by
haunting flea markets!


that if you keep your rolls well greased, as I do, there is a
problem of some of the sand getting on the roller and causing a
problem the next time you roll out something. 

I found a neat little fix for cleaning and oiling rollers. Take a one
foot or so square piece of foam rubber about an inch thick, cut it
into a rectangle a little wider than the rollers. Cut the rectangle
in half so you have two pieces a little wider than the rollers. Fold
each in half, and stuff one piece between the frame and the top
roller, the other one between the frame and the bottom roller and
ensure they drag slightly on the rollers as they turn. Put a good
squirt of light machine oil, 3-In-1 or something similar on each
piece of foam, and you have automatic roller cleaner-oilers.

When using sandpaper or any other material that contains anything
hard for imprinting, I remove the pads before imprinting and clean
the rollers after use just as Alma suggests. Sand and rolling mills
can be a bad combination, the sand has the potential to ruin not
just the next thing you roll, but the rollers too if run through at a
tight setting. Whatever the pads remove stays on the pads until you
clean them and might end up back on the rollers, so be careful when
rolling any material other than non-ferrous metal…

Dave Phelps


Try dried (never any green plant materials due to water content) corn
husks. Also the inside of crushed egg shells in which the chorion has
been removed (chorion is that thin film lining the shell).

Denny Turner


The other day I was browsing through an “antique” store and noticed
they had fabric sample books for sale. The thought came to mind that
fabric sample books with some of the more heavily patterned fabrics
such as brocades might produce some interesting patterns in a mill. A
further advantage is that you wouldn’t be ruining your drapes cutting
out squares to roll. come on, don’t tell me that someone hasn’t
thought about it now and then

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Alliance, OH


Here is a good one.

Clearing out a kitchen drawer I found a bundle of unused sheets of
plastic and wire ties for poly bags. Each plastic and wire sheet has
about 20 ties with the wires on about 4mm centres.

The wires are fairly soft but hard enough to make an interesting
impression on silver or copper. It can be rolled through the mills
either longways or crossways or diagonally. And of course rolling
the metal through with ties in alternative directions. The plastic
keeps the wires parallel. For a one off rolling. Happy texturing.



Some folks who missed my escapades and shenanningans, daresay I,
hooliganisms, with rolling mills a couple years ago (at this point
time seems to be flying faster and faster whether I having fun or
not!) might find them interesting. Check this list’s archives for
’Hammer Texture Rolling Mill’ posts, and there are a few pics over

I haven’t worked on it since we moved a year ago, and I hadn’t
thought of running any cloth through with a steel plate, but all
this talk of curtains and sheets and napkins (oh my !) has got me
wondering (aloud) how that would go. With such fin texture you (or
more likele I) would have to polish, not just fine sand, the steel
plate, but I’d venture to guess that it just might pick up something
of the linen’s texture. Just as likely, I’m also guessing, for the
fabric to get utterly crushed, and the steel virtually unscathed.

The possibility is worth some experimenting though, and next time I
play around with my gear, I might have to try that. Maybe using a
softer steel, like stainless or any old mild steel lying around,
would be softer-enough to respond, instead of the tool steel I’d used
previously, for hammer texture tests, or filing, grinding, gouging,
etc… Hardenability isn’t essential for a simple test-of-concept like
linen-to-steel. Maybe linen-to-brass…




I really like your filed criss cross pattern. It reminds me of Gibeon
meteorite pieces - really pretty. The others are cool too.