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Making tubing to bezel set rounds

I want to make some short pieces of tubing for setting round stone on the surface of rings and pendants. I would use rounds of about 3-7mm and tubing formed from approx. 20 gauge silver (0.7 to 0.8mm) or slightly larger. I watched a video on making short lengths of tubing:
Basically the procedure is to compute the width of sheet needed and use a length of 15 to 25mm of sheet. Round up the sheet gradually with needle nose pliers and eventually by using a small round mandrel set in a halfround (U channel) swaging block hit with a small chasing hammer to round it out, then soldering the tube closed, filing the join and re-rounding it again with the mandrel and hammer. Then, of course, cut the height needed for the bezel off the tubing…you’d get several bezels out of one piece of 15 to 25mm length. This took a while, but seemed OK…however, when I looked for a swage block that would work, the only ones around $40 had channels that really weren’t a complete half circle. I don’t know how well these would work, so I need some feedback on that.

 Another way to proceed would be to bend the sheet by hammering it on a series of smaller and smaller dowels or round mandrels until it is about half closed and then pull it through a draw plate to round it. I found a video of this process, but it used thin fine silver. I did find a decent draw plate with holes from about 3 mm to 10mm that looked like it would work, but I don't know whether it will be possible to pull a halfway rounded up 20 gauge sheet thru the various holes in a draw plate to get to a 3 to 7mm tube. The draw plate is about $40.

 So I'd like some feedback on which process would work best...would one of those swage blocks that seem to only round up about 90 degrees of a circle work OK, or would I really do better with the Durston one that is $150? Or would drawing the sheet thru a drawplate, which seems easier and quicker work for my 18 t0 20 gauge sheet? Surely some of you have been thru this, right?

royjohn…I too would like to make tubing sometime, just to say that I made it. I have a fairly large draw plate with ceramic inserts and would probably try to form them using the draw plate. But, why not just buy tubing with the right ID and set your stones with the setting punches that you just bought. I regularly set 6 and 8 mm round cabs and CZs by just making a small bezel out of 20 gauge strips on whatever mandrel shape works and soldering it either to the larger piece or backing it, making a bezel cup, and soldering it in place. Let us know what you finally decide to do and how it works…Rob

Hi Rob,
Thanks for your input…so you have made single bezels out of 20 gauge just by bending it around a mandrel…that was the process used in the video I linked, but he used pliers and then a mandrel, but after soldering the sheet into a tube, he put the tube on a mandrel and put the mandrel into a groove in a swage block and hammered on it as he rotated it, just to get it really round…I gather you didn’t feel a need to do that and just (I guess) hammered in on the mandrel and then filed the outside to get the shape really rounded. Good to hear that the bezel can be made without the swage block…maybe I’ll try that first…after all, the bezels only have to be 3-6mm in height, so getting them round shouldn’t be that hard if I don’t try to make enough tubing for three or four at a time.

By the way, progress report…I used some diamond burrs followed by grinding points and then silicone polishing points on those setting punches to polish their interiors. They aren’t perfectly polished andthere is some smearing of bigger scratches rather than complete removal, but they are pretty well polished and I think they will leave little for cleanup on the bezels. The problem is that the really small ones (under 4mm) are too small for the grinding points to get into, so IDK how much I can polish those. The small bezels could be polished up with a hand burnisher, I think. If I were working silver for sale, I think I’d have bit the bullet and gotten the $85 ones rather than the $25 set.

At Bowman we learned to make SS tubing from sheet, cutting a narrow strip, taper filing it very narrow on one end.
After that we tapped it lengthwise into a groove to form a narrow U. The U was pulled through successively narrower holes a the drawplate until the U closed into a tube, soldered closed, then continued to be drawn down to the correct size.
Several, many, annealings were required.

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I recently did a cane repair that is quite similar to making a single bezel from a strip.
I began by sawing a strip of brass to the correct length, hammered it around a steel mandrel to close it into a rough tube.
Next I soldered it closed, and then I full welded the seam with the laser ( not a necessary step but I intended to forge it quite a bit, and wanted it fully welded).
I annealed the tubing, then began forging it on the mandrel, into a taper. After again annealing it, I began stretching the tapered tube on the ring stretcher until it was the correct size to slide up the cane to cover the break in the wood.
I then filed, sanded cleaned and polished the tubing.

The results is nearly the exact same thing as a taperd stone bezel, but on a larger scale.

I tried to attach pics I took, but doubt they uploaded.


Looks like you already answer your question, but here is my answer.

For the most part the youtube video was fine. I don’t think you need a swage block though, most of the forming can be done with pliers and a mandrel. Rio has a set of four tappered bezel setting mandrels from 1.5mm to 16mm. I would usually just roll out the metal to the height and thickness I needed ( a little extra for filing). When you make a tube 10mm too 25mm in length for the height, you’re committing yourself to one diameter. It’s much easier to bend a strip of metal that’s 2mm to 6mm in height, and by adjusting the length you can use it to make a variety of diameters.

Rob, ~ I would be hesitant to use a draw plate with inserts, hammering on it might crack the inserts. I do use an inexpensive draw plate that goes up to 4mm. For rounding smaller diameter bezels it works fine.

When I made tubes I used a method very similar to what the ringdoctor described. This was usually for hinges rather than bezels.

For taper bezels, I use the method described in Jaime Pelissier’s book”The Jeweler’s Craft” exercise #26.


Some of my work

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For a perennially useful item like tubing it’s always worth making a little extra. Ringdoctor has given you the most efficient practice, starting with a strip of sheet and finishing by drawing to the desired diameter.

Rather than looking for a swage block with small enough channels, you can form the sheet into a u-channel by hammering it into a lead block using a length of steel wire as a mandrel. The lead will deform as you hammer the sheet in, but will still give enough resistance that you will form a channel. Make sure to scrape off any small flakes of lead before drawing.

As you are drawing the tubing the seam will close up to the point that it will be barely visible. It is a good practice to make a series of very shallow saw cuts perpendicular to and along the length of the seam while you can still see it. They will remain as a tiny visual indicator of the seam as you continue to draw the tubing.

You can leave the tubing unsoldered until you need it. For hinges, place the seam (this is where the little saw cuts come in handy) against the work and the solder will close the seam while soldering the tube in place.

For settings, cut lengths off the long tube as you need them. For straight sided settings use them as is. For tapered settings swage them with a tapered bezel block and mandrel after soldering the tube’s seam.

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Talking about swage blocks I got a nice thick length of hardwood about 30 centimeters long and about 12 x 12 cm in dimension.
Found a friendly woodworker to to drill a series of holes in the diameters I thought would be most useful.
I asked him to cut through the length of the block thus bisecting the holes and giving me two swage blocks. One for me and one for my niece,all for the price of a nice bottle of wine for the woodworker!
PS I may be misremembering the dimensions but you get the idea!

Thanks for the tip about using my draw plate. I really don’t want to damage it…Rob

royjohn…For me, a round bezel is just a very small ring made from very thin material. I often make them from thicker material too, for design reasons, and then close the bezel around the stone with a punch and hammer. Thin bezels are closed with a tube setting punch. I do have a set of tapered bezel mandrels, one round the other oval. I bought them long ago. I use them to shape and stretch the bezel much the same way as you would a ring. Since I make a lot of 8mm round bezels, I just leave a sharpie mark on the mandrel once I have made one that works. The mark gives me a target for the next one. You don’t have to buy a bezel mandrel. Go to the hardware store and look for any tapered steel tool that will do the job. I have even used the neck of a tall beer bottle to shape very large bezels. I guess that we have tools all around us, you just have to look for them. You have received lots of great replies to your post and I have been inspired to try to make my own tubing just for fun. Good luck…Rob

Hey, Rob…thanks for the replies and thanks to others who have responded with different approaches. It was good to find out that the swage block, while it might make things a little easier, wasn’t really necessary. I also had the thought that Willie expressed about making a swage block out of wood. I might try that or even see if a local machinist would drill a piece of steel in the same way for me.

I have thought about using various found objects for mandrels and have a collection of various old punches, large nails, etc. What I’m thinking about making are tube settings for small round, anywhere from about 4mm to 8mm, so I don’t need too many mandrels…yet!

I think I’ll probably try the form it around a mandrel approach and maybe if I get into making a lot of tube settings, I’ll just get a larger draw plate for about $40 and use that to make enough tubing for 4 or 5 settings at a time. It’s been an interesting discussion and I don’t want to shut it down yet if other people have other ideas…

It has been a good discussion, thanks for starting it…Rob

I am wondering if anyone has made a draw plate specifically for tubing using a thick piece of mild steel plate? I guess that I would drill a number of different sized holes and then ream them out using a tapered reamer creating the taper needed to form the tubing…Rob

Rob –
I made a “drawplate” for tubing by drilling a series of holes in a piece of hardwood and tapering them with a Tapered reamer
It works pretty good. I suppose that mild steel would also work.
– alonzo

I was looking at the hardwood draw plates that you can buy for chain making and wondered if they would work, but decided that there might not be enough rigidity to close the seam. Worth a try. Thanks…Rob

Rob, I have seen draw plates of wood with tapered holes and a piece of steel sheet nailed to the small hole side. This might work OK for materials that are not too thick. Contenti has a steel draw plate for round sizes from 3 to 10mm in 1/3 to 1/2mm increments for $38.70. If I don’'t like how making the tubing on mandrels works out, I might try that if a hardwood draw plate doesn’t work. There’s a lot of 3/4" oak flooring around here from our last hardwood flooring effort, so I can try that.

Great, keep me posted. I looked at the Contenti draw plate a while ago…Rob

I just spend a very pleasant, tool junky couple of hours looking at various mandrels and pliers. Most of the tapered jewelry mandrels don’t go below about 4mm diameter…there is one cheap jump ring mandrel on ebay that goes to 3.1mm. Then I realized that the bead people use those mandrels and things all the time. There are stepped mandrels that go from 1.5mm up to about 9mm and “bale forming pliers” which have small stepped mandrels on the jaws for about the same sizes. Prices from about $7 to $15. The pliers tend to be poorly finished and have a flat spot where they come together, but that could be overcome.

I finally went to Rio’s catalog and looked at ALL of their pliers. This is the best option I could find, and if you are going to do a lot of small tube making, it could save some time for you:
If I get heavy into this tube setting gig, I might consider blowing $92 on this item. There are several diameter jaws that come with the pliers, but there are also other diameters available all through the range for about $9.50 each.

So if using a needle nose pliers or rounding sheet on a nail doesn’t work, I have lots of options. Hope some find this interesting.

I have found that a good source of mandrels for jewelry work are the shanks of twist drills. A few years ago I got tired of not having the drill I needed for something and so I ordered a 1 - 60 set, a 1/16" - 1/2" set and an A - Z set of pretty decent twist drills from This gives pretty smooth coverage from 0.040" to 0.5". You do have to take care when hammering on them though (if you want to be able to drill with them also ;-).)
– alonzo

I have a set of drills that I bought from Harbor Freight for just that purpose. They are useless as drills, but make great, inexpensive mandrels…Rob

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