Making wire with rolling mills

Hello all,

I have a combination Durston rolling mill w/ external rollers. I want
to make some wire but have not figured out how to do it. Can someone
help me with this, I do not know what gauge to use to make wire and
how it is done. Is wire made from flat sheets, what gauge and width.
I have tried searching online but not much instructional help there.
Any help would be appreciated.

Thank You,
George in Green Bay

Wire starts as an ingot.

rolled down as square then pulled through a piece of hardened metal
with different size holes in it to make it a true round other
sections are also made with different shaped holes. Durston external
rolls usually make half round wire.

Get down to your local library for books on silversmithing. They will
explain the whole process. It sounds as tho you have a long way to

in this game you:-

  1. decide what you want to do
  2. do your RESEARCH first!!
  3. get the equipment you need
  4. experiment, practice, and practice again.
  5. Make your product.
  6. sell it.


take an apprenticeship in a working silversmithy.

If you go to youtube and check making silver wire or some variation
of that subject, there are videos of some of the step to making
silver wire.

My RM can roll sheet or square stock; it cannot roll round stock. It
will roll square stock from about 8mm down to just 1mm. To make wire,
I start with round or square stock larger than I need and then roll
it down to square wire just a little bit bigger than the round wire I
need. I then finish it to size by pulling it through a drawplate.
Annealing is done as required.

Regards, Gary Wooding

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Hello George,

In addition to the rolling mill, you will need draw plates. If you
intend to really start from scratch, you will also want some sort of
ingot mold to form molten metal into a rod. Jay Whaley has posted a
video demonstrating the use of these tools - perhaps Jay will

I’ll admit to being lazy and to buying the wire already formed. I
only use the mill to make patterned wire and the draw plates to
reduce a short length of wire to a gauge I don’t have. The process
takes time I would rather spend creating something!

Judy in Kansas, where last night’s thunderstorm was welcomed by all
but the 1,000 or so campers who came in early for the annual Country
Stampede. Some may have lost tents and the rest are undoubtedly wet
from flowing water. Those country music fans are fanatic!

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Yes, your combination rolling mill will be vital for making your own
wire as well as sheet stock. With your mill, you should be able to
make square, rectangular, and using your side rollers, half-round
wire stock. A drawplate or two will be needed to make round wire. I
have wider half-round rollers custom made to make all widths of
half-round wire stock. Since you will be starting with an ingot
shape which is larger than your goal, your mill is then used to
narrow (or flatten, in the case of sheet) the ingot to the desired
width and thickness.

In your post, you mention wanting to make wire, but you neglect to
say what shape wire you want. You could make square, rectangular,
half-round, full round, triangular, or other exotic shaped wire with
special drawplates. You’ll first need to figure out not only what the
wire’s profile looks like, but how wide, how thick, and how long it
will need to be. Once you’ve determined what you need to make, then
the ingot will need to be poured so that this final shape and length
of wire can be rolled (or pulled) to get enough of the wire at the
exact shape you need.

The grooves in your mill will be used to make a perfectly square
ingot of the basic width you need your wire to be. Then the mill or
drawplates come in to further refine and shape your finished wire.

Jay Whaley

George-I make wire by first pouring an ingot. One of my ingot molds
is reversible. One side is for a flat sheet the other has round
notches in several different sizes. I pour into the largest round
hole. Then I roll my large round ingot down in the square notched
part of my mill. Then I pull to round or what ever shape I want in a
wire draw plate. Of course annealing the whole way.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

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Make an ingot, then use your rolling mill to get your ingot close to
your desired size, then use draw plates to refine the shape. CIA

Calling Jay Whaley on this. Jay, are you hearing this? Jay tried to
teach me how to make my own wire several years ago…but since
I’ll often use 90 feet or more in some of my pieces, it just wasn’t
viable for me. But he’s the man on this one.

Lisa Van Herik

There has never been a production ROUND rolling mill that was
carried by mainstream suppliers, until now. Durstons have just
introduced the first ever production ROUND rolling mills. There are 3
models. 100, 130 and 150. The 100 and 130 are combination mills so
they also have flat area and extension rollers for half round as
well. They have 10 round grooves going from 1.5mm to 6mm. The 150 has
18 grooves going from 1.5mm to 10mm and has extension rollers for
half round. Please see Durston blog on Ganoksin for more

These will not be on Durston website for another few weeks.

Durston Rolling Mills


You know that I’m a big fan of making your own custom stock,
including wire. However, when you’re going through yards and yards
of wire of the same gauge, I really recommend just buying a spool of
as much wire as you’ll need. I hear people complain about how long it
takes to make wire themselves, but then I have students who just
love the whole experience of making their stock themselves. One of my
private students works only in fabricated 22k gold, and she figured
out long ago that it was cheaper and quicker for her to start with
pure gold, alloy her 22K herself, and draw her own wire. We often
hear her softly singing to herself as she’s pulling her wire through
our draw machine…

About making bezel wire by cutting off a strip from a sheet of fine
silver…this is a tough way to do it, in my opinion. Generally
people choose too thin of a gauge to make the bezel out of, and
cutting a thin, straight length of bezel from a sheet is tough to do.
It usually ends up with sharp edges, none too even, and curled up
into a tight spiral. Different size stones require different widths
and thicknesses of bezel.

A complaint I hear on this forum is just how long it takes to make
your own bezel from an ingot. A few years ago, I decided to see just
how fast I could make a fine-silver bezel with a rolling mill, from a
poured ingot. I “rehearsed” my “performance” a few times, and then
had a friend film my best time. I ended up with a perfectly straight
5 mm wide, 18 gauge bezel made out of fine silver, which took me 2
1/2 min. from the time I turned on the torch to melt the metal, to
the finished bezel coming out of the rollers. It just takes practice
and the right equipment. See this short clip by going to Youtube and
putting “Fast Silver Bezel” in the search window.

Can you order your bezel from a catalog within 2 1/2 minutes??

Jay Whaley

I would say I make 90% of my own wire, for I’m gotten very good at
recycling my silver. Almost all of my bezel strip is made from fine
silver. Only the very thick and very thin gauges I buy. As long as
you have a crucible, an ingot mold, a grooved rolling mill,
drawplates and being a glutton for punishment, you can make all the
wire you want. It’s really helped to keep my silver budget in
control, otherwise, I would go broke trying to keep up with the
precious metals market. The other good thing about making your own
wire is that you can customize it. I’m very fussy about bezel strip
so it’s good to customize it myself, and also drawing wire down to a
specific gauge.

Just don’t pickle your ingots and wire till you are done rolling.
Pickle gets into the pores of metal and then leaches out onto the
rolling mills, stakes, hammers and more. I have a mushroom stake
pitted from one too many spoon bowls that was pickled before
planishing. That, I learned from a goldsmith who was so paranoid
about his $$$ rolling mill, nothing could be pickled prior to
rolling. I learned so much about bench repair from him, I can handle
most things. Everying had to be virgin metal. It’s not a bad habit,
and as long as you don’t pickle, your tools will appreciate it.


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The easiest way of making strip is to roll some wire, lengthways, in
the rolling mill. The problem is: what size wire should be used to
get a strip of specific width and thickness?

A few years ago I did a series of experiments, constructed a table
of the results, and then wrote a program that made use of that data.

The program, which runs under any version of Windows (currently up
to Win7 X64) needs the width and thickness of the strip you want, and
optionally, the length. It will then tell you the size of wire
(round or square) you need to start with, plus its length, if you
specified the strip length. Usually I don’t actually have the required
wire size to hand, but the program allows me to specify what (larger)
size I do have, and calculates how much of that I need to roll down
to the required starting size. For example, suppose I want a strip 2mm
wide, 0.3mm thick, and 200mm long. The program tells me I need 107mm
of 1.06mm square wire or 1.2mm round wire. Since I’ve only got some
1.5mm round wire, it tells me I need 68mm of it that I can then roll
down to 1.06mm square before rolling it into strip.

You can download a copy of the program from

After downloading unzip it to create a folder called Rolling. Inside
that folder is a Readme text file that explains what to do.

The program requires the Java Runtime to be installed (it’s free).

Regards, Gary Wooding

Hi Matthew,

Since you brought it up, I’ve always wondered why there weren’t
round wire mills previously. Round wire being used more regularly
than square. So, was there some technical reason, or was it just

Next question: how do you deal with the problem of the flashing
squeezing out between the roller gap?

Brian Meek

Hi Matthew,

Maybe I am being dense but how does one roll round wire down on the
new mill? I thought that commercial rolling of round wire was done
only to a specific size through a fixed set of roll stands each with
a different profile, not run down through a series of decreasing size
round profiles on the rolls and that size reduction is done in the
square profile rolls. It is my understanding that to roll round rod
and one must progress from a “square” (chamfered corner actually)
profile to an oval and then finally into a round profile rotating the
stock 90 degrees from the oval roll profile into the final round one.


I've always wondered why there weren't round wire mills previously.
Round wire being used more regularly than square. So, was there
some technical reason, or was it just "because"? 

My theory is that grooved rolls for square(ish) wire can produce any
sized wire between the extreme limits of the mill, whereas the same
for round wire can only produce wire of specific diameters.

Next question: how do you deal with the problem of the flashing
squeezing out between the roller gap? 

The problem with the flashing is minimised with the square grooves
because you can easily and consistently rotate the wire by 90
degrees for each pass through the mill, but it’s very difficult to
maintain the 90 degree rotation with round grooves - there’s nothing
inherent in the groove to prevent the wire from twisting as it’s
being rolled.

Regards, Gary Wooding

One thing that’s useful for UK jewellers is that VAT (20%) isn’t
payable on casting grain, so Jay’s point about cost is even more
truer here. I use a combination of hammering, rolling and drawing to
make wire. It’s a daily routine, and one I quite enjoy. As someone
else said, if you know you need a specific size in large amounts, or
if you are choosing a wire thickness for your own designs, it can
make sense to buy off the peg. But if you are doing any sort of
repairs, or working to a precise design, you really need to be able
to make wire. I even know some medieval methods that are
occassionaly useful in the modern workshop. I strongly recommend
practicing with a hammer and block/anvil, while holding your ingot in
tongs or tweezers. I normally take my ingots down to around 5mm
square with a hammer, then give them a diamond-shaped cross-section,
and use that to go into the mill. Fast, fun, and good practice for
your forging skills.


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Hi Brian,

I would think square section would be used heavily by the industry,
e.g. square section stock gauge = ring manufacture… I guess.

I thought about the problem of flashing also, but then I realised
you’d just need to rotate the metal.

I don’t think that you’d get a perfectly formed circular cross
section, I think you’d still have to draw the wire anyway.

Regards Charles A.

If you have the cash, buy the wire you need. However, if you have no
cash, and plenty of silver scrap, then it is worthwhile to mill your
own wire till you get more cash to burn. I will not make sheet or
very thick or very thin wire, only wire in 12g. to 20g. I once had a
bunch of sterling and fine silver scrap from the 50’s to the 70’s,
so it made sense for me to remill it into workable wire rather than
sell it.

As for bezel strip, I love to use commercial fine silver bezel strip,
as long as I can get it in 26g. but it seems like the stones I have
mostly requires customized width, so I ended up having to cut strips
to match the height of stones. The other thing I do with the bits and
pieces offine silver is to melt it down and roll it out into strip,
and that’s lovely bezel to work with. I roll it down to 22g. and then
if I need it thinner, it’s a snap to roll it down to 26g.

Now, I ended up with some old dental gold sheets ( 70’s - 80’s), and
I was able to look up the alloy, and it comes to 77% gold. I’m going
to try it out and see what gold rings I end up up. If it doesn’t
work, I can always sell the gold scrap to the refiners.

The great thing about New England is that you never know what you
will find, and there’s always stuff family members want to sell off
or get rid of when a family member dies. I’ve gotten great hammers,
tools, pewter sheets and much more. Now, I have to relearn to work
with pewter to use up the sheets I have. One of my students showed me
a big roll of blackened silver sheet - that thing must have been
several feet long by 6", and her neighbor gave it to her. She was
going to hang on to it till she decides what she wanted to do with
it, and that was a few years go. She’ll probably never do anything
with it.


Hi Brian,

Since you brought it up, I've always wondered why there weren't
round wire mills previously. Round wire being used more regularly
than square. So, was there some technical reason, or was it just
Next question: how do you deal with the problem of the flashing
squeezing out between the roller gap? 

For many years we have been asked for round mills but it was always
very expensive to do.

Starting with a wire of square or round section, use the mill in
same way as you would use square mill.

The difference being that a round section will be formed before the
rollers are fully closed.

To avoid flashing rotate the wire 90 degrees on every pass.

Matthew Durston