Would I save a significant cost by doing this as opposed to just
buying the sheet and wire from Rio?
Unless you always use pretty much the same gauges of sheet and wire,
so you’d only have to stock a couple sizes to keep you happy, the
answer is a very strong yes. Being able to do your own has the
downside that often your own sheet, especially, is not quite as flat
and clean as the commercial product, but the difference seldom
actually makes much difference in the finished product. Being able to
make any gauge you wish is a great freedom. Each individual piece of
jewelry can have the gauge of sheet and wire best suited to it’s
needs, both aesthetic and mechanical, rather than you being limited
by what you’ve got on hand. And being able to just grab some cut up
scraps or bits you can’t use, melt em into an ingot and roll out as
needed, means a lot less scrap sitting around, no waiting on an order
for metal, and generally a good deal more flexibility. Plus, in
addition to being more efficient in terms of having just what you
need and being able to reuse all the pieces big enough to actually
grab with tweezers, you also save money in that you then buy the
metal as casting grain, or just pure gold plus whatever alloys you
need, or just the pure gold and make your own alloys, depending on
your needs. Metal purchased this way, costs you little more than the
gold spot price. Buying sheet and wire already made up may give you
good sheet and wire, but you’re paying a good deal extra for that
It all comes down to the value of your time, If time is critical and
limited, it may pay to have sheet and wire made for you (ie, buy it
that way from Rio). But even then, having the mill and some good draw
plates to reduce the stock you buy is a great increase in what you
can do to the metal in your work.
I feel like my labor is cheap and plentiful-- I am able to
concentrate on this full time, so it's really just a question of
For many, labor turns out to be the one thing that’s the MOST
expensive. You can always buy materials, but you cannot easily buy
more hours (well, you can. It’s called employees…) So if you’re
still at the stage where time is plentiful enough to still be cheap
(IS it really?), then it’s a no brainer. Get the mill etc. But even
when your time gets costly, you may find that being able to make your
own stock is a vital part of your craft. It does depend on what you
make, though. If all you use is 22 gauge silver sheet and 22 gauge
silver wire, and never need anything else, then buy it made up.
Otherwise, well, see above.
Does anyone out there make their own sheet and wire this way
It depends some on which metal you’re talking about. Oddly, silver,
one of our cheapest jewelry metals, turns out to be somewhat harder
to get good sheet stock out of when doing it yourself, especially if
you need larger sizes. So I generally buy sheet silver when I need
it… But pretty much everything else, including silver wire, gold
sheet and wire, and platinum stock, I make my own. So does pretty much
everyone else I know who does custom fabricated work in gold or
Or am I crazy to consider this as a way to save money?
No. You’re not crazy. And as I said, it’s not just to save money.
Making your own stock means you can also buy stock and alter it’s
dimensions easily. That’s a wonderful addition to what you can do.
For example, you could still buy sheet and wire, but if you then need
thin bezel stock, you can roll it from a heavier wire or a strip cut
off of the sheet.
Frankly, I’ve always considered a rolling mill and the basic draw
plates to be pretty much essential, basic level tools to be acquired
as soon as the budget allows in a starting craftpersons career, and
lusted after longingly before that happens.
By the way, if you use a lot of wire, consider strongly the carbide
plates you can get these days. Even the cheapest ones from China do a
decent job, and cost a lot less these days than they used to years
ago. The produce a brighter cleaner wire than steel plates, and with
somewhat less effort in drawing too. If they cost a bit more
initially, they’ll pay themselves back quickly enough in increased
quality and ease of wire drawing.