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Otto Frei's Economy Rolling Mill

I am the fortunate owner of a Karat rolling mill made by Kenneth
Singh. I really give that mill some hard work, and it has never let
me downl It came with flat rollers, and several other rollers for
rolling down wire. It is a sturdy, well made little mill, and best
of all was affordable.

I was not sure how to assemble it when it was delivered (several
years ago), but Kenneth Singh was kind enough to walk me through the
whole process.

You can really rely on the Karat rolling mill. Unless you are into
heavy duty production work, you will find the little Karat up to the
job, and then some.

Usual disclaimer—just a happy satisfied customer.

Alma Rands

The one I bought was the exact same model as Otto Frei's and I
bought it from a UK tool supply company on ebay. As far as I'm
aware, there's no warranty or parts replacement. Hopefully there
would be if purchased through Otto Frei. The chap on ebay has put
his prices up to over 300 UKP. I think I paid about 285 UKP for it
back in the autumn, 

I have to agree with the sentiment of ‘buy what you can afford and
upgrade as you go’ But in this case even here in the UK, you can get
a real life Durston Mirco 70 for UKP300.00 including VAT. And as we
all know the manufacture and the warrenty is above praise.

So buy cheap if its all you can afford, but these days its so easy
to shop around and still get the best at an affordable price. And
even if you start small the chances are you can resell the Durston
on that auction site at a later date for a good price…

Barrie

Well I was gonna stay out of this one but…two things

Its been said "you’re only as good as your tools’. Bulldinkies, my
tools pretty much are old, crappy, and if I was judged solely on my
tools I’d be considered a hack.(then again hacks don’t get repeat
big buck custom orders do they) The tools don’t make the jewelry, the
jeweler does. If the mill in question works for a situation then it
works. If the mill is not so strong well then its the operator’s job
not to overwork the tool that he/she knows is not top grade. What do
you want for $275?

On the flip side I just received from a well known supplier some
carbide burnishers that look abysmal. Disgusting to even call these
things professional tools. The finish is something like #80
sandpaper, yeah that’ll polish platinum real well. Well, what do you
want for $17? I don’t care what the tool costs just give me something
adequate for the job. You want $34 for it?, How about $50…here ya
go, just let me make a living.

Sorry for ranting, I’ll feel better after a martini.

Not so fast!

Indian made does not unilaterally mean poor quality. Mr. K.Singh has
been making rolling mills for years ( since the 1970’s when I bought
my first mill from him, and then have had rollers made as custom
jobs, with unique patterns for sheet and wire)…he is Indian, his
tools and metal working accessories are exemplary of fine
craftsmanship. While there are many repro’s out there made in India
and Pakistan, and of course, china…they are not all junk. They are
for the most part,economy grade and with moderate use- meaning not a
large production environment- they will last years with some
maintenance…basics,like lubrication, ocassional calibration, and
replacing worn set screws periodically,etc. Chinese stuff is mostly
junk-admitted, and when there are alternatives I always recommend
against Chineese products (partly for reasons of national economic
stability -and what an individual can contribute on a very very
small scale! but that’s another forum’s topic entirely). Indian made
is not always the worst option…in fact, some rolling mills made in
the US of similar metals and workmanship pale in comparison to Indian
tools and equipment…I find such generalizations usually unfounded
and the result of inexperience with less than cutting-edge tools and
equipment…not everyone has unlimited funds, and many on this forum
are novice jewelers and as such the manual under 200 dollar mill is
ideal for those still uncertain whether or not to turn their hobby
into a business…For them the top of the line Durston is unnecessary
and a waste of money when the difference can be better used in metals
to put through the mill- whatever the quality…poor people buy
whatever they can afford,and the end result- a flattened piece of
metal, or a reduced sheet is indistinguishable from one mill to
another.the proof is in the jewelry produced not the tool grade or
country of origin.

RER

I must participate in this thread.

Many years ago, in Tucson, I purchased an affordable Rolling Mill. I
then went to the Holidome, and there to 46 Street Jewelry, and
Kenneth Singh. Had I gone there first, I know I would have bought
Kenneth’s Rolling Mill. He was then introducing other Rollers, and I
was very interested. I asked about buying his additional Rollers for
my Mill, and Kenneth suggested I bring mine in to see if they fit.
Bottom line, unfortunately, no they did not. My Rolling Mill sits in
the original box, swathed in grease, just as the day I bought it,
somewhere in the depths of my garage.

Over the years, I have come to know Kenneth Singh very well, and
know what a plus he has always been to the Jewelry Community.

He has been very supportive of Orchid, and has participated in Orchid
Dinners for quite a long time. He and Joel Schwab even hosted one in
New York City. Kenneth has integrity and reliability as his middle
name.

I am very happy to see his Rolling Mill featured in the Cool Tool
section of Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist, it deserves to be
there. There are many imitators, but none have the integrity of
Ken’s Karat unit.

There are Maseriti’s and there are Volkswagons, if you are a
production shop, and can afford it, yes Cavalini or Durston, if you
are a limited production, or a One of a Kind designer, Kenneth
Singh’s Karat will serve you very well.

To suggest one is lesser than because of what they spend on tools,
is a backhanded below the belt strike. Hardly gracious.

I am very lucky to take an ongoing class with Jay Whaley, and have
access to the two Rolling Mills in the studio. Both have a ease of
use designed add on, courtesy of the very inventive Jay.

Were I to open a shop at my home, my first purchase will be
Kenneth’s Karat. I love the additional rollers, and the freedom they
will give me.

Hugs,
Terrie

To all:

You get what you pay for.

You buy the best you can afford at the time. For the beginning
jeweler, you try to find tools that will not fall apart but will get
you on the way to making jewelry. As your skills grow, so should the
quality of your tools.

Kenneth, I read the article in Lapidary Journal under cool tools and
am sorry that we couldn’t get to your store the last time we were in
NYC. Too much construction and couldn’t find your front door. Oh
well.

By the way, I have been buying tools and display aids from you for
several years. I am looking forward to seeing those rolling mill
rollers the next time we are up so they can be acquired to work on
what I now realize is your rolling mill. It has worked for us well,
especially since we know it’s not the powerhouse Cavillion and use
it accordingly.

We also recommend Harbor Freight, Lowes, Home Depot, etc as well as
"official brand" jewelry tools to our students. What’s junk, is
total junk and we steer our students away from them.

Ruthie Cohen
Mountain Metalsmiths School of Jewelry & Lapidary

Chinese stuff is mostly junk-admitted, and when there are
alternatives I always recommend against Chineese products (partly
for reasons of national economic stability 

Just to clarify, there are actually two Chinas as far as tools are
concerned. Mainland China is where most of the junk comes from - some
good stuff too, no doubt. Taiwan is not the same. Toolmakers in
Taiwan can and do put out some real fine stuff. My index fixture (for
the milling machine) is made in Taiwan from good steel, is tight as a
drum and was much cheaper but not what you’d call “cheap”. If
something is from Taiwan specifically, it might be worth a look. If
it’s just “China”, then maybe not.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

But in this case even here in the UK, you can get a real life
Durston Mirco 70 for UKP300.00 including VAT. And as we all know
the manufacture and the warrenty is above praise. 

Ooh I wish I’d realised this back when I was looking for a rolling
mill. I did look at the Durston mills but didn’t think of the one
you mention because I was advised to get a mill with a 4:1 reduction
gear.

Never mind, I’ll get a Durston later on if mine proves not to be
good enough, but it’ll do for now.

Helen
UK

John,

Your message is right on point but often very hard to sell. I spent
42 years practicing ophthalmology, inventing instruments, developing
and teaching surgical techniques, etc. etc. When the pico-second YAG
laser was modified for our use, in my mind, it was just another way
to do a job that I had been doing surgically for years. I did it in
my office based operating room, the reusable instrument cost about
$15.00, it took about 10 seconds (really) and we had no
complications. The laser required it’s own room, cost about $25,000
and procedures took about 10 minutes. BUT IT WAS HIGH TECH, IT WAS
GLITZY AND IT WAS MARKETABLE! Within about three years medicare, in
response to heavy lobbying, decided to reimburse patients for the
procedure ONLY IF IT WAS DONE WITH THE LASER!!

Gravity isn’t the only unseen force in this world.

Dr. Mac

The laser required it's own room, cost about $25,000 and procedures
took about 10 minutes. BUT IT WAS HIGH TECH, IT WAS GLITZY AND IT
WAS MARKETABLE! 

Yes, Dr. Mac, it’s so easy to spend other people’s money, isn’t it?
It seems to me that some had a knee-jerk reaction to (poor) Helen’s
pride in having a nice little rolling mill for cheap. The knee jerk
being that good=best=more money. The best chain nose pliers for me
are $45 Lindstroms - I’m on my 4th pair. The best pliers for Helen
are more like $10 and hopefully less. She (or one like her) doesn’t
know how to get $45 worth out of a pair of pliers. The best rolling
mill for anyone is a $25,000 motorized wiz-bang unit, but few have
the money, the shop real estate or a real need for it. I’ve made
mega$ worth of stuff on my regular Cavallan and it just keeps on
rolling. Junk is junk obviously, but best is not the most expensive,
it’s the right tools for the job and the circumstances. Beginners
throw money at it, experience says “This is just right for what I
need it to do.”

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

Yes, Dr. Mac, it's so easy to spend other people's money, isn't
it? It seems to me that some had a knee-jerk reaction to (poor)
Helen's pride in having a nice little rolling mill for cheap. 

Thanks for the sentiments John, but my original post wasn’t about
pride in owning a rolling mill - it was more to say “I’ve got this
model - is there anyone out there who also has this model and can
comment on its long term abilities?”.

The best chain nose pliers for me are $45 Lindstroms - I'm on my
4th pair. The best pliers for Helen are more like $10 and hopefully
less. 

$45 USD doesn’t sound a lot to spend on a good pair of pliers - even
for a beginner - but yes I’m still happily using my five-pairs-of-
pliers-for-15UKP and the only pair that’s never worked is the side
cutters - the rest are fine.

She (or one like her) doesn't know how to get $45 worth out of a
pair of pliers. 

I’m not quite sure what you mean by this which probably proves you
right. But even though I’m a beginner, I’m not making complete
rubbish any more. For sure, my pliers won’t last as long as your $45
dollar Lindstroms, but a pair of box joint pliers that do the job
surely can’t do an awful lot less than a $45 dollar pair - can they?
They’re probably more balanced in the hand, more ergonomically
inclined so as to not fatigue the hand - they probably have been
engineered to smaller tolerances but is the difference truly huge on
just a pair of pliers?

Like the rolling mill, when the pliers fail to do their job
properly, I’ll be replacing them with better quality ones as funds
allow. I too do know the value of quality tools when it comes to my
Foredom when compared to the Dremel I used to use. There is no
comparison. And I’m sure that if I could afford a Durston mill, I’d
be singing its praises too, but as your post is saying, beginners
usually have to start out on a tight budget so buy what they can
afford. However, I do think the difference in performance on cheap vs
expensive/quality differs greatly, depending what tool you’re talking
about.

Helen
UK

John

It seems to me that some had a knee-jerk reaction to (poor)
Helen's pride in having a nice little rolling mill for cheap. The
knee jerk being that good=best=more money. The best chain nose
pliers for me are $45 Lindstroms - I'm on my 4th pair. The best
pliers for Helen are more like $10 and hopefully less. She (or one
like her) doesn't know how to get $45 worth out of a pair of
pliers. The best rolling mill for anyone is a $25,000 motorized
wiz-bang unit, but few have the money, the shop real estate or a
real need for it. I've made mega$ worth of stuff on my regular
Cavallan and it just keeps on rolling. Junk is junk obviously, but
best is not the most expensive, it's the right tools for the job
and the circumstances. Beginners throw money at it, experience says
"This is just right for what I need it to do. 

I have avoided this conversation like the plague, it is one we seem
to have often. Its topic may change but the subject is always the
same, spend, buy the best. Many times it is not the tool, but the
lack of skill in the hands the tool finds itself in, and I am not
poking at the beginners any less than myself for I am still a
beginner. I have a pair of round nose pliers that in electronics are
the perfect tool and when I bought them the price I paid would have
covered 4 pair of Levis. With silver they are not the perfect tool,
they are too smooth, the wire slips, I grip harder to hold it, and
crush the wire or dimple it. I bought a $6 pair from Hobby Lobby
that is frosted in their circumference and they work great, the
surface of the pliers do not blemish the wire and I don’t have to
grip harder to keep it from slipping.

Good words John, thanks for sharing the wisdom.

Terry

I’ve been following this thread and I want to make a comment,
sometimes one will opt for a cheaper item, if one is not sure how
much they will use it. Like a rolling mill, if most of your work will
be rolling a texture unto silver or copper, and your not doing
production work, a cheaper one may do just as well, especially until
you figure out how MUCH you’ll use it. I have a cheap pair of
round/half round pliers. I intend to buy a better pair, I find them
very useful. keep the cheaper ones, for hauling to shows. I have
often dreamed of wining the lottery and setting up an artisans’
workshop. One room would be full of quality, expensive equipment,
that a lot of artists, would need the use of occasionally. I
occasionally need a bandsaw, at the most 2 or 3 times a year. Someday
I may break down and buy a cheap one. Sometimes, quality is
important. I haven’t had to repaint the interior of my house, since
my dad did it around 1960. He bought high quality paint, but I’m
SICK of the colors. Will I buy the high price paint, probably, for
the ceiling, but I doubt if I want to look at yellow walls for 20 or
more years. A good paint will work just as well.

Cairenn, the Howling Artist
www.howlingartist.com

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this which probably proves you
right. But even though I'm a beginner, I'm not making complete
rubbish any more. For sure, my pliers won't last as long as your
$45 dollar Lindstroms, 

I don’t mean it badly, of course. Most beginners and even more than
beginners think of pliers as two halves in shapes that squeeze
together. I have a whole spectrum of foreseeable things that I expect
to get out of them, and the design needs to fit that plan or I won’t
buy them. The same goes for tweezers, which I use a lot - not just
any tweezer will do, they need to have just that taper, and just that
point. It’s not that I’m picky, it’s that I can choose between
designs of tools, and I choose by my needs, not price or anything
else - what someone tells me I should want, for instance. I don’t
work around my tools, my tools are chosen for my work, and one must
know one’s work in order to do that.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

$45 Lindstroms 

I try to buy good used tools but have bought my share of cheap
imports and have replaced them with quality when they didn’t do the
job I needed them for. One thing I go for the high dollar tool for is
flush cutters. I use flush cutters to cut silve bezels and that’s
pretty much it. So I too buy the $40 Lindstroms when the quaility is
required to do the job.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com

Many times it is not the tool, but the lack of skill in the hands
the tool finds itself in, and I am not poking at the beginners any
less than myself for I am still a beginner. 

This conversation is gone off topic. It started with rolling mills,
and then pliers and other tools were introduced.

There are tools which do not have to be the best, but rolling mill
is not one of them. The only choice is either to get a motorized one,
or a hand-cranked.

If someone thinks that he can get away with cheap rolling mill, he
does not need one. Just bye whatever one need from a refiner.

It would take too long to get into the mechanics of rolling, so it
would surface to say that for a metal to come out flat after the
rolling, the rolls must be of large diameter, the frame must be
massive, the force transfer must be smooth, and etc. These are
expensive requirements, no matter where it is made.

Leonid Surpin.

I haven’t responded in a long time. I would like to add a teachers
reply. I taught basic jewelry making skills and stone cutting. I
have advised students to make the hobby (or profession) pay for
itself. In the beginning when you are developing skills and
techniques and sales are just beginning, you buy what you can. Buying
tools should come out of sales. Not putting more and more money into
something that you are just learning. Stay as cheap as you can as
long as you can. Cheap tools can be made better with a little sanding
and polishing.

As far as I’m concerned, she did the right thing. My rolling mills
come from the last Chicago Worlds Fair and they still serve me well.

Steve Ramsdell

It would take too long to get into the mechanics of rolling, so it
would surface to say that for a metal to come out flat after the
rolling, the rolls must be of large diameter, the frame must be
massive, the force transfer must be smooth, and etc. These are
expensive requirements, no matter where it is made. 

Well I’m sorry but I disagree. Every month I have a limited amount of
money (very limited) with which to buy silver. I always buy the
largest area of my favourite thickness of sheet and usually buy some
square and round wire too. I was buying 2mm and 3mm square wire but
now I’ve got my mill, I only buy the 3mm wire. Many, many times over
the last month I have wanted either 2mm square wire or something
approximating 4x1.5mm rectangular wire and it’s just taken me minutes
to anneal and roll my 3x3mm square wire to the exact size I wanted,
at a time in the month where I was not in a position to order that
wire from the refiners, nor had the time to wait for delivery had I
had the money to do so. All this, despite my mill being “cheap” and
having small diameter rollers! Go figure. I’m actually making good
use out of my mill now as my confidence grows and just because I
can’t afford a humongous powered mill does not mean that I don’t
have a need for my mill.

Helen
UK

Many, many times over the last month I have wanted either 2mm
square wire or something approximating 4x1.5mm rectangular wire and
it's just taken me minutes to anneal and roll my 3x3mm square wire
to the exact size I wanted, 

Or you could accomplish the same with a hammer in 10 seconds or less!

Leonid Surpin.

Back when Helen was talking about her mill, just out of curiousity I
went down to Otto Frei to look at their version. They didn’t have
one at the time, but Ben, who reads Orchid (Hi, Ben!) heard me and
just came and told me they had gotten one in, so I went down and
took a look. The good thing is that it strikes me as a nice little
light-duty mill for a beginner or hobbyist, it’s pretty tight and
has several interchangeable rollers, cast iron gears and reduction
gears, fairly well made for a narrower roller, which many start out
on.

The bad news is fairly bad in the long run, though, which is why I
say light duty. The working parts are steel or cast iron of moderate
quality, but the main casting is anodized aluminum, which is not so
good to begin with. Even more, though, is that the casting is in two
pieces so it can be taken apart to change the rollers, and is held
on by four bolts, of about 1/4 - 20 or metric equivalent (5-6mm?).
That means that where a dedicated mill is a solid casting, on this
one all that stress of rolling is picked up by four bolts in an
aluminum casting - it could have steel sleeves inside, I didn’t go
that deep into it (I doubt it, though). The fact that the bolts are
unmarked except for a maker’s mark (mild steel at best) is bad, but
they are into aluminum, anyway, I guess. There are other bolts, too,
but they are largely to hold gears on shafts and stuff, not
structural.

That is bad, but I will say that it seems like a pretty good tool
for someone who wants to spend $300 and have extra rollers to play
around with. In 300 hours of use you could throw it away and have
made a profit on it…The rollers will likely last quite awhile,
with care, I would think. The owner needs to be very, very careful
of those four bolts, though. If even one of them gets stripped even
a little, there goes all your strength. That’s when you have it
welded shut… And make sure the mating surfaces are squeaky
clean, or your alignment will be off. I could be a snob about it,
and certainly I wouldn’t buy it, but it seems like a pretty good
little mill for the price - it would be stronger if it didn’t have
the roller change thing, but then you wouldn’t get the roller change
thing, would you? Not bad, overall…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com