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A student asked me what paperclips are made of, and I was upset to
realize that I wasn’t sure. I realize this is a bit off topic, and
I’m sorry about that. But who else can I ask?

Northern Illinois, USA
(Still happy to be back on Orchid after a year away!)

Elaine, Paperclips, the nonplastic ones, are generally made of steel
and they will contaminate pickle.

Donna Shimazu

There are paper clips, and then there are paper clips! Nowadays you
can even buy plastic ones. And I think the metal ones havechanged
considerably down through the years. I have some older ones that are
quite dark looking and rough. Newer ones shiny and slick. But one thing
for sure – just check with a magnet and you’ll find that they’ll all
cling to the magnet. Thus contain iron/steel.



Are you a science teacher? If so, why not treat the paper clip as if
it were an object in a black box that one never open? It also just
might be a perfect example for using Archimedes principle. Weigh the
paper in air and weigh it in water from these two number you can
determine the density (specific gravity) of the object. Since it is
likely that the paper clip is an alloy it the number you determine
will be an approximation of the densities of pure metals.

You could also try some simple chemical tests. Does the paper clip
burn when heated in a flame? Does it dissolve in HCl, etc etc.

elaine - all the paperclipss around here are magnetic, so they must be
made of ferrous material. my '70s jewelry books showed a lot of
paperclip jewelry so they should be fairly durable. from paperclip
testing laboratory …

Most likely stainless steel, and propably not a very good grade of it
either. If your student is thinking of using this material or
something like it, I would suggest trying the local music store and
asking if they have any “piano wire”. It will hold a temper like a
spring, and although stiffer than paper clips, it’s a lot prettier.
Now, if the case is that the student likes the “sub-text” available
surrounding materials such as paper clips, that’s another story to be
deconstructed. :slight_smile:

David L. Huffman (NO-MO-PO-MO!! {short for "no more post modernism!"
and it’s my quote, by the way . . .})

Here’s a tip with a paper clip… Plain steel paper clips can make
very useful “tiny tongs” for holding small bits together or just for
holding things in place while soldering.

Straighten out the paper clip

Bend it into a modified “Y” shape so that the two ends form the leg
or lower vertical of the Y - you will have a shape like the outline of
a flask with the two ends of the paper clip forming the neck.

I hammer the ends of the paper clip wire so that they are flattened
and will hold small objects securely. Simply bend the flattened ends
into the desired shape to hold the object.

I hope everyone understands my verbal description. This is a very
useful aid for balancing things like pierced ear posts on the back of
earrings, or for balancing roller catches on brooches.

Rex from Oz enjoying the winter sun in Sydney, Australia.

Hi all. Quick line about paperclips, they make good strong pins for
broochs ect; Regards Andrew

Hi there, speaking of paperclip tips, they also make great hangers.
You just unbend them so that they form an ‘S’-shape, place your object
(to be dip-coated) on one end and hang it up to dry by the other end.


Hi Rex, I find that hemostats work really great for holding post to
earring backs to solder them. They have the advantage of not moving
when the flux does it foaming thing and the solder does not pop off.
Susan Chastain, Enchanted Forest, Florida.

Hi Eileen; Yes, paperclips are great for hanging things on. I
sometimes use them to hand small parts in the ultrasonic. But don’t
use them to hang things in your rhodium bath. The acid in the
plating bath will react to the steel in the paper clips and
contaminate your rhodium. By the way, if you leave paper clips in
the closet, when nobody is looking, they grow up into coat hangers. .
.or is that safety pins?

David L. Huffman