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Rolling Mill 101

Hello Fellow Orchidians,

My short term goal is to roll down 1/8" (3mm) shakudo rod down small
enough (2 mm thick minimum I think) so I can draw it down further in
my drawplate. I don’t own a draw bench. I do own a flat Durston
rolling mill with extension rollers (one with D grooves and one which
is flat).

I have never rolled down wire before. I am thinking of ordering
replacement extension rollers so I can roll down thicker gauges of
wire on my rolling mill. I contacted Durston about it and they asked
me what size I would like. I am not sure what to ask for. Say the
smallest wire grooves are for 1 mm wire. What should the increments
of the wire groove sizes be-such as 1 mm, 2mm, 3mm, etc?

I was also wondering if I could take the rollers that I already have
to a local machinist and have them carve out the grooves? What does
the profile of a wire groove look like? Would triangular grooves

Incidentally, what does one do with the extension rollers that I
already have?

Last but not least, does anyone know of a book that addresses
different things one can do with a rolling mill?

Jeanie Pratt

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a rolling mill tool for your jewelry projects? We recommend:

Jeanie doesn’t say where she is located but I’d suggest consider
going to Jay Whaley’s next rolling mill workshop at Whaley Studio in
San Diego. Or, if that isn’t a possibility, see about organizing a
local group and invite him to your area for a visiting artist

Michael David Sturlin


Having bought a combination mill instead of a flat one would really
have solved your problem, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

Without a drawing machine, you are only going to be able to pull
fairly small diameter wire by hand unless you’re lifting those big
weights at the gym. It can be brutal without the draw machine. They
are not so expensive, though. My hand winch powered one (less than
$200), which works great, is mounted to an aluminum fold-up
sawhorse, so it stands in a corner when it’s not being used. I only
use it for round wire, though, as my true square, rectangular, and
half-round wire is all made on my Durston combination mill with an
assortment of custom-made side rollers (half round up to 11 mm wide).

The rolling mill will certainly be the fastest and easiest way to
reduce the diameter of your wire stock. If you are only able to use
the side roller extensions on your mill to make wire, then you will
be limited in the size of wire you can generate with your rolling
mill. Sure, you can get a machinist to make you any shaped rollers
that you can dream up (very neat!), but due to the roller’s size (
3/4 to 1 in wide, usually) You won’t get very many sizes of grooves.
Remember, you will have to get sets of grooved rollers made, a top
and a bottom, which should match. You could have 2 sets of rollers
made, smaller sizes, and larger sizes, as an example. My machinist
charged me $50 ea. for my rollers, so you’d be looking at over $200
to have 2 in. or less of wire-making grooves. Who knows what your
machinist would charge you for the custom rollers. Durston Co. has
grooved side rollers you can buy from their factory in London, but
they are not cheap, by any means.

Durston does have a satellite factory (for refurbishing Durston
mills) near Phoenix, run by Matthew Durston’s father, Will. What
about inquiring whether they could swap out your flat rollers for a
combination set? Worth a phone call. The Durstons are really nice
folks, each of them. Those triangular grooves you want have a
flattened corner at the bottom of the groove. It has many uses, but
the wire-making purpose is to relieve stress generated at the sharp
corner of the wire. Cracks form easiest on the sharp edges. No, I
don’t know of a how-to book on using the rolling mill, but we at
Whaley Studios are making plans to film a comprehensive DVD on the
rolling mill in the near future. It really is needed. We’ll let
everyone know when we get the DVD edited and ready to go.

Jay Whaley

Hi Jay,

Do you have a contact person for the refurbished Durston rolling
mills you mentioned in Phoenix, AZ?

Jennifer Friedman

link is broken

You can build a draw bench for not a lot of money. See the pictures in the attached link to one that I built 5 years ago. You mount a small trailer winch ($50 at Harbor Freight) on as long a 2X8 as you can store (mine is under one of my benches and pulls out when I need it). On the other end are a couple of securely mounted blocks to hold the draw plate. Make sure and buy a pair of draw pliers ($80 maybe from a lot of vendors), that takes a large round ring that is pulled by the winch. The ring may be hard to find. I bought mine at Tandy Leather. The ring fits into the bend in both handles and tightens the pliers as the winch (or you) pull. I have added a wooden pulley that allows me to draw more wire than the board is long. I just wrap the wire around the pulley before the next pull. All in all, I may have $200 in the bench. I use it all the time not only to pull wire, but to also straighten it. As a comment, you can pull from 16 - 18 gauge down just by mounting the draw plate in a vise that is securely mounted on a bench…Rob

Thank you for sending that I already have a homemade draw bench I was just curious if anyone had any more information about driving down half round wire

I was replying to the OP who said that she didn’t have a draw bench. Didn’t realize that it was from 2009…Rob


I’m not sure if your comment about “driving down half round wire” is a process question, or if you are seeking equipment, and I don’t know what size half round wire you are starting with. But if you need a way to reduce half round wire without a rolling mill equipped with half round rolls, there are drawplates from Otto Frei (and there may be other supply houses that as well) that will reduce wire from 6mm down to 3 on one plate, and from 3 down to 1mm on another. Hope this helps
Good luck, Mike

Thank you for that. I have used half round draw plates, and having a bit of a challenge as it tends to look a bit like loaf of bread /never seem to get good result. I also have 1/2 round rollers on my roilling mill, but not getting the best results. the sides alwasy seem to flange with both methods

If I need only a small amount of half-round wire I’ll draw it with a regular round draw plate.
Start with two half-round wires or two round wires of heavier diameter. Solder them together for a few millimeters at one end, then taper that end. As you draw them through successively smaller holes in the plate each half-round wire will reduce evenly, or if using round wires they will become half-round.

That’s so smart, Elliot. I will have to try that!

I had great teachers.

Traditionally, when drawing two round wires together to form half round wires, after the tips are put through the hole, knife is placed perpendicular to the back of the hole between the two wires to keep them from turning or twisting while being drawn.

Janet in Jerusalem

Tube as well. Although I never do that. Re 1/2 round. Why not start with square wire?

Please excuse any typos-- curse my clumsy digits…

Not square wire but two flat wires which together have a square section would be a good way to go. Using Mark Wooding’s online rolling wire-strip calculator it’s easy to figure how much round wire you need to make the correct length of flat wire.

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a rolling mill tool for your jewelry projects? We recommend: