I was able to roll out 1/10 ounce of fine silver into a 1/8 by 6
inch piece of wire in under 90 minutes, annealing every few passes.
You should be able to do that much more quickly. Start by casting a
rod shaped ingot, if you didn’t already. If you need the means, take
two pieces of mild steel which cah be aligned repeatedly in position,
and drill a hole, perhaps 1/4 inch diameter, right down the plane
where the two pieces meet, not going all the way through. The contact
surfaces do not have to be perfect, in fact, some slop is good since
it lets air escape. File or otherwise cut a chamfered top edge to a
funnel shape so you can pour molten metal into it. In this fashion,
with a bit of care, you can make a fine wire ingot mold.
Starting with a rod shaped ingot, you should be able to reduce it to
the desired size wire in a few minutes. Including pouring the ingot,
assuming you’ve got a torch that will do it OK, the whole process
shouldn’t be more than perhaps ten minutes, not 90. With fine silver,
you simply do not have to anneal very often. You can reduce the cross
sectional area by as much as 90 percent before needing to anneal, and
this metal is so soft you’re not putting any strain on the mill by
doing this. Annealing less frequently also will give you a stronger,
finer, grain structure when you do finally anneal the wire.
And you need not be too delicate in how much reduction you take with
each pass. The initial passes with the round ingot can be gentler,
but once it’s squared up, and the rolls fully closed on that first
groove, from there on, you can reduce the wire the full amount for
each successive groove in no more than 2 or 3 passes, and often, only
one pass, depending on the type of metal. As I said, fine silver is
so soft you can reduce it quite quickly. Each pass through the
grooves is followed by another, with the rolls at the same setting,
but the wire rotated 90 degrees. If the grooves in the rolls are very
accurately made, you can actually rotate the wire and go to the next
groove, rather than repeating the same size, but with many rolls,
doing this will create a slight flange, so if that happens, two
passes through each groove/setting will solve that. For short pieces
of wire, what I like to do is run the wire through, catching it on
the other side with my free hand, and still on that side, rotating
the wire and cranking the wire back through the rolls in reverse.
Quicker than moving back around to the front of the mill and finding
the same groove again.
The question I have is this: are there any tricks of the trade I
should be aware of in order to get as much variety in my results
Sure. One basic trick is that you can roll a wire part way in, then
back it out, creating a step. Rotate the wire, and roll in again to
that step, then back out. Now go to the next groove or tighten the
rolls, and repeat, but not going quite as far. Repeated several
times, you end up with a wire that’s tapered, starting large, and
reducing in steps to smaller. You can then forge the steps out with
a hammer or file them out, to create a smoothly tapered wire, without
having to remove most of the wire with a file to get there.
You can then also do things like using the flat rolls to roll that
taper flat, either going the long way or accross it or diagonally, to
produce a flat piece tapered in width, again without having to
generate a bunch of scrap…
Lots more variations. Use your imagination.
The main thing with this small mill is pay attention to the loads
you put on it. If it’s reasonably easy to crank the handle, you’re
fine. Even a bit of resistance is fine. If you really have to work
hard to crank it, you’re taking too big a bite for these mills. These
are not Durstons or Cavalins, or the equal, but the remail useful
little mills that actually do quite a lot. Treat with care, but the
kid gloves are probably overkill.
For example, is it possible to install one side with the wire roll
and the other side with the flat roll to create half-round roll?
Sure. Start with a square wire already rolled though, to the width
you wish, then reduce to half round/half square after that. With only
one grooved roll, you cannot rotate the wire to reduce it’s thickness
in both directions, so you have to start with the desired width, not
I know that on the mill as small as I have, that imprinting paper
or lace on the silver will not work.
Even that may work, if you don’t try to print pieces that are too
wide or need too deep a texture. Paper in particular is a shallow
texture, not needing a deep bite to work. Be sure to protect the
rolls from the texturing material with another sheet of metal. Done
right, you can end up with two pieces of textured material with a
single pass through the rolls.
Your mill is likely too light for serious roll printing in harder
metals, but fully annealed fine silver, as you’re using, is just so
soft that even these mills will do it just fine so long as you don’t
need too deep a bite to get the full depth of a texture. So some
things may not work. (but try them. So long as you’re not needing
excessive force on the crank handle, you’re OK. You may get more to
work than you’d expect.
And if you got the mill with those added texture rolling rolls, play
with them tool. Just be sure that you never have the rolls tightened
down tight on each other without actually rolling metal, as the
textured roller could leave a mark on the plain roller.
With wire, and fine silver, you’d have a hard time overstressing the
rolls on these small mills. Where you need to be more careful, and
where you’ll run into it’s limits, is working with sheet metal,
especially wider pieces.