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Rolling your own sheet and wire


In reading Frank’s letter to Alma under the heading (Beginner’s
Corner) Solder Formulas, I had a question. I cast and I have a mill
but haven’t made my own sheet. You mentioned this being a good use
for your buttons from casting. Do you somehow go directly to the mill
with the buttons? Do you always need to beging by pouring your own
ingot in an ingot mold? I’ve got an ingot mold and it looks like it
will make an awfully thick ingot to go right to the mill with. How
thin a piece can I melt and pour (and by what method) to use to begin
milling sheet? Or is the ingot mold the only way to go? Thankyou
thankyou thankyou all you wonderful people who take the time to
reply to my silly questions. NET


Personally speaking, the ingot molds don’t always work too good for
me. Instead, if I want to do some sheet, or wire, with scrap I will
cast a large ingot. I can control the thickness and corners of the
stock piece I start with, thereby avoiding much of the rounded edge
waste on flat pieces and usually get a straighter rolled piece. And,
I seem to get a more homogenous pour of the metal. Plus, every time I
use the ingot mold I always remember the time I had an explosive pour
years ago when I didn’t sufficiently preheat the thing.


NET Yes to answer your question. I Always pour an ingot before going
to the mill for flat or round or square stock. I use wire and sheet
ingot molds The sheet billet is about a quarter of an inch thick when
poured. It takes some muscle to roll down but I use a mill with a
reduction gear and I am not a small guy. I usually work up a good
sweat rolling and drawing but I do a quantity that takes about an hour
to roll and pull all the wire and sheet. I cut the wire pieces in
half as I pull it down to sizes I need. I then put half in Inventory
and continue to pull down the other half to the next size stock. Same
way with sheet. When I am done I have a full inventory of sizes and
sheet that I normally use. I have recently installed an old boat
trailer winch to use to pull heavy wire and white gold wire. I can
now pull really heavy wire stock. Should have done it years ago. Hope
this answers your question. Frank Goss


Net, What kind of ingot mold do you have I have one that is two
parts.If you fit the two parts together one way you have round wire
the opposing side is flat so if you turn it around you will have half
round and if you put the two flat sided backs together you have a flat
ingot which can be adjusted in thickness and width by moving them one
way or another.Or just for fun I take scrap and melt it into a ball on
my soldering pad.While it is shiney molten,not spinning. I take a flat
steel block the kind used to hammer on and quickly squish (that is a
technical term) the molten ball flat with the steel block.You have to
hold it or the weight of the steel block will flatten it out too
much.Don’t burn your didgets.Then you can roll,hammer or squeeze it
with super human strength between your teeth to make it the desired
thickness for sheet. Good Luck J Morley from Coyote Ridge Studio Where
the wind is blowin and the tumble weeds are rollin!

 I've got an ingot mold and it looks like it will make an awfully
thick ingot to go right to the mill with. How thin a piece can I
melt and pour (and by what method) to use to begin milling sheet? -- 

G’day; I use a (home made of course) ingot mould that gives me a
little ingot about 23mm wide and 3mm thick. It goes into my
(borrowed) mill easily and I can roll it down to a gnat’s whisker.
(the mill has no gearing; just a long handle) If I want a wider piece
of sheet I roll it by introducing it long side to the rolls, of if I
just want it longer I roll it short side into the rolls. If I want
it a bit both ways, why, I introduce it diagonally and change the
angle left to right on each pass. The mould? well, a piece of square
steel rod 3mm a side, bent into a U shape with the legs parallel and
about 23 mm apart I clamp this between two small flat steel
plates, tilt it to about 45 degrees, - and pour molten sterling into
the open end of the cavity so formed. (I do it on an old flan pan so
spills can be collected.) And that’s all. Except that one must
expect to anneal the ingot after a few passes. But do make sure
there’s no moisture in the mould or you might just throw silver over
your shoulder for luck. Cheers, John Burgess PS: Want to know how
to make El Cheepo moulds for pouring little round ingots for rolling
to wire in the mill’s Vees? Well, ask me!


Net: hey do I look familiar? No you sure wouldn’t try to roll a
button, you’d break your back. Yes, the ingot molds do make a thick
ingot but the plates are adjustable so you can make a less wide ingot
which is easier to roll. The flat open ingot molds make a really fat
ingot that takes a long time to roll out, I don’t like those. If you
use the full width of the ingot and pour a big square ingot it will
take alot long to roll out. Only make the ingot for what you really
need. It does take quite a bit of time to roll the ingot out since you
have to anneal after several passes. You should roll the ingot in one
direction only; though with silver I will often turn the piece 90
degrees for a last pass to flatten the sheet out as it seems silver
just won’t come out the other end flat no matter how good I adjust
the thing, maybe the cheap mills do this, I’ve never used a really
expensive one. Rolling gold you need to anneal more often to avoid
cracking and make sure you anneal the ingot first out of the mold
before you start rolling. The trick is to make small adjustments when
you roll and not try to take huge bites or you’ll crack the metal or
break your mill! If your mill has wire rolling capabilities then
skinny your ingot mold down to a square tall thin piece. It can be
quite a pain to roll and draw wire and roll to get to get the sheet
you need but I think for gold stuff you get exactly what you want alot
cheaper too. Its actually fun if you’re not in a hurry, roll some
extra for times when you are in a rush…Dave


Dear Aufin—rereading your letter, I notice you say you CAST your
ingot. Do you mean use use the regular lost wax casting method? If
so, do you use sheet wax close to the gauge you need, as well as wax wire??
Thanks, Alma


Dear Aufin, I am a bit puzzled about your comment. You say the
ingot molds don’t work to well for you, so when you need sheet or
wire, you pour a large ingot. Can you be more specific? Which are
the molds that cause a problem, and what kind of ingot mold do you use?.
Thanks for your help- Alma

to make  El Cheepo moulds for pouring little round ingots for rolling
to wire in the mill's Vees?   Well, ask me!

John: ok, I’m askin’. The only thing I’ve come up with is adjusting
my ingot mold all the way down to a square tube shape, or drilling a
hole in firebrick which pours well but you end up with a rod with
bristles that have to be filed off. So whats your idea? Dave with the
messy bench


Hi y’all, I have always dreamed of having a rolling mill, specifically
for surface treatments. Now with all this talk of the advantages of
rolling ingots, I’m thinking that a good mill would be a really
sound investment. The BIG question is what kind?? Which is the best
and why? What are the pros and cons of an inexpensive model? What’s
better about a pricer tool?Do any companies offer service agreements
or warranties? What kind of stand is durable?

Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience. AnastasA


Aufin, I had a couple of explosive pours and I discovered that I had
cranked the clamp that holds the ingot mold so tight that I believe
when the molten metal hit the top of the ingot mold tube the air
inside heated and expanded blowing molten gold all over my shop.Its
kind of like a tennis ball cannon.So when ever I poured after those
two envigorating experiances I loosened the clamp enough for the
metal to push the air out the bottom of the tube I was pouring the
ingot in.I have poured hundreds of ingots since then and have not
blown any gold all over my self since.Years ago when I got the ingot
mold some one suggested preheating it.Then another jeweler friend of
mine said she never preheated her mold with good results.I never
preheat my mold aqnd like I said I have had hundreds of pours with out
further incedence.Happy ingotting J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio with a
light snow falling out my window.


When going from a cast object/ingot you need to do some forging
before you go to the rolling mill. This will help align the structure
of the grain and “toughen it up” so to speak. You could flatten out
the button by forging, but I would think that you would have to do a
lot of forging with the average button just to get it to fit between
the average mill. As well the parallel surfaces of the ingot will
allow a more consistant amount of deformation. With the button, the
center tends to get more deformation than the edges, leaving an
uneven and inconsistant sheet density that can lead to cracking.
Another advantage of the ingot is that it has a square shape which, I
find, leads to more usable space. Button tend to come out more
oval/marquis shaped.

One thing to keep in mind when rolling sheet is that there is a lot
more surface area in contact with the roller than with wire. The
amount of force needed to roll down the ingot is therefore greater.
Make sure your rolling mill is secured to the floor! You’ll find it
much easier, and safer.

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler


Anastasa; I started out with one of the economy mills. Cheap price and
wire and flat stock on one head. About a week after I bought it I was
trying to roll a large flat ingot and broke the frame of the mill. I
returned it to the dealer and got a replacement mill. A couple weeks
later and another large ingot and another broken mill. Again I
returned it to the dealer this time however I traded up to a double
mill of Italian make on a floor stand. The Italian mill cost me
$1,500.00 in 1984. I still use the same mill today and from looking at
the catalogue they still are about the same price. Considering
inflation and all They are a bargain. Go for a good Italian or Swiss
mill for my money. 16 years and still a great tool. Frank Goss


Are there any rules of thumb about how often to anneal when rolling
and should I always put the metal through the same way (same side up,
same side forward)? Also I continue to make sure my rollers are
evenly alligned, yet when I am rolling a strip of 30gauge 18k down
further I seem to get a slight curve as it comes out.(I also try to
put it right down the middle.) Any other good rolling hints? Many
thanks again to all my teachers out there in the Land of Orchid. NET


Net: for 14kt I can get about 3 rolls before I have to anneal and
don’t try to crunch it down in one huge bite that takes 20 men to turn
the crank, take small “bites.” With silver maybe 5-6 times. Roll a
piece of scrap silver through a couple times and try to bend it
slightly and you’ll feel it start to harden up. I have one of those
cheap Spanish mills and the metal usually curves coming out too, I
wonder if this is normal but its always done that. I know with gold if
you run it back through again without tightening down the rollers on
the next pass it will sometimes straighten it out. With silver I flip
it over and sometimes even have to hand straighten it as it goes
through. Mostly I have to anneal and flatten on a bench block
afterwards. And yes you’re supposed to send it through the same end
first or at least always lengthwise. But as I said, for silver on the
last pass you can straighten it out too by turning it sideways and
going back through without tightening it down again if it will fit.
Its also great for making large flat pasta noodles but be sure to
spray som Pam on it first (yes, I’m kidding…) Dave


Uneven rollers will cause metal to curve. Yet the most common reason
that metal curves it that it shifts while it is being rolled. Make
sure that the metal is held at 90 degrees as it goes through the
mill. Don’t let it veer off, waggle or enter at different angles.
If it does go through unevenly you will need to “steer” the metal
through as it goes through the roller. You can straighten out a
piece in this manner if you don’t let the curve get too severe. If
you find that it is too hard to control how the metal goes through
the mill, turn it over (going through in the same direction) each
alternative pass. I have found that the temper of the metal has less
to do with the curving problem that trying to roll the sheet too
quickly and losing control. You can pass metal through in opposite
and 90 degree directions as you roll it. I anneal metals at
different rates depending on the composition of the alloy and karat.
The general rule is to anneal after reaching 50 % deformation. A 2
inch 4mm rod is annealed when it reaches 3 in long or 2mm which ever
comes first. Some people anneal more often,espsecially when drawing
wire as it makes for easier pulling. Just be sure to pay attention
to the temperature of the metal and don’t over-heat. Nickel white
golds need more frequent annealing, silver less.

Larry Seiger


Hello all!

There are tables in print in several of the jewelry books that
specify the percentages of rolling metal. Loaned out the book I was
just going to refer to! (Oppi Untracht’s first book) As I recall 14k
yellow will roll a maximum of 1.7, ie. an ingot one inch long can be
reduced in dimension and length increased to 1.1 inches before
cracking. It takes a fair amount of experience before you can know by
feel when to anneal. These tabulations can help you understand the
different karats’ and alloys malleability.

Using a one to one ratio mill gives one a good “feel” for when the
metal is work hardened. The gear reduction mills aid in reduced
effort, but you have to really pay attention to the feel so you don’t
over roll. Tim