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Steel drawplate vs carbide drawplate

I’ve been slowly accumulating my Christmas money and I’m almost ready
to spend it.

I’ve gotten some rave reviews from a couple of people in my town
regarding the fine silver jewelry I made, especially with respect to
the French ear-hooks I made from 22 gauge fine silver wire, because
those people who could not ever wear jewelry before were able to wear

So I think I am on to something. Eventually I can work with sterling
like the big boys and girls on Orchid, but for now I think there is
still a world to explore as far as transforming Silver Valley Sunshine
Mine commercially pure ingot into wearables are concerned.

Which implies I need more ear wire. I’ve got my Contenti compact
rolling mill, and it works fine, except that it puts sharp edges in
the wire and so clearly I need at least one drawplate.

My question of the moment is this: if I have $100 to spend (free
shipping to make it fair), which door should I take:

Door #1: A single tungsten carbide drawplate which will help me make
a life time of ear wire and round frame (and I can hammer it flat for


Door #2: Spend $8 on a carbon steel drawplate, so I can spend money
on more consumables to get a jump start this coming spring?

Just HOW much will a carbon-steel drawplate last me for small gauge
wire? A year? A month? Enough to give me some room to maneuver? Or do
I have to take the hard road and get the most durable product I can
get immediately?

Monty Hall, eat your heart out.
Andrew Jonathan Fine

Using a draw plate on silver or sterling material, a carbon steel one
should outlast you if you take care of it and lube your wire before
pulling!!!Buy the steel one and get some other tool(s) that you
really need to do your work. If nothing else, if you ware out the
steel plate in a few/number of years, you will have enough $$ to get
what ever you need/want (hopefully)!!!

john dach

I’ve been using steel drawplates for years, and they certainly last
far longer than months, but…

Low quality steel drawplates are not very accurate and often give a
rather poor finish to the wire. High quality steel ones are not a
lot cheaper than TC ones, which are far more accurate and give a
nicely polished finish. The TC plates often have much better step
sizes - mine are marked in accurate metric sizes whereas the steel
ones just have numbers that purport to being (approximate) gauge
sizes. My TC plates are for round wire only, so I have to use the
steel ones for special shapes.

For uniform sized strips I first make wire and roll it lengthways in
the mill. The problem lies in what sized wire to use to make strip of
a particular width and thickness. To that end I developed a computer
program (Windows only) that calculates what sized square or round
wire should be used to make a strip of specific size. Contact me if
you want a copy.

Regards, Gary Wooding

An $8 draw plate is likely going to be a piece of junk. A good
quality carbon steel draw plate like

is $61. I would get one like that and some materials.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


It’s okay, I made my own decision.

Today I got:

  1. a 93 hole carbide drawplate from FindingKing.

  2. a #0-00 tap and die set with tap wrench, from a local machine

I made a good pendant from silver and wood using epoxy as a gift to
my wife, and I will make my own silver nuts and bolts to replace the
use of the epoxy.

I think at least one carbide drawplate is going to be essential as a
starting point, using feedstock from my rolling mill.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

Door #1: A single tungsten carbide drawplate which will help me
make a life time of ear wire and round frame 

I think you answered your own question with that. Get the Tungsten
lined draw plates…It truly will be the last draw plate you will
ever buy. I have both plates from Rio, large and small. Take care of
these and they will outlast you.

The big advantage with the TC plates is they draw the wire leaving a
bright finish. Its almost impossible to damage the carbide liners.
You do have to treat them like a precision tool. Meaning, clean it
after every use and find a special place for the plate to call home.

If you are drawing tiny wire, you will appreciate the TC plate much,
much more…I draw 24K gold down to about 0.015" (0.3mm) without too
much of an issue, smaller than that is a challenge.

Hope that helps. Buy right and buy once.

The first drawplates I bought were cheap, Indian made. Thought I was
getting a bargain - square, round and half round. All utterly

Hole gradients were way out of whack - huge jumps down. And they all
made grooves and scars in the metal I actually managed to pull

Things may have changed in ten years, but I doubt it. Unless someone
in Orchid land can suggest a reasonable middle road, go for the good
one, even if it leaves you short for consumables.

Jane Walker in sunny, summertime Perth, Western Australia.

a carbon steel one should outlast you if you take care of it and
lube your wire before pulling!!!Buy the steel one and get some
other tool(s) that you really need to do your work. 

Realizing that Andrew posted today that he bought his drawplate.
Often here on Orchid there’s something about tools, and some will
say, “Buy the best.”, and that’s not a bad thing. I would temper
that a bit and say to buy the right tool, which is not necessarily
the best. Andrew is going to pull a certain amount of wire, he’s
probably going to abuse his new drawplate just because he’s new at
it. A good steel plate would work just fine. I have several that are
many years old, with light use, and they are like new. Yes, my
everyday, round wire drawplate is carbide.

My Lindstrom chain nose pliers cost $65, and have features I prefer

  • long skinny tips, for one. But a student can do just fine with
    $10, decent quality pliers until their work finances premium tools,
    and they learn why they can do the job better.

That’s different from saying to buy “cheap tools”. I’m not saying
that -sometimes moderate price and “good” quality is enough.

Hello Andrew,

Don’t waste your money on the $8 drawplate! You are just buying

Check out my blog, where I have a post on draw plates.

If I were you I would go with the tungsten carbide draw plate. The
reason is because the wire will come out polished! Tungsten Carbide
is very tough, but brittle so don’t use your draw plate for anything
other then drawing wire and tube. Don’t let the draw plate frame that
the inserts are in throw you, these can look terrible, like some
cheapy tool from Harbor freight but once you pull a few wires you
will know why these are truly the King’s of draw plates. Check out
Rio Grande’s plate, this is a pretty good plate for the money.

When working with wire as small as you will be using, you will need
to use a pair of draw tongs. If you use pliers you will just crush the
draw dog (the tapered end of the wire), which will cause you to
reform it repeatedly, is a “waste” of materials and gets old quick. I
used the word waste figuratively, because even the “waste” can be

I suggest these tongs:

You should use a lubricant like Burlife or beeswax. You don’t need
to over do it, the tungsten inserts will not rust, you are only
greasing the gears so the wire draws smoother. Before I get Emails,
yes tungsten rusts, but not in the same way that steel rusts; the
darkening will not effect the drawplate.

I know the option I gave costs more then $100. If you go this route
you will have a much better go of it then if you try and go the
cheapy route and end up fighting with your tools.

By the way, where can you even get a $8 drawplate?

Take Care Andrew, I hope you enjoy drawing wire, it can be a lot of
fun! Kenneth, DynastyLab

Door #1: A single tungsten carbide drawplate which will help me
make a life time of ear wire and round frame 

Another consideration is that the lower your skill level is, the
more you NEED excellent tools.

Andrew -

Beware of that source for tools. When I was just starting out, I
bought a set of drawplates from Finding King. What I got was not as
advertised - two of one plate, none of another, crappy quality, and
a missing tool. When I tried to get a resolution, all I got was
delay, delay, and no remedy. I finally left negative feedback right
before my opportunity ran out…they socked it to me just after that.

Later, Finding King offered that if I would remove my negative
feedback, they would remove theirs from my rating (which had been at
100-% positive before that)…I said ‘no’. They had failed to do
anything to resolve the issue, and I would not help conceal their
poor customer service. I prefer to keep my voice free and honest.

What I learned from that experience was that if I could not afford
the best tools, I probably could afford the next best, or the
next…but the cheapest tools almost always cost me more money.

best regards,
Kelley Dragon

Another consideration is that the lower your skill level is, the
more you NEED excellent tools. 

And how! Although a year has passed since I started practicing
seriously earlier in 2011 and I am a little further along than the
past year.

  1. I’m more or less comfortable with the forging/annealing cycle of
    shaping and fusing fine silver, using both propane for coarse work
    and butane for fine work. Which, for the most part, is frames for
    pendants. I can ball up silver and make lots of French hooks from 22

  2. In my initial appeal last year, one person had sent me a
    magnificent gift of sterling silver scrap, and I obtained that
    person’s permission to cash it in for a rolling mill. I’m now
    familiar with a compact rolling mill to make wire. Sheet, not yet,
    because its a pain in the tush to change the rollers and I’d rather
    not until I have reason for a production run. But I need wire all
    the time. The wire, however, has sharp edges, hence my need for a
    drawplate, which will open the door to making not only ear wire but

  3. I’m ready to make my own nuts and bolts out of silver and a #0-00
    tap/die pair, now that I have the practice doing same with #4-40 and
    aluminum. That way I can do away with the epoxy for above pendants.

  4. I now grok the basics of jeweler’s saw on a bench pin, at least
    for cutting straight lines and jump rings, tho I still break a blade
    from time to time.

  5. I give up on using my flat lap to make cabs, instead I’ll use it
    to shape closely fitting pieces that I’ll drill holes with and
    connect together with silver nuts and bolts.

  6. I’ve been able to use my tabletop CNC to engrave JPEGs onto
    aluminum cookware. Excellent practice for brass, then copper, then
    silver later. Yes, a $1500 machine and $1200 software can make idiot
    like me look good.

  7. I’ve learned how to carve and polish basic shapes of exotic wood
    and elk ivory.

  8. I haven’t sold a thing yet, but I’m getting lots of high fives and
    hugs from the people I am giving away these attempts to.

Between this summer and winter I had used my Ticket To Work to make a
work attempt writing software for a defense company, but they gave me
my walking papers on the 18th (of December) and so it didn’t work
out. We didn’t save any money at all because I had to pay the
mortgage on my house and pay rent on an apartment, with the workplace
being two hours drive otherwise. I had ceased the silver-smithing
during the entire six months of the work attempt.

So I’m unemployed again, and still unemployable due to depression
and PTSD, but my SSDI will continue, and as long as I and my family
are frugal we can survive on it.

So at this point I will now say that I may have become an advanced
white belt (half white/half yellow) as a technical artist in
silver-smithing. My daughter (age 8) just got her advanced white belt
in karate, and took third place in a tournament, so she and I both
have something to be proud of.

I’ve spent six months saving my $50 per month allowance to electrify
my shed, and as a Christmas present my father is matching the funds I
save to do this. This will open the door to my being able to use my
Paragon miniature kiln that I bought in 2009 but were never able to
safely use yet, for either porcelain parts, glass fusing, and

I’m really grateful to all the people who answered my original
appeal for equipment, supplies, and books to help me teach myself the
very basics which I had mentioned above. You have all kept me sane.

But I am aware that more people have joined this group and therefore
have not heard from me. And, of course, those who have heard from me
probably have generated yet more debris from their own activities.

And so I will make my next appeal, which will be tightly focused and
targeted because thanks to you all I now have an apprentice workshop.

  1. I am most in need of leftovers for fusing glass and enameling.
    Please, if you have any leftover glass or frit, sorted or unsorted,
    can you send it to me? It will help me build confidence in my kiln
    without my having to waste money on good materi al.

  2. I also would appreciate any and all high speed steel setting burs
    with a little bit of life left in them: ball, hart, flame, or other it
    really doesn’t matter.

  3. I’m always in need of abrasive or polishing wheels/tips, if
    you’ve got the odd one left over from a package that you can’t use
    that would really help.

I know I got some flames last year from people who thought I was too
brazenin asking for help. That’s one reason why I decided to list my
progress, to convince those people that I wasn’t just simply
hoarding, but learning. I’ve tried to treat each of your gifts as
precious (no… not “my precious” lol) and to not use them unless I
judged the reason to be compelling, because I would never know how
soon I could replacement.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays, or
whatever turns you on.

Andrew Jonathan Fine

I’ll second John’s comment on sometimes going with moderately priced
mid-range items. I just got a draw plate and tongs for Christmas, and
given both the state of my husband’s budget in this economy and my
uncertainty as to how much I’m actually going to use it, I had him
get me a relatively cheap draw plate, but better grade tongs. I have
arthritis and carpal tunnel in both hands and wrists, and felt the
good tongs were going to matter more. Until I know if I’m going to
use the draw plate a lot spending big money on one seemed less than
sensible. If I find I am going to use it a lot, then I’ll look at
buying a really nice one. if it turns out to be one of those tools I
use rarely, then no need to spend big money on it.

Since I’ve managed for years without one it obviously isn’t a “must
have” for me at this point…

I prefer to spend the big money on tools I know I’ll be reaching for
often. and go with less expensive versions of things I rarely use.
Mostly that works well - with the odd tool out where cheap simply
isn’t worth having.

And sometimes the cheap tool actually will do a certain job better
than an expensive one. I have a friend who makes very unique
dichroic glass jewelry, and her entire technique is built on a flaw
in a cheap hobby version glass kiln that lets her do things with the
glass you can’t in a “quality” kiln. so you never know!

Beth Wicker

Beth, what kind of flaw is in the kiln your friend uses that lets
her “do things with the glass that you can’t in a quality kiln?”