Straightening sterling wire

I need help srtaightening sterling wire.

My current method is to hang a 5 or 6 ft piece with pliers on
the bottom for weight, and play the torch along the wire until
just before a dull red. It takes several passes along the length
of the wire but I end up with straight pieces. Then I can pickel
and anneal the wire in the shorter (6 in or so) lengths.

Is there a quicker or easier way to do this?

Any suggestions will be welcome

If we aren’t supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?


We roll our wire between two steel bench blocks to straighten
it. Works great. Any two smooth flat surfaces should work
though I would think that a little weight would help. Liz

Hi , If you put one end of the wire in a vise and the other end
in sturdy pliars, you can stretch it a bit. This will make your
wire perfectly straight. Have a good day. Tom Arnold

We straighten wire by putting one end in a vise and the other in
a hand twist drill. Under tension twist until straight -
depending on the length and type of material this might be 5-20
turns of the handle. Make sure you back off a few turns to
release the built up tension before releasing the wire. This
will work harden the wire and also might expose any flaws. Tom

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a compact drill for your jewelry projects? We recommend:

One good way to straighten wire is to stretch it. I do a fair
amount of wire wrap, and used to fiddle with the stuff
interminably, trying to get all the wires straight, until I
discovered that I could grab each end of the wire in a pair of
pliers, and pull until I felt the wire “give” and stretch.
Straight in seconds, and the wire was somewhat work hardened
also. As I recall, Charles Lewton-Brain has recommended putting
one end of the wire in a vise, nailing a cleat to the table the
vise is mounted on, twisting the other end of the wire around a
stick, and prying the stick against the cleat to stretch and
straighten the wire. I’m sure Mr. Lewton-Brain’s idea is the
better one, particularly if you are dealing with a heavy gauge of


  My current method is to hang a 5 or 6 ft piece with pliers
on the bottom for weight, and play the torch along the wire
until just before a dull red. It takes several passes along the
length of the wire but I end up with straight pieces.  Then I
can pickel and anneal the wire in the shorter (6 in or so)

This method sounds involved and risky, because heating a thin
piece of wire in mid-air is difficult to control.

A wire straighening method that works well for me (whether the
wire is annealed or hardened) is to fasten one end in a vise and
then hold the other firmly in a hand vise or locking pliers.
Stretch out the wire completely and give it a firm, sharp tug to
stretch its length a few millimeters to centimeters, depending on
the length of the wire. This accomplishes a few things: It
straightens the wire perfectly. It also lengthens it a small
amount, thins it a small amount and it also hardens the wire
partially, which helps keep it straight after stretching.

Alan Revere
Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
San Francisco

Hi Bob,

Here’s another way, it works with wire of any material, size &
length from about 1 ft to 25+ ft.

  1. Clamp 1 end of the wire in a bench vise . 2. Place a hook in
    the chuck of a drill (an electric drill works faster than the
    eggbeater type).

  2. Twist a loop on the remaining end of the wire.

  3. Place the loop over the hook & holding the drill firmly,
    stretch the wire taut.

  4. Start the drill & twist the wire about it’s own axis until
    it’s straight or the wire breaks (it usually breaks at one of the
    ends unless there’s a nick somewhere between the ends).

You may notice twist marks on the wire after it’s twisted, but
these disappear when the item is polished. This method also ‘work
hardens’ the wire. If a softer wire is required, the twisted wire
will have to be annealed.

If you are only going to straighten a short length, about 1 ft
or so, a pin vise can be substituted for the drill & it can be
twisted manually.

This technique also works well to harden wire for chain making
for links that won’t be soldered. A link made from hardened wire
requires much more force to open.


You can straighten wire by annealing it and pulling it through a
drawplate. Use the hole for the same gauge as your wire.

Visit me or “beam me up” at:

Anneal your wire and place one end in a vise that is securely
mounted. Take the other end of the wire in a pair of draw tongs
or heavy pliers or vise grips. Pull on the wire until you feel
it stretch a bit. Release tension on the wire and remove from
the vise.

Steven Brixner - Jewelry Designer - San Diego CA USA

I’m totally unable to visualize how this wire-straightening
method suggested by several contributors works. I’m still very
new at this, but putting one end of a wire into a drill and
turning drill on is how one twists wire… so how does it make it
straight? Also… isn’t a wire that breaks while being turned
by a drill a fairly dangerous loose cannon? Clearly I’m
missing something; pls. illuminate! thanks Ryr

When I need to unkink a piece of wire, I anchor both ends of it
firmly and apply pressure to the middle of it. Somewhat like
drawing a bowstring, if you like.

This is better than putting direct tension on the length of the
wire because you can control it much better, as I learned through
hard experience. When I make three-strand twist (which I produce
in a method very like rope-making) it is sometimes necessary to
stretch it for a bit in order to make it smoother, and back
before I used the bowstring technique I had several occasions
when I pulled too hard and broke the wire.

Recently I was using some exotic color of gold in a twisted
strand and was just a bit too conservative when I made it - I
knew I needed at least seventeen and a half inches to finish the
knot, and when I measured my strand it was exactly seventeen
and a half inches overall . . . not much margin! So I annealed
it and stretched it several times, adding about an inch and a
half to the length before I was done. I anchored the ends and
pressed on the middle, only moving it by about a half an inch
each time. I could probably have gone a full inch each time, as
gold is so malleable, but I find taking my time is a lot more
productive than trying to hurry things along.

As it turned out, I trimmed about a half an inch of excess
twisted wire from the ends when I finished off the knot. So much
for my calculations!! :wink:

Loren Damewood

Hi Ryr,

To straighten or harden a wire by twisting with a drill, use the
following procedure.

  1. Clamp 1 end of the wire in a vise or fasten securely to a
    nonmovable object.

  2. Attach the other end securely to a hook clamped in the chuck
    of an electric drill.

  3. Draw the wire taut with the drill.

  4. While the wire is held taut with the dril, start the drill.
    This will cause the wire to twist about it’s own axis resulting
    in a wire that is straight & harder than before the twisting. If
    the wire breaks, stop the drill. Either the wire has reached its
    normal yeild point or there was a week spot due to a nick or
    some other kind of damage.

If just a short length of wire (under 6 ft) needs to be
straightened, secure 1 end in a vise, hold the other end securely
in a visegrip pliers or equal, draw the wire taut & give it a
sharp pull (a jerk really).


I will assume that what we are all looking for is PERFECTLY
straight wire. I was shown a method years ago that involves
straightening short pieces(2"-4"). Put an end of the wire in the
chuck of the flex shaft and tighten. A pair of half-round/flat
ended pliers is used to loosely grip the wire starting at the
chuck. SLOWLY turn the flex shaft(foot pedal) while the wire is
turning gently bend the wire towards oneself(with the half-round
part of the pliers closest to you(I truly wish MPEG stuff could
be supported by internet-it would save words). Like wringing out
a towel full of water is how I would describe this straightening
process. Also, slow flex shaft speed is necessary, for at high
speeds the wire could(and has) beat severely. Again, starting at
the chuck and wringing out the wire with very little pressure with
the pliers has proven to me to be easy. One added extra: the
pliers need to be polished for nicks and screw-like indentions
could occur with too much pressure with the pliers. Good luck.

If you take a round wire, and twist it, you are distorting the
metal, but the overall shape stays the same, since although the
round wire is being twisted, there is nothing in the shape to
show that fact, so it still looks round, for the most part.

The twisting straightens it because you are also putting a bit
of tension on the wire pulling it straight as you twist. What
happens is this:

When you bend or distort metal, up to a certain point, it is
elastic and springs back when you release the force. But once
you exceed the elastic limit of the metal, it permanently “flows”
into it’s new shape. (Actually, atomic planes in the crystal
structure are slipping past each other, somewhat like taking a
deck of cards and pushing the top of the deck sideways, so the
side of the deck, formed of all the card edges, is now angled) ,
distorting the shape of crystal grains) that final shape it
takes on is the result of ALL the forces acting on the metal, not
just the strongest ones. So the twisting provides enough force
to overcome the elastic limit of the metal, and it takes a
twist. But since at the same time, there is tension on the
metal, it also becomes straight, even though that tension would
not have been enough to overcome the metals elastic limit by
itself, and there is not enough tension on it to cause much

Obviously, the twisting method only works well with round wire,
unless what you want is twisted square (or other shape) wire
that’s nice and straight…

You can also do as I, and several others advised, instead of
twisting, just pull harder, until the metal’s elastic limit is
exceeded. When that happens, you’ll feel the metal “give”, and
it stretches.

Both methods work, but there are practical differences that may
favor one method over another.

Drawn round wire, at least from most drawplates, still has some
marks on it from the plate. Usually these are not obvious.
Twisting makes them more obvious. However, twisting does not thin
the wire at all. In fact, it can even sometimes very slightly
thicken and shorten it in a few metals, though usually the
surface roughness created negates the practical useability of
that minor effect. A straight pull is a bit more effective at
getting truly arrow-straight wire, and can work for any shape
wire. But for heavier guages of wire, especially in harder
metals, unless you’ve got a draw bench, it may not be possible
to pull hard enough by hand. Twisting generally is still
possible with these heavy wires and hard metals.

One other method has also been mentioned, simply pulling through
a drawplate. If the wire starts out annealed, and is pulled
straight, it MAY come out straight, since the plate, in thinning
the wire, is overcoming the elastic limit of the metal, and the
drawing tension is pulling the wire straight too. But this
depends very much upon the drawplate. The hole must be
absolutely uniform, and the hole must be completely concentric
where the wire leaves the plate, and the draw must be absolutely
perpendicular to the hole in the plate, or the drawing operation,
in work hardening the metal, will build up unevel stresses that
will cause the drawn wire to curl again when tension is
released. Few plates, other than drilled diamond dies, are quite
accurate enough to do this reliably time after time, and even
then, it’s not quite a sure thing. But the degree of curl left
after a first draw from an annealed state, is usally pretty
minor, and is often quite sufficient in practice.

Also… isn’t a wire that breaks while being turned
by a drill a fairly dangerous loose cannon? Clearly I’m
missing something; pls. illuminate! thanks Ryr

Well, if it’s a heavy wire, and you’re straightening with a
straight pull, and it breaks, the “whiplash” effect can turn the
straight wire into a tangle of crumpled wire around your ankles
as you fly across your shop… THAT’S the loose cannon… If
you’re twisting a wire, and the wire breaks, it doesn’t
immediately fly around. It just flops down and spins on it’s
axis. Also often gets a bit bent up, but it’s not exactly a
major disaster most of the time. Besides, you run the drill at
the lowest speed you can, in short bursts if needed, to keep it
under control. It’s not like you crank it up to several thousand
rpm and lock it on till it breaks… That might be dangerous,
though I’d imagine the wire would just break away at the drill
chuck with such abuse.

Hope this helps.

Peter Rowe

If the wire is fairly soft and not too heavy putting one end in
a vise and then using your body weight pull the other end with

A quick way to straighten sterling wilre is to place one end in
your bench vise, grab the other end with pliers or draw tongs and
give the wire a couple of sharp tugs. Works great for me, anyway.
Jerry in Kodiak


I suspect that part of how the twist-drill method works is to
shorten the wire and thereby apply tension to it.

You’re right, if the wire breaks, it will likely whip around
like a live thing. You should always wear eye-protection while
doing any of this stuff anyway.

The suggestion to draw the wire through the same size hole in a
drawplate could work, but I find that, in practice, it leaves too
much scarring on the wire. For other applications that might be
fine, but my work depends on the wire itself looking as clean as
possible at the end, without stress marks or scratches.

Drawing the wire to a smaller size, of course, eliminates this
problem - but is only practical if you need the smaller size!

Looking over the various methods offered, the most useful ones
involve annealing the wire and stretching it out a bit. If you
can control the amount of tension on the wire, or the actual
magnitude of the change in length, you’ll be fine. I wouldn’t
want to lengthen it more than a small percentage of the original
length in any given operation, say about 5%, depending on the
malleability of the metal involved. but there are various ways to
control that. A tension gage (well, a spring scale’d do) will
allow you to apply controlled tension, or holding the free end
next to some solid surface and measuring the distance moved,
either would work.

Loren Damewood

The trick behind both the twisting and stretching methods of
straightening wire is the same- you are work-hardening the wire
while keeping it straight and taut, so it stays straight when you
are done. The twisting method will work, however, it will have a
tight, spiral, almost faceted look if you start out with square
wire. You can twist round wire without changing it’s appearance.


Twisting wire between a drill and a vise seems to equalize any
bends in all directions and leaves the wire straight. It work
hardens the metal. I wouldn’t use a power drill since you need
more control. Unless you want to work harden the metal a lot, it
doesn’t take that many turns to do the trick. If the metal breaks
at the ends, it will go “sprong” and the tension in the wire will
release and leave you with a messy spiral of wire - so before
releasing the wire, be sure to back off a few turns of the drill
to release tension.

Doing this under as much tension as possible helps and with
thinner softer metal, just pulling hard with no twisting will
straighten the wire - its stretchs the wire a little.

Also, if there are any flaws in the wire, they will pop open or
show as visable lines parallel to the wire and spiraling as you
twist. If the lines are deep, they may prevent the wire from
straightening properly.

Tom Kruskal

I'm totally unable to visualize how this wire-straightening
method suggested by several contributors works.    I'm still very
new at this, but putting one end of a wire into a drill and
turning drill on is how one twists wire... so how does it make it
straight?    Also... isn't a wire that breaks while being turned
by a drill a fairly dangerous loose cannon?    Clearly I'm
missing something;  pls. illuminate!   

I tried this today for the first time with some gnarly copper
wire. I anchored one end in a clamp and the other end to my
hand drill and commenced to twisting. It significantly
straightened the wire, but did leave it slightly swirly on the
surface. The wire broke on the drill end and there was a stiff
straight piece of wire sticking out from the clamp. It didn’t
snap or move much at all. The wire was pretty work hardened. I
taught the kids how to make pin points today with it.

It was pretty cool.


Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a compact drill for your jewelry projects? We recommend: