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Vintage Rolling Mill

I have the opportunity to buy a beautiful old rolling mill on a
cast stand the likes of which I have never seen. It is of the
type that had(this is the key word) two sets of rollers…one
flat on top and another set of square rolls down lower, but not
directly below the flat rolls. The square rolls were (note the
past tense!) placed in front of the flat ones, and you have to
lift a dog on the crankshaft and slide the shaft over to engage
the other set of rollers. As you have already gathered, the
square rolls are missing! It seems that the owner had removed
them and given them to a friend who had a friend in the machine
shop trade. He was supposed to true them up on one of his
machines. Now the really bad part of the story…the friend
passed away and the owner of the mill did not know who the
machinist was! I can buy the machine for $300.00 US. The rolls
are in good shape, but I am not sure whether I am limiting
myself…might I spend my money better? Is it possible to roll
out square stock on a flat mill?

Jim Malone
Diamond Point Metalsmiths

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Dear Jim, You can roll out square stock on a flat mill only if you
are Houdini. You need a mill with top AND bottom rollers grooved for
square stock. You must then roll it TWICE thru the mill, once through
will give you a shape that is a bit like a diamond (off center
square). You then roll it thru again “on the square”, which means
that you insert the “tall” side up in the mill and then you will
receive a good square wire. Do yourself a real big favor and invest
in a new mill with gear ratio and rollers that are still obtainable
without so much hassle. It will pay for itself if you do any
production at all. Good luck, Suzanne in Florida where there
may actually be an end to summer someday.

As Suzanne has mentioned, it is nearly possible to roll out a
marginally square wire using only the flat rollers of your mill. The
difficulty will be apparent rather quickly, as even with very equal
and slight reduction, the shape of the ingot will become unavoidably
a rhombus, (like a diamond or lozenge shape). Actually this isn’t
entirely a problem provided that you can start with an ingot which
doesn’t require a huge amount of reduction, and which can subsequently
be corrected by drawing through a square drawplate. Admittedly, it
isn’t the most practical means of accomplishing your objective, but it
is possible to produce a square wire this way if absolutely necessary,
given sufficient time, patience, and continual annealing. Especially
important are the patience and the annealing. Aspirin or a similar
agent may prove helpful as well. Good luck!