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Wire pulling advice needed

hello all,

I need to learn about pulling wire through a block. I’ve never seen a
pulling block.

what are the earned techniques of your experience?

do you buy a specific range of stock gauges and pull the rest? why
not just use standard gauges from market?

what features have you desired in a pulling block.

my stocked gauges run from 8 to 32. .999Silver, Gold, and Copper at
this point. but I will be venturing into custom dimensions for my wire
work via the block I make.

what are the very best blocks to buy? why?

and how would I go about making my own from 0-1 sheet stock?

a drilled hole of the same gauge as the wire size desired after

should the wire hole be shaped in any way to ease the wire in, or
have a cutting bevel or sharp hole edges?

before I look at existing designs to buy

I want to understand what could be possibly done in the pulling
process with any imagined design. so I need to know how you Masters
use the wire pulling block.

though I may buy an example

I intend to make my own tools to my specs where possible.

so I’m looking for theory, technique, and design specs. and any thing
you got.


Hey Jim,

So many questions, and every answer will foster new queries. May I
refer you to books by Oppi Untracht and Erhard Brepohl. So far as
making your own, I really think this is one area where purchasing
quality will pay off in the long run. If you want to make good use of
the draw plate, DO make your own pulling bench. There are some great
ideas and instructions in the Orchid archives. (BTW, use the word
drawplate to search.)

Judy in Kansas, USA


Many of us make our own wire because we don’t like to wait to have
stock mailed to us, don’t like the limited selection available, the
price charged for the manufactured wire, and a lot of us are in too
big a hurry. When we build custom projects, we often need
custom-shaped stock, and off the rack stock often will not suffice. If
you stock your own wire, then you have lots of different sizes on
hand, right? How much money do you have tied up in all that stock?
18K or platinum wire? You’re talking a fortune in stock. I make what I
need, as I need it, as much or as little as I need, and in the exact
size and shape required. And if I screw something up while
fabricating, then I just make more. No tears, no swearing, no having
to get on the phone and order more stock. You just make more. Yes,
there is labor and time involved to make stock. That is part of
metalsmithing, in my mind.

I have a student who is making several link chains out of 20 ga.
Argentium wire. She is going through many feet of that each day in
class. Of course she is buying that much wire ready-made.

I would not advise you to make your own drawplate. Way too much work
when they are available fairly cheap. Don’t spend your money on the
pricy carbide-insert models. Too expensive, and vulnerable to damage.

You’ll need to put a long, slender taper on the wire you pull
through the drawplate, and I’d recommend learning how to do that with
a rolling mill. Very fast with no loss of material. You must then
anneal the tapered part, as the entire wire must be annealed before
drawing. Start with the hole in the drawplate that is the next size
smaller than the hole the wire completely goes through. You will pull
through the tapered side of the plate, out the numbered side.
Generally speaking, make square stock 2 gauges larger than the round
stock you want to end up with, taper, anneal, and start pulling. Small
ga. wire can be done by hand by putting the drawplate in a vise and
pulling with tongs, but bigger wire will require a drawbench ( mine
was less than $200 sent to my door).

I think a video on wire drawing will be made soon at my studio.
There are lots of questions out there on how this process is done, so
I need to get busy making the video!

Jay Whaley

Don't spend your money on the pricy carbide-insert models. Too
expensive, and vulnerable to damage. 

Maybe with silver, that’s true. But with higher karat gold or
especially platinum, the high finish they can give more than
justifies their cost when you’re working with a metal that can
benefit from and retain that finish on the wire throughout the
fabrication process. The carbide also seems to generate less
friction/drawing resistance than does steel, so some metals are
noticeably easier to pull. And some of these are no more expensive
than the high quality Italian steel drawplates. It’s true that some
lack some strength. I’ve cracked my share of the inserts, usually in
the larger wire sizes while drawing white golds. If properly
annealed, often enough, though, even the harder white gold alloys do
just fine. And if you spend a bit more on the higher quality carbide
plates, they are much less prone to breaking. It’s the cheap ones
from mainland China that are more fragile, but even those, if used
with some care in the larger wire sizes, do just fine.



Don't spend your money on the pricy carbide-insert models. Too
expensive, and vulnerable to damage. 

I’m planning on investing in drawplates and find it interesting that
you don’t recommend carbide-insert drawplates. You may have saved me
a few dollars.

What drawplates do you recommend for pulling mostly sterling silver

Rick Copeland

Don't spend your money on the pricy carbide-insert models. Too
expensive, and vulnerable to damage. 

While I would not suggest a beginner start out with carbide as they
are pricey you cannot beat the surface finish of wire pulled through
a quality carbide drawplate unless you go with diamond draw dies.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

I always recommend the carbide inserts, I hate have tool that don’t
hold up. Also the best trick I ever learn for drawing wire if you do
not have a draw bench Take 2 bricks an put them on the floor about 3
-4 inch apart put the draw plate on top of the brick with the hole
sizes you need to draw in the middle of the open space, then stand
on the edge of the draw plate and pull up. You have the full strength
and height of your body. It works great for heavy gauges and you
never end up falling on your butt from the wire breaking.


Hi Rick,

I draw my wire by hand and I use the carbide insert models with
beeswax. If I weren’t mechanically drawing by hand then I’d say go
for the less expensive models. But I don’t draw a lot of wire at a
time and I like it to be easy as possible. Hope that helps.

Jennifer Friedman

I have just published a diagram showing a simple drawbench utilizing
a boat winch and notes on fitting a belt and draw tongs, on my
Ganoksin blog: On Your Metal.

I can be contacted through the ‘comments’ for further if

Hi David,

I’ve got the boat winch, although I chose to get a lever action
instead of a rotary… I figure more of a space saving.

I’m going to make mine out of stainless steel, just for maintenance

Regards Charles A.

I too got adventurous and built a draw bench for my studio. I used
an 8 inch wood beam re-purposed from an old front porch remodel. It
works fantastic with the 1500 pound boat wench. I discovered,
however, that the length of the bench was way too long for my reach,
which caused me problems in turning the crank and trying to hold the
draw tongs tight around the wire until it gets a good grab from the
pulling action. Just something to keep in mind for other DIY-ers, as
I ended up having to shorten the beam.

Also to save studio space, I put handles on the side of the beam so
I could stand it up into a corner when not in use.

I have discovered that I am only using it for pulling thick heavy
wire down to manageable size. Once I get my wire down to around 18
gauge, it is easier and faster to just pull it by hand through draw
plates held in the large vise that sits atop my tree stump. I just
grab it with the tongs, brace my feet up against the stump and give a
good steady pull. Not only is it good exercise, but I am getting
great results with nice even wire.


I also use the “boat winch” method but use a pair of Vise Grip
locking pliers to hold the wire. I had a welder put on a 1/4" steel
loop big enough for the hook on the strap to fit through. Works

PS: you describe yours as the 1500 pound boat “wench”…I think I
may have dated that girl!!

Piping up here to let you know that Art Jewelry magazine, January
2011 issue has a pretty good Wire 101 article about making your own
wire. Very informative and an easy beginner way to learn about
drawing wire. Mags worth it just for some pretty cool ideas. Love
the article on the hidden toggle clasp.