How to make your own jewellery wire and common problems that occur when making wire are addressed in this jewellery tutorial.










In the goldsmith workshop wire is normally made from scratch. That means that the metal, like gold, silver or copper is melted and cast into an ingot.











The metal is then rolled to the appropriate thickness in the square sectioning of the roller. One can also purchase thick stock from supplier like Rio Grande or Stuller and then draw the wire down as needed.











Here I am annealing gold wire. I have rolled this wire carefully down to 2.5mm square out of my roller. I want to make myself a few lenghts of different diameter wire for stock. I'm using the torch in a circular motion, so that I heat the coil of wire evenly. I am using my normal torch tip because the amount of wire is not large, Were there more wire to anneal, I would use a rose bud tip, which gives a larger and stronger heat.











What I do is I roll the first 30mm of the wire down to a point, especially when it is still a bit thicker. It is of course also possible to file it down if there is no roller and the stock has been purchased from a supplier.








Here I am using drawing tongs. Start by pushing the tapered point through the drawplate hole. The wire is then pulled through the consecutivly smaller holes. These holes will change in diameter in increments of about 1/10th of a mm. As the wire is drawn through, and because the metal is being deformed in it's cold state, it will become harder and harder and will have to be annealed from time to time. On average about four to six holes. If the wire is not annealed, it will snap or crack. This is not desirable at all.







For instance, 18kt gold as shown here does not need as much annealing as say, 14kt, or 10kt gold. The rule of the thumb is that the less pure the metal (i.e more alloyed) the more annealing will be needed. Therefore sterling silver, for instance, will go quite a way before annealing is needed. 9kt gold, however will work harden much quicker. When wire is being pulled through the draw plate, a lubricant should be used. Bees wax is the traditional lubricant, but most oils like 3in1 or WD40 will do. My favourite is engine oil, but some don't like the smell.







Here is the finished result of a set of 18kt gold wire for the workshop. The bottom is 2mm wire, then 1.5mm wire. The left coil is 1mm wire and the right hand coil is .7mm wire. These are the most common thicknesses that are needed in an average workshop.







There are many different types of draw plates. As a draw plate decreases the wire diameter, so the wire will become longer.

The most common is round, obviously. The two draw plates shown to the right go from .5mm to 6mm. It is not possible to draw wire that is six mm in diameter by hand. For thick wire a draw bench is used.






A different round type of draw plate is one that has tungsten carbide inserts in it.





Tungsten carbide is a compound made out of carbon and tungsten It is formed into the correct diameter dies and then inserted into the steel draw plate. This draw plate is more expensive than a steel one but is able to draw materials much harder than gold. like titanium or steel. It gives a superior finish and lasts a very long time. However the cheap Chinese made ones are to be avoided as the carbide is not finished well off and the inserts are prone to crack.






Wire, by definition, need not be round. As the draw plates to the left illustrate, metal can be drawn to virtually any shape, including hollow. Common shapes, other than the two shown, include oval, hexagonal, square,  triangular and star. To be fair, these are seldom used in the average jewellery work shop, and are more likely to to acquired by tool junkies like myself, only to be used once in ten years, as in fact the teardrop shaped one was used.




Common Problems

Making wire does not come without problems. Most are easily solved, however.





The most common, without a doubt, is over rolling.  In this picture I have exaggerated the process, but what has happened is that the rolling mill has been tightened down too far. This results in the metal "spreading" out of the confines of the square groove.










In this picture I have greatly exaggerated the process of over rolling.







If one continues to roll the wire then the 'flashing' will fold over and back into the main body of the wire.









Should the wire then be drawn through a draw plate the result (somewhat exaggerated) will look like this picture. The wire then is unusable and will have to be discarded. The  right way is to be patient and roll the wire through the rolling mill with only small reductions. I promise you, that is faster that having to melt it all down and start again.








Another problem with drawing wire, although not so common as over rolling, is under annealing. This will cause the wire to snap or split. If this action happens when the wire has been annealed, then the problem can be that the metal is contaminated. However, by the time that all the rolling has been done, contamination of the metal will have become apparent.



Another difficulty, although not a problem as such, is the drawing of very thin wire. When wire goes beyond .5mm annealing becomes most important. It is also then that the quality of the draw plate comes to the fore. The filing of the taper must be done carefully too. Standard drawing tongs cannot be used. Rather parallel jaw pliers should be used.


If you have any questions please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hans Meevis


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