How to use the draw plate - small tutorial  

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I bought the draw plate recently to change the shape of my wire from round to square and I have already used it once on making the wire for the pendant in my previous post.
I've looked all over the net for tutorials on how to use the draw plate with pictures (I'm a visual person and I prefer to see than just to read the text), but I couldn't find anywhere one. So I've decided that while I was making my second wire, I would take a few pictures and explain the process, in hope that somebody might find it interesting and useful enough to read it *grins*. If I helped only one person in the process, I am happy :)

The draw plate is used for two main actions with the wire.
- to get thinner gauges of wire (if you don't have that particular wire thickness at the moment, but have something thicker that you don't really need)
- to change the shape of the wire
You can get drawplates with all sorts of shapes. Square, half round (or half square, it's the same), oval, stars, etc
Because my main reason to buy a draw plate was to get myself some square wire for border wrapping, this is the shape I bought the draw plate in.

My method might not be the fastest, or the best, or even the second best *grins*, but this is what worked for me.

1. Because the wire needs to somehow fit through a whole smaller than itself, it needs at least to get even if just a tiny bit through, so it can be grabbed with a plier and pulled through from the other side.
I used my flush cutter to cut the end of my wire and at nice wide angle, to allow for some longer thinner wire so it can get to the other side.

2. Next you need to put the wire through various holes in the draw plate until you find the one that no matter what, it won't go through just by pushing it with your fingers.
As you can see from the picture, I found the size I needed at the hole below the number 13. See that little blob there poking through? That's the little piece of the wire I cut the half of it away in the previous step. It only comes through maybe 1-2 mm, not anymore because the cut ends and the wider part stops it.

3. Now put the draw plate in a wise (mine is an ancient one I bought used which I am also using for holding the coil when I'm cutting rings with my Koil Kutter) to stay secured and without to move. You need a bit of strength in your arm to pull the wire through, so you need resistance from the draw plate to hold it in place. (see the picture of the plate in the vise in step 5)

4. Before you start, you need some kind of lubricant for the wire, so it can glide through the hole easier. I've used a 3 in 1 multipurpose oil, but I've even heard somebody rubbing a candle against the wire. Whatever works to lube.

5. And now the fun part. Pulling the wire through the hole. I used my trusted chain nose plier, although I've heard others to use regular pliers, not the smaller ones for jewelry. I would have used them too except I didn't have any of those in my vicinity and I was lazy to go down to the storage room to bring up one of hubby's.
You grab the tiny end of the wire that is poking through and pull it a bit and again a bit, until more of it it's through so you can actually grab more of the wire, more securely. Once this bit is done and you've gotten hold of more wire in your pliers, with one hand hold onto the draw plate, or the vice (I had to stop to use one hand to take a shaky picture), and with the other, slowly but firmly start pulling the wire. During my first attempt I thought it won't go through. But do perserve as you will feel after 2-3 smaller pulls that the wire gives and it does come through. Once you've done this one time, you will know how strong to pull.
The most important is to try to pull it in one slow, constant and firm motion, so all the wire comes through. Reason is that if you stop in the middle (like I did, as I had to take the picture), you might create kinks in the wire.

Once you've pulled the wire to the other side, do it again, and then again.

After pulling it through 3 times, I stopped. Reason is because the wire started to work harden, and if I had pulled it one more time, I couldn't have used the wire for wrapping unless I've annealed it first, to make it softer again. And that's something I still need to learn how to do.
However, after 3 pulls through the plate, my wire became something between half square and square anyway, which is perfect for what I need. Actually some people even swear on using half square wire instead of full square for border wrapping. For me it definitely works what I've created after 3 pulls through.

If you want to continue, then here you can anneal the wire, and then pull it through again.
I've noticed on my wire, however, that already by the 3rd pull, it came much easier through the square hole. This is because the wire also becomes thinner (and longer) in the process.
Usually what you need to do here is to take the very next (smaller) hole and start pulling it through that hole, using the procedures described above, until you have the thinness and squareness that you are happy with.

I hope in this basic tutorial I gave you an idea of how to go about drawing wire. Once you got the hang of it, you can do much more with it, improve the techniques a lot, or even use various mills instead of the draw plate. But a mill costs a minimum of $200-300, while the draw plate cost me around $50. As it does the job the way I want it, I can use the rest of the money to buy more wire :)

Btw, thanks for the folks at the Starving Artist forum who gave me bunch of useful tips when I first asked about using a draw plate. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure I'd have attempted using it on my own or even purchased it in the first place.
A few months ago when I went to a basic metalworking class (that I left soon after), the teacher strongly discouraged me from using a draw plate without some machinery they had in the class to hold it in place, as he said, you just can't do it by hand. I've just proven that I can.


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