Rolling mills are a quick and easy way to transform your jewellery making metal. With our handy guide and YouTube video, you’ll discover tips and techniques on using a rolling mill to create beautiful jewellery, perfect for your latest precious metal projects.

How To Use A Rolling Mill

If using a rolling mill is something you’re new to, then don’t worry. We’ve collated all our tips on the rolling mill process and the best way to use it in this handy video.

The Basics of The Rolling Mill Process

Rolling mills are one of the more common jeweller’s tools seen in small and medium-sized workshops. In essence, the rolling mill machine is a simple one that shares many traits with a mangle. The traditional jewellery rolling mill will have steel rollers; this means that, when metal is passed between them, it becomes compressed, changing the gauge or even the shape of the piece. For example, a steel rolling mill will change a circle into an oval shape.

Rolling Mill for Jewellery Making

As a rough guide, when halving the thickness of the rolling sheet, you will double the length (if rolling in one direction). Rolling sheet metal should be a gradual process, and the resulting compression of the metal will mean that the metal will work harder.  Therefore, in between each stage of rolling, the metal will need to be annealed. Discover how to anneal metal here.

In addition to rolling sheet, many of today’s rolling mills for jewellery making can roll wires into square or D-shaped sections – this feature is ideal for creating a tapered or shaped effect.

Smaller rolling mill machines are more practical for a home workshop with one pair of rollers. Larger and automatic rolling mill machines are available for larger workshops. However, like all rolling mills for jewellery making, they must be secured to a firm and steady surface – many manufacturers recommend a dedicated stand bolted to the floor.

Using a Rolling Mill: Rolling Sheet

Rolling sheet is a common and extremely useful feature. First, ensure your sheet is prepared for rolling – this means that it should have been annealed, cleaned and dried. Once this is ready, adjust the width of the rollers – many rolling mill machines have a dial gauge to aid precise rolling gap measurement. As a physical test, try pushing the sheet between the rollers. If the sheet passes through, the rollers should be adjusted until it will not pass between them.

Once the rollers are in the correct position, the mill is ready to roll down the metal. When using a rolling mill, the sheet should be supported in one hand, whilst the other turns the handle, thus drawing the sheet through the rollers. The sheet should be caught as it comes through, and its thickness checked using a vernier/calliper. Then, using a rolling mill machine again, re-roll your sheet to achieve the required thickness.

The Rolling Mill Process: Creating Ovals

To create an oval shape using a rolling mill:

  1. Take a silver disc and set the rollers as you would for rolling sheet and feed the disc through.
  2. Once the disc has been through the steel rolling mill, check the thickness and length of the piece using a vernier or a calliper, and repeat the process as necessary.
  3. When feeding the oval through the rolling mill again, ensure that it is fed through the rollers in the same direction to ensure it elongates the oval.

Shaping Wire Using a Rolling Mill

Using a rolling mill with square grooves allows jewellers to shape metal into a square and taper round wires. Before starting the process, the wire must be annealed, pickled, cleaned and dried thoroughly. The wire is then pushed between the square grooves and the handle turned so the wire is drawn into the grooved section of the rollers – this then shapes it. To ensure the required shape is achieved by using a rolling mill, turn the wire each time by 90 degrees.

Forming D-Shape Wire with a Rolling Mill for Jewellery Making

Steel rolling mills with D-shape channels allow D-shape wire to be formed, and follow similar principles as shaping. The wire is fed through the D-shape section rollers and, once it has passed through, the thickness can then be checked. If it is not of the required thickness, simply repeat the process until complete.

Using a Rolling Mill: Best Practice

When using a rolling mill, consider the following best practice hints and tips:

  • Always use dry metal – any dampness will leave marks on the rollers and risk pitting.
  • Roll metal gradually as too much pressure may result in the piece cracking when next annealing.
  • Keep your rolling mill machine well maintained and oiled – to prolong the life of the machine.
  • Remove any marks on the rollers – clean with a damp cloth and acetone to remove dirt. For more stubborn marks, carefully remove with fine wet and dry paper and fine steel wool.
  • Keep the mill covered when not in use – this protects the rollers from any workshop debris.

Rolling mills are one of the more expensive jeweller’s tools, and although simple in nature, the rolling mill can be put to many uses. When buying a rolling mill machine, like many tools, you should buy the best mill you can afford, with the better rolling mills being more robust and having heavier and stronger rollers.

Now you know how to use a rolling mill, it’s time to give it a go yourself. If you need more information on jewellery rolling mills or to purchase your own, find everything you need from Cooksongold. Browse our complete range of jewellery tools today so you’re fully stocked up for your next project.

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Author: Cooksongold
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