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Where To Hunt For Wire
Article © MAIL User: TigerKhan

I can remember when I first started making chainmaille that one of the biggest problems I encountered was not winding the wire, cutting the wire, or even mastering the weaving of the wire, but rather FINDING the wire. This article is to give all you new maillers out there some decent hints at where you can find wire locally. Also, before I begin, please realize that information on what types of wire different stores carry may vary with location and the individual store as well (especially independent mom and pop type shops). You should check out each type of store yourself to see what they carry.

HARDWARE STORES - Ok, so this is where most people start looking. It seems the obvious choice right? Well, truth be told the selection that you are going to find at most larger hardware stores (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) is usually pretty limited. The most common types of wire found here are 14 and 16 gauge galvanized and copper wire. Even then, the copper wire is electrical grade, which means that it is very soft. As for the galvanized, it is usually sold in smaller packages (usually packaged by the foot (100 ft, 200 ft, etc)) and although cheap, it will run you more than what you can get it in bulk elsewhere. I have heard stories that some people have found mild steel and stainless steel in hardware stores, but I have never personally seen it.

WAL-MART - Who would have thought it? I was just in a Wal-Mart recently when I stumbled across some galvanized and aluminum wire. The galvanized they carried was 14 gauge and was cheaper than the hardware stores wire by about $2.00 for 100ft. The aluminum they carried was in thinner gauges (around 18 - 24, I believe). Also they had some colored mystery wire there (which most times I have found is enameled copper or coated copper) around the same gauge sizes as the aluminum ,which may be fun to play with.

FARM SUPPLY STORES - Having a reputation as 'Fence Wire' has earned galvanized steel a spot in farm stores everywhere. This is probably one of your best bets for galvanized steel wire if you have one locally, as they usually sell high volumes of the wire for a rather low cost. Again, I have heard rumors that other types of wire can be obtained at these type of stores, but I haven't been able to verify that.

HOBBY STORES - Most of the hobby stores around where I live are rather useless when it comes to wire. However, I wouldn't count them out. Many hobby shops are owned and operated locally (although there are franchised ones out there as well), which means that you're less likely to encounter a 'standard stock' like you would with a franchised store. I personally know some people that have been able to get different types of smaller gauge wire around where they live from hobby shops.

ARTS AND CRAFT STORES - Arts and Craft stores generally stock wire around 18 gauge and smaller. The wire they carry is usually the 'artistic wire', which is almost always enameled copper, (in some places they may be coated differently), which means that you will have a wide selection of colors to choose from.

WELDING SUPPLY STORES - This is probably your best source of wire. I have been able to find brass, bronze, stainless, aluminum, bright aluminum, and much, much more at these store types. The cost is reasonably priced, and the wire you can find is available in many gauges. There are even specialty welding supply stores that will stock your more 'rare' metals like titanium. Look in your yellow pages under 'Welding Supplies' to find one near you.

JEWELING SUPPLY STORES - Jewelers have to get their wire from somewhere, and it's no surprise that it often comes from a jewelry supply store. They can often times be hard to find in some areas. Check in your phone book under 'Jewelry Supplies' to find one near you. They usually stock your more 'precious' metals like silver and gold. You can also find nickle-silver here. From what I have found, most do not stock platinum off hand, but can special order it for you. On a side note, these metals vary in price by the day depending on how the market closes the previous day. So, if you're in the market for precious metals, watch for a day when the price is low to get it.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS - There are many online suppliers of wire and rings. It's there that I personally can find wire I can't find locally. If you can't find what you are looking for locally, poke around online and see what you can dig up. A lot of times you can find some stunning deals on bulk wire, and sometimes even on smaller quantities (especially on precious metals). Watch the shipping cost though, as it ultimately increases your price per ring or per pound of wire.

IN CLOSING - Always remember that the wire you have heard about and are looking for exists out there somewhere. Don't get disheartened. With these tips on where to look, and an entire Internet full of wire for the avid mailler, at the very most, all it will take to get your wire is knowing where to look and patience. (And of course the cash! =P)

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