Making steel wire by hand (no machines/modern tech)
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Making steel wire by hand (no machines/modern tech)
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Posted on Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:52 pm
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This is a question that may effect multiple people so please answer!


Does anyone know a way to create STEEL wire by hand and without any modern things whatsoever apart from possibly scrap steel that can be melted/forged to create the wire? Please answer this if you know as I have not seen a thread on the subject!

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Posted on Thu Feb 09, 2017 10:29 pm
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Make Iron wire, pack it with charcoal into an airtight fireproof box, throw it in a furnace and heat dull red for 10+ hours, cool annd then open. the wire will have absorbed enough carbon to convert it to steel.


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Posted on Fri Feb 10, 2017 5:17 pm
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Thanks a lot for the reply! But how would one go about making iron wire?

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Posted on Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:18 am
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I would think the simplest method would be:
Ingot forged into rod, then repeatedly pulled through a draw plate until it reaches the desired gauge.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_drawing

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Posted on Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:31 am
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Iron ore (either dug or dredged from a swamp), lots of charcoal and a good steady draft (bellows, a chimney or fortunate prevailing winds). Burn for 8 to 24 hours and you get a spongy mass of Iron and slag. beat on it for some more hours with sledge hammers and you get a billet of wrought Iron (not an ingot because it never really melted). Then you do like Tedronal says.


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Posted on Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:11 am
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You're saying "make your own steel wire." Does this mean homestyle blast furnace -- I hope you have a decent source of coked hard coal -- or does this mean starting from steel rod such as you would obtain from either a smith or a water powered battering-mill, and running this through a drawplate? I assume you're doing this for the crafting satisfaction.

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Posted on Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:27 am
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Old-style wire drawing is done with a drawing mill -- two very stout reels rotated with heavy levers with the drawplate in a heavy frame between them. Your feedstock is a piece of mild steel rod stock with the starting end tapered a bit to fit through the first of the holes in the drawplate. You need a very strong mechanical grip on the rod end to drag it through that plate. With the first pass, the rod has been formed slightly skinnier and rather longer than it was. On to the next hole, slightly smaller yet in diameter; same outcome. Eventually this rod has become long enough and thin enough that it is useful to roll it around the reels, passing back and forth through the drawplate from reel to reel. With enough passes, you get the wire thinned and stretched out to about 18 gauge SWG -- that'd be about .048".

Modern style feeds the wire continuously in one direction, with forming dies in the place of the unitary drawplate and, between these, multiple reels doing the traction and all turning the same direction, running great lengths of rod stock from one end of the mill building to the other, spitting out wire at the far end. Basically, identical principle, but not reversing direction with every new hole diameter.

Anyhow, if you've got room -- there in London -- to set up a couple of wire drawing reels and fit in the ancillary parts, you're in business hand drawing steel wire. Soooo... how are you at woodworking and joinery? It won't need to be pretty, but it does have to be well and close fitted and built very strong to handle the load -- and still have the reels keep turning.


'The Minstrel Boy to the War is gone...'

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Posted on Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:21 pm
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Thank you so much for the replies, people! Very Happy
To Konstantin the Red:


What I mean when I say "make your own steel wire" is to either start with iron ore (preferably not) or start with ANY source of steel (rod, rectangle or circle). Once again, Thanks for the VERY informative replies! Smile My name says "Blacksmith 101 for a reason! Coif LoL

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Posted on Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:24 pm
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Also, I am ok in woodwork and joinery (made myself a couple of saws from scrap steel) so building one of those wire drawing mechanisms shouldn't be too hard...

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Posted on Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:17 am
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Apart from the woodwork, all you want is annealed high carbon plate in about any shape that will allow a hole to be bored in it, countersunk, and probably lapped; then heat treat. Maybe lap after the heat treat if you get scale. I presume you don't boast a nitrogen heat treat oven. No scale from them guys...

Maybe O-1 steel for drawplate(s)? For a reliable heat treat you really want to know your steel going in, and it is convenient to use a forgiving steel too.

Abrasion resistant steels like ATS-34 would make some serious drawplates, but they are not easy things to drill. They are even hard to grind. Intransigent, that's the word.

********************************
He's looking to do this sort of thing:

Yes, in both images the wire drawer is indeed sitting in a swing -- to use his leg muscles to pull the wire through the drawplate holes. The black and white portion shows up better here: http://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/kap_a/illustr/wire_drawing_compound.gif


This image is of a rig for silver wire drawing, but clearly depicts the drawing tongs and how it works, automatically tightening under load -- if it can't be bought it can be made.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8b/Wire-drawing-bench.jpg

A nicely rustic wire drawing bench that seems more the thing you have in mind. Drawplate is at the far end, drawing tongs in the middle of the bench, looking like the kind of tongs you can buy, and all powered by the drum and big lever to the right.

You're saying clear enough *what* you want to do. Still, we're curious *why* you're paying more attention to making the wire than making the mail. It still puzzles anyone on a mail-making forum. We're having -- at least I am -- some trouble seeing what your complete goal is, that you want to take this amount of trouble. They make some mighty good wire already; it doesn't even always need to come galvanized, and it can come annealed. Are you working on a historical demo or something, for a museum?

Even mail's PhD Erik D. Schmid of the Mail Research Society gets his wire from the suppliers for MIG welders and uses welding wire for mild steel. He anneals the stuff before using, in aid of getting the riveted, pent-roof-sectioned overlaps just perfect, but he doesn't and needn't draw his own. Oh, and he charges and gets ten cents US per link for this museum quality perfection of product. Those dimes add up to a lot of dollars into an item. Still, his income, the market for hand riveted museum-mail being what it is, is about US$10K in a year.


'The Minstrel Boy to the War is gone...'

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Posted on Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:30 pm
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Thanks for the reply! The reason why I'm asking on how to make wire on a mail making forum is that I want to experience mail making as it was for the middle age people. I work as a historian (specialising in the middle ages) and think that mail making would be a very useful tool to advance my knowledge. However I can't just *make* the mail, I have to make the wire as well! It's also for the skills! Uber There's also no-one else to ask!

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Posted on Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:32 pm
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I see why you're puzzled! Coif LoL

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Posted on Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:36 pm
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Maybe I should specify it a bit more suited to my ultimate goal: How did the medieval wire drawers do it? And what materials did they use? Thanks again for the kindness! Very Happy

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Posted on Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:51 am
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Aha!! Coif Cool Smiley "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone ..."

Now that the gloomy clouds of puzzlement waft away, I'm guessing from the period art that by the fourteenth/early fifteenth century at latest, wire drawing was getting done by leg power and in part by early water power -- that wire drawing fellow in the larger illo with the swing and the sling contraption. Looks like the sling is there to ... huh. I dunno.

It looks like varied iterations of the wire drawing bench -- user-testing it to discover if it has the needed oomph -- would get you there.

Big-boy wire mills were likely increasingly resorting to water power by the fifteenth -- being as they were mills, after all. You'd need a gear train and some way to implement reverse, for the two-reel drawing mill system.

Seems to me the last question to answer will be do you buy your drawing tongs and make your, um, tow ring? -- or do you Martha Stewart the entire apparatus up from bar stock in the stithy you possibly have access to? Might you mention the museum to which you are attached (in any capacity)?

Now, how'd they do it and with what materials?

Apart from gold, silver and copper, in which wire drawing had been done since about the Bronze Age, their primary feedstock would have been very refined wrought iron -- minimal inclusions, and those are shown to have been stretched and very elongated by the drawing process through metallography. Some rather variable low carbon steel was likely the next most common material after the middle fourteenth century and the spread of the blast furnace to make actual steel more common and much less expensive, which furnace began to see more development and wider use about this time -- for numerous reasons down to and including the Black Plague! Higher carbon wire seems to have been in some use by the Renaissance. That could be tempered harder once the mail piece was constructed. It went for a higher price, too.

Info on metallography on mail links is probably most concentrated in the Journal of the Mail Research Society. I think that's had two or three issues total. You would probably find reference there to Theophilus' De Diversis Artibus in there, and that might be where to find a discussion on improving regular-grade less expensive mail to the performance of the high grade stuff by casehardening, a/k/a cementation process. Unless it's really in Agricola's De Re Metallica -- careful on any searching, as this 1556-date tome comes way earlier than any Danish metal group. At least the Dover reprints don't cost much.


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Posted on Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:58 pm
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Back when the Frazier History Museum (Louisville, KY) had a collection from the Royal Armouries (UK) there was a video showing how chain fabric was forged. I'm e-mailing the Royal Armouries to see if that video is anywhere on the Internet. The method was quite different that I thought it would be. I'll let you know if/when I hear from them.


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