Impossibly hard gal steel wire
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Impossibly hard gal steel wire
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Posted on Wed May 30, 2018 6:33 am
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I've been making my own rings for about 1/3 of a mile of wire. All 14-gauge galvanized steel with a 3/8" ID. Pretty standard. I wind it up on a long screw with an electric drill, then cut down the line with a pair of aviation tin snips. I've gotten very good at it. At first I used OOK wire, but then I bought a 1/4 mile roll of Farmgard wire, which I just got through a couple days ago. Finished with that, I ended up buying a 1/4 mile roll of Field Guardian 14 gauge galvanized steel electric fence wire.

This is where my problems start. Today I tried to wind and cut some rings with the new roll. First off, it was a LOT stiffer and it's very difficult to bend. When it came time to get the spiral off the screw I had a lot of difficulty cutting the emd of the loop. When I finally managed, the whole spiral expanded, retracting about 3 or 4 loops. Finally, I just couldn't manage to cut through the spiral. I got maybe 2 rings off after significant effort, and they both warped in the process.

This isn't like the wire is a bit harder to work with. It's night and day. The other wires were almost easy and this is basically impossible. The rings spring back and become too large, and each time I cut the wire it's like trying to open a stuck jar. I'd hurt myself trying to get through more than three. When I cut off a small piece it exploded out of the snips hard enough to sting through my shirt.

I've checked and double checked, and everything says this is 14-gauge galvanized steel wire. It looks SLIGHTLY thicker than the other wire I have, but that could be illusory. Certainly not a enough to be a different gauge. Two equal segments of wire both weigh the same on my milligram scale. It doesn't look any different.

Anyone have any idea what's going on? Did I get sent stainless steel somehow? I doubt even stainless steel would be this hard to work with. Any suggestions on how to deal with it? I have a theory that it might be a higher degree of galvanization. More zinc, better fused or something. Could I wash it in something to lower the quality to the point where I can actually work it. Just spitballing ideas now.

Any help would be appreciated.

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Posted on Wed May 30, 2018 7:53 am
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sounds like you got a spring temper. much harder to coil and cut.



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Posted on Wed May 30, 2018 10:56 am
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You definitely don’t have stainless steel, or it would have destroyed your aviation snips. Are they Wiss brand, or something similar?

I’ve experienced this same phenomenon once back in my galvy days. I picked up a half mile on “17 gauge”, which corrected to .057”- considerably thinner than your approximately .080” stuff, but same higher springback than usual by a few percent, and notably harder to shear with aviators than all other galvys I’d previously worked with. I still managed fine, but .080” this was not. I tried cutting a coil with 8” bolt cutters, and to my delight, the rings snapped off and left very clean closures, further removed from the closer to >< achieved when I tried them with other galvanized steel.

Long story short, probably a harder temper of wire, as mithrilweaver suggested.


There is no such thing as weave ownership. If someone produces a weave sample, they own that physical piece of mail, but not rights to the weave pattern itself.
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Posted on Thu May 31, 2018 6:14 am
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Thank you for the responses. They put me on the right track to doing my own research. Sometimes you just need a bit of terminology. There seems to be a good chance that I was sent the wrong type of wire. The Amazon product page has a lot of "this is good chainmail wire" reviews, but it's clearly not. Also, the roll it came on was a much larger diameter and thinner than in the picture or product description.

I've gone ahead and ordered another 1/4 mile of Farmgard wire. I'm still going to have this roll though. Any thoughts on something to do with it? Or is there a way of softening it? I doubt I could get it up to the proper annealing temperature, not to mention the zinc fumes. I could get sturdier cutters and make larger rings, maybe?

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Posted on Thu May 31, 2018 11:18 am || Last edited by Shirluban on Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:04 am; edited 1 time in total
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Maybe you can stretch the coil and use it as an actual spring?

Removing the zinc layer and annealing it sounds like a lot of work to end up with mild steel.

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Posted on Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:06 am
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A few things to consider: Modified Aviation Snips. Note the disclaimer. Also there is a trick to increasing leverage when using them. Instead of holding them out suspended, rest your knuckle on your upper leg while sitting upright and push down with your upper body strength. A bucket or box on the floor can be used to catch the rings.

Pinch cut:
mini bolt cutters, which are usually 8” long might work. One caveat though is that these tools have tolerances, and the cheaper ones can produce pretty bad closures. With cheap ones, no two pair are exactly the same. They will vary in how well the blades butt up to each other, and an old trick/suggestion that used to come up a lot on the chainmail message boards of old was to take a coil with you into the hardware store and try out a few pairs until you find a good one.

Mini bolties seem to not last all that long in some cases, and the spring will eventually give after a few thousand rings, or so- my first pair gave in after about 10,000. Mileage will vary.

Once I obtained Knipex brand, I never looked back. They’re not exactly cheap though, fetching over $60 US per pair. They will however cut millions of rings and keep going. German engineering at its best.


There is no such thing as weave ownership. If someone produces a weave sample, they own that physical piece of mail, but not rights to the weave pattern itself.
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Posted on Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:01 am
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I've dealt with brute-hard wire before -- unlaid a length of guy wire: heavy gauge galvy, high tensile strength. Small bolties will work on this wire; they have the power. I like the 300 to 350mm size for such work. These will go through a quarter inch bolt. The jaws of this size boltie do not have to fit inside the coil, just angle the coil end so the jaws will bear, and/or pre stretch the coil some, to about 2 1/4 times its original length, and cut this coil the same way you cut a plain coil. These links are now pre-opened. Also the wire ends up getting cut by a different part of the cutting jaw, distributing wear, and it's unlikely ever to break the very tip off of a jaw. Then you'd have to grind the busted tips back until the broken corner is gone and there's a smooth end again.

I'd discard the all-thread rod you're using as more trouble than it's worth, being far harder and slower to get the coils off of. Go to the hardware store and get a simple steel rod -- ask the clerk for 'rod stock' -- and you can just slide those coils right off.

With that wire you are experiencing a lot of springback, more than you actually need for the coil to let loose of the mandrel. As a rule, you want a trifle of springback. Very hard and springy wire will behave just as you describe: the coil shortens by a few turns' worth as its spring tension lets go and it expands rather. With very hard springy wire, you'd want to coil it around an undersized length of rod and let it spring out to the desired diameter.

Sounds like you'll want a different way to anchor your wire end too, while you're at it.
Take your new length of rod stock and cut two or three slanted notches up near one end, leaving enough of that end to put in your drill. The slanted cuts will be like / / / around that end of the rod, cut with a hacksaw or a triangular file. A bench vise or a clamp to hold the rod makes things much easier. Having notched, find a washer that the rod will go into and put it on the rod above the notches you filed. Lay the wire end in a notch; you'll only use one notch at a time unless you are trying something exotic with winding two wires simultaneously making spaced out wire coils for preopened links -- but I prefer opening by other ways, and two wires at once is twice the load on your drill motor than one wire. Nor would I try this with that really stiff wire anyway. Jam the washer down onto the wire end in the notch and coil the wire down the rod.

You can see this in the diagram I drew of my wire-winding setup posted in Library: Gallery: Tools.

With your coil finished, knock the washer off the wire end and slide the coil off the rod.
With stiff wire, its springback will be formidable, even noisy. Keep your hands and fingers away from all that action; use a hands-free wire feeding tool. That wire end whipping around will cut your hand up instantly, so keep both your hands back on your electric drill, and wear goggles. I never tension my wire with my off hand. Let the feed block do the tensioning.

You only really *need* one slanted notch to hold the wire end, but two or three notches all round mean there will always be one notch conveniently located for you.

That washer can be pretty loose around the rod, the mandrel. All it has to be is small enough to ground out on the wire at the notches you filed.


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Posted on Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:38 am
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Chainmailbasket_com wrote:
I’ve experienced this same phenomenon once back in my galvy days. I picked up a half mile on “17 gauge”, which corrected to .057”- considerably thinner than your approximately .080” stuff, but same higher springback than usual by a few percent, and notably harder to shear with aviators than all other galvys I’d previously worked with. I still managed fine, but .080” this was not. I tried cutting a coil with 8” bolt cutters, and to my delight, the rings snapped off and left very clean closures, further removed from the closer to >< achieved when I tried them with other galvanized steel.


I saw that too, with the high-tensile stuff I spoke of. I've called it a Z-cut -- a notch the bolties made in both the top and bottom of the cut, and then the wire pops along a fracture that is somewhat diagonal, one side of one notch to the opposite side of the other. Goes back together fairly clean too when you close the link. You WILL need 9" slipjoint or linesmen's pliers for enough leverage.

"OOK wire?" That's a new one on me.


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Posted on Sat Jun 02, 2018 11:27 am
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Konstantin the Red wrote:
"OOK wire?" That's a new one on me.


I’ve seen this stuff before. OOK brand assorted hardware like wire, hooks, picture hanging stuff, etc.


There is no such thing as weave ownership. If someone produces a weave sample, they own that physical piece of mail, but not rights to the weave pattern itself.
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Posted on Sat Jun 02, 2018 5:47 pm
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Shirluban wrote:
Maybe you can stretch the coil and use it as an actual spring?


I really could. Maybe I'll find a few dozen springs and make some kind of spring cannon.

Chainmailbasket_com wrote:
A few things to consider: Modified Aviation Snips. Note the disclaimer. Also there is a trick to increasing leverage when using them. Instead of holding them out suspended, rest your knuckle on your upper leg while sitting upright and push down with your upper body strength.


I've been using aviation snips, and I'd briefly considered modding them. Glad to see I wasn't crazy with that idea. I get too much use out of them for other purposes though. I'll do something like this if I get another pair.

Konstantin the Red wrote:
You can see this in the diagram I drew of my wire-winding setup posted in Library: Gallery: Tools.


I took a look at your setup. http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/gallerydisplay.php?key=900 for those who want to see also. I really like your use of eye hooks for feeding and tension. For holding the wire, I actually have a hole drilled through the mandrel. I image there's slightly less wasted end bits the way you've done it.

The OOK wire (bought at Home Depot and on Amazon) seemed effectively identical to the larger FARMGARD roll I bought later. It's about $7 for 100 feet (and occasionally way more online for some reason) so it's not cost effective. Cheaper than buying precut rings, but not by a lot.

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Posted on Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:24 am
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As you said, less wastage to the ends of the coil, both up at the washer/notch end, where you can just take a pair of slipjoint pliers and bend the wire end down onto the mandrel like the rest of the coil by giving it a good pinch or two around the mandrel, and also the same treatment down at the far end, where if there is any straight wire left after cutting the coil free of your wire supply -- assuming you set it up to feed wire to the feed block right off a reel. If instead you pre-cut a wire length off your supply of wire, you'd definitely have a bit of an end that didn't get coiled. But you can just crimp that down onto the mandrel with your pliers too, and slipjoint pliers are very efficient at this.

After these antics, the only way to waste ANY wire at all is to cut your links such that the last link cut is only a fraction of a link. Hand cutting, you can cheat away from this as your cutting tool approaches the last few links of the coil. It might not amount to much in the greater scheme of things, but it feels elegant, anyway.

For cheaper galvy wire, I always tried to find a lumberyard or fence-supplier place, anywhere that sold wire off a big roll by weight, by the pound. This was about the cheapest way to get galvy in quantity from stores in town. Online ordering in the USA can sometimes beat this price if you luck into something. Don't discount scrapyards either, though you're not quite likely to know exactly what you're getting -- *they* don't know.


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Posted on Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:14 pm
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First post here, I made this account because I have the exact same problem as the OP. I started making mail only about three weeks ago, and have since gone though the 200' of 14G galvanized wire I got my local hardware store. (I believe the brand name of the wire was "blue hawk") Anyway, I was quite liking the process of knitting the mail, so I decided to invest in the 1/4 mile wire from Field Guardian, thinking that it would be about the same as the kind I had been working with before. Nope! It's ridiculously hard and springy.

I'd really hate to not use all this wire, but I'm really not sure how to work with it properly. At first I had the same problem as the OP where the rings would expand out as soon as you release the tension, but I did find that if I was meticulously careful about how I wound it, and I got it so that it was a perfectly tight spring with no gaps between the the coils, it didn't seem to expand nearly as much.

It still is close to impossible to actually weave it though, because the rings want to bend back open as soon as you close them. Also, the 10" end cut pliers that I bought for specifically this purpose cannot cut through it at all. It cuts like butter through the kind from the hardware store, but not this.

If anyone has any tips on how to manage to use this, it would the greatly appreciated. Smile

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Posted on Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:07 am
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Nothing simpler, Chelonian, and welcome.

Quote:
It still is close to impossible to actually weave it though, because the rings want to bend back open as soon as you close them. Also, the 10" end cut pliers that I bought for specifically this purpose cannot cut through it at all. It cuts like butter through the kind from the hardware store, but not this.


I presume you are using those tongs-looking things also known as end nippers. For the really hard stuff, you need enough cutting tool. Now we're talking either mini, or small, boltcutters with their compound leverage action, powerful enough to sever a bolt, and these power through wire like butter. Either the mini size, 200mm (8"), or the small, 350mm (14") handle size. They cost about like a pair of pliers. The jaws of the small size bolties won't fit into the typical coil of wire to be cut into links, but that doesn't matter as all you need is to angle the coil so that the jaws bear upon the wire. Cut one link at a time, because trying to cut two links at a stroke only almost works. You lose every moment you gain in the subsequent fiddling and adjusting. That's not what's wanted.

" . . . the rings want to bend back open . . ." Now let's look at your closure technique. If you're trying to squeeze the link ends together, it won't do. You need to twist them and horse them in while you twist until the link ends grind and click together. It may take a couple repetitions back and forth to push the ends together hard enough in a couple of swipes to get them where they press together at rest.

To do this, grasp the link with your pliers at 9:00 and 3:00, the link ends up at 12:00. =O= You open or close a raw, as-cut link with the same motion, a little twisting movement like revving a motorcycle, about 1/8 of a turn. Having opened, you weave it in, then close it with a twist or two back, pushing in at the link as you twist, thus horsing the link ends into grinding on each other. With enough of that kind of pushing as you twist, you overcome any tendency to spring back open; you've reset the metal.

That, and use pliers that are big enough, like 9" slipjoint pliers, for enough leverage.

The nice thing about stiff wire like this is it doesn't have links bend open and disappear, leaving holes in your mail.


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Posted on Tue Jun 19, 2018 12:47 pm
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Okay, thanks for the ideas. I tried them, and in about two hours finished a small section of mail.(I used some bolt cutters to cut the rings) I know that making this stuff is not a fast process, but I could have easily made twice the size piece in the same time with the other wire. And my hands now ache rather a lot. I've only used a couple feet of it, so I think I will try to return it. If I wanted a somewhat softer wire, more like the stuff I got at the hardware store, would the Farmgard brand be a good choice?

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Posted on Thu Jun 21, 2018 7:43 am
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Honestly I wouldn't know from wire brand. The last galvy I got was something no-name from a lumberyard; a good deal because it sold for $.89 the pound (doubtless more now, but hope for anything around a dollar a pound), in bulk, from a coil of wire in the stockroom -- they cut some extra to make *sure* you have as many pounds as you bought, so that was nice.

The 200-foot hardware store packets don't suit 20-K-link mail armor projects very well. You get priced out of the field completely. I'd rather order discount priced online and wait.

The kind of wire I'm interested in presently isn't even galvy -- for riveted links, which calls for annealing. Hot stuff. Galvanized will whiff off zinc vapor under heat, and that will give you a pounding headache, maybe a twitch. Might go away. In about two days. Don't expose yourself to breathing in zinc vapor.

Aching hands is not unusual when you're just starting. It does get better as your flesh adapts. But leave your mailmaking alone until your hands have *completely stopped* aching; your flesh needs time to recover from what you just did to it. Bigger size pliers can help, by putting less strain on your hands while you horse those links open and closed: greater leverage. Starting out, you will only have a certain amount of mailling time before your hands start to ache. The moment you feel the least pain, down with the pliers and go do something else, even boltie-cutting more links off the coil, which puts much less load on your palms if your boltie is 300mm handle or bigger. (Minis aren't quite so good this way) Keep doing about the same amount of mail weaving each time for the space of a few days after they've stopped hurting completely; then you can up the time by about ten or fifteen minutes more. Then let 'em recover until the next day. Every few days you can gradually extend your mailling time.

I usually maxed out at about three hours' weaving time, as my back would ache after being bent over the work. Got the job done in big chunks.

16 gauge galvanized steel wire (0.63" dia) is easier to work than 0.80" 14ga, so it's not such a rugged, painful experience, and produces, with correspondingly smaller coiling mandrels, a finer mail weave that feels smoother to the hand and looks more like historical real mail mail. With 16 gauge, 5/16" mandrels are really about the maximum and 1/4" ones more durable under the kind of beating Creative Anachronist fighting gives it. It's a good use of steel mail, that. (And 3/8" 14ga is just fine for that purpose also -- just looks coarser.)

Semi Pro Tip! you can preopen a whole coil of links by grabbing the coil ends tight, say with your pliers jaws, and stretching the coil until it's a bit over twice its original length -- there's a hundred or so opened in two seconds. Much more than that and your rings start to go all Pringles like. Then cut the stretched coil same as you would an unstretched one. Store preopened links separately from closed ones, as they are very tangly. To untangle them, I grab a clump of them with my pliers and drop the clump on my worksurface, knocking links out of the clump. I use those, then repeat the drop, and continue. Saves handwork on butted mail. Doesn't work with riveted; other processing steps get in the way.


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