My Pepe 90 MM Rolling Mill with Newton looking on in the background…..

For today’s segment of Talkin’ Tools, I thought I would discuss some of the heavy artillery in my studio.  In this picture is my Pepe Rolling Mill.  As you can tell by this photo, basset supervision exists in my studio pretty much all of the time!  😀

I purchased my rolling mill from Indian Jewelry Supply (IJS) a couple of years ago.  They had the best price I could find on the web and they were offering free shipping at the time too!   I do purchase a number of my supplies from IJS because of their prices, customer service, quality and fast delivery times.

Why on earth do I need this piece of equipment in my studio?  Well, there are a number of reasons, besides it’s just a really cool tool! A rolling mill is a machine designed to produce thinner gauges of sheet metal and wire.  But there is more to it than that.  Here are a few of my main reasons to use this equipment:

  1. I purchase my easy solder in wire form.  One of the things Lexi taught me was to use the rolling mill to flatten that solder wire.  This helps prevent using too much solder in your application. Since I only have easy solder in wire form, rolling it through the mill tells me it’s easy solder.  Added bonus, it’s in a consistent flat piece.  It helps me to identify my easy solder so I don’t mixed it up with something like silver wire.  Yes, sadly, I’ve mixed things up…chalk that up to experience and lessons learned.  😦
  2. Conveying patterns to metal.  This is just plain fun!  You can transfer textures to your metal from papers, wire shapes, netting, fabric textures, brass sheets to mention a few things.  Use your imagination, the sky is the limit, although somethings don’t work well.  Just experiment and have fun.  The process kind of reminds me of the old wringer washer my Mom had when I was a kid…those were the days before automatic washers with the spin cycles.  Can you imagine?  Her machine had these wringers to run clothes through to remove the excess water… I’m really dating myself!  The process is virtually the same with the rolling mill.  Place the texture you want to transfer against your annealed metal, sandwich the two materials together in a manila folder (cut to size) to hold them in place as you roll them through the mill.  The pressure exerted by the mill rolls will transfer the texture to your metal.  Pretty cool, yes?
  3. Sometimes you have a thicker gauge of metal, say 18 gauge, and you want to reduce it to 20 gauge if you don’t have any around.  The compression will cause the metal to ‘spread’ and thin out to a smaller gauge.

There are lots of uses for this machine, but I’m just covering a few of the things I use mine for.

They come in a number of different widths 90 – 130 mm, completely flat or combo.  Mine is completely flat.   With the combo, half the roller is flat and the other half has graduated grooves used for working with wire.  They even have automatic ones, but those seem a bit frightening to me, not to mention VERY pricey!  I shudder to think of getting a finger or something caught in an automatic rolling mill.  Clearly for a one person studio like mine, the size I have works very well.

It’s important to keep your roller surfaces clean and free from debris.  Particles can be accidentally transferred to your metal forming imprints you may not want.  When not in use, I keep mine covered and I wipe the roller surfaces with a light 3 in 1 oil to maintain them.

I am a huge fan of Pepe Tools.  Their quality is outstanding and with proper care, this is one piece of equipment that I think will last a life time.  Something nice to pass on to a future metalsmith.

For those of you shopping around for a rolling mill, I would encourage you to check out the line Pepe offers.  If you have a rolling mill, I’d love to know what kind and your uses for it too!

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.