Sizing Copper Wire for Inlay by Les Schowe


Elite Cafe Member
Jul 28, 2007
Monument, Colorado
For those of you who, like me, are still somewhat new to engraving and would like
to practice wire inlay using copper wire instead of gold wire, here is a tip that
I found that will help to thread the copper wire through your drawplate.

Before I get to that however, here are some products that I found at Rio Grande
( that I think are necessary for the project.
1) Rio Grande's copper wire is excellent and well worth the $14 for a lifetime supply.
It is extremely soft (I pulled it through the drawplate 6 times and inlayed it
without having to anneal it) and it is pure copper -- no unpredictable alloys. I
spent hours at Home Depot and Lowe's trying to find a suitable copper wire and
have not found a wire even close to the quality necessary to inlay or draw.
I purchased a role of .02 inch dia. wire from Rio Grande, PN#: 132-324.
2) As stated in other posts in this forum Rio Grande's Tungsten Carbide Drawplate
is an excellent product and very necessary. PN#: 113-561
3) A small bottle of Liquid Bur-Life. PN#: 117-985
4) I'm not sure that this necessary but I purchased Rio Grande's inexpensive Draw
Tongs which seemed to work ok, PN#: 111-002.

Now the problem of how to reduce the diameter of the wire at the end to a point
so you can get it started through the draw plate hole.

I have a 1 inch belt sander made by Delta. There are many other manufacturers
of 1 inch belt sanders, for instance Grizzly makes an excellent product. I also
think that you could use a Drum Sanding bit, which you can purchase from Home Depot,
for your drill and then mount the drill in a vice.

1) Remove the plastic cover at the top of the belt sander to expose the top roller
for the one inch sanding belt.
2) Next, cut a piece of wire that is long enough to make two lengths of wire for
drawing. This reduces waste.
3) Hold the wire so the center of the piece of wire is over the rotating sandpaper
roller and slowly rotate the wire, without using to much downward pressure, to
reduce the wire diameter.
4) When you have reduced the wire diameter somewhat, apply more downward pressure
and at the same time pull the wire apart. Soon the wire will turn red hot,
melt, and pull apart. Presto, if you do this right, you will Draw a nice point
on each or the, now, two pieces of wire. Good for 2 runs through the draw plate.

5) If, in the process of drawing, you break the tip off the point or manage to
mangle it up, use a piece hard wood and a piece of 400 grit sandpaper. Hold the
wire on the wood with your thumb with the broken/mangled point away from you,
and with your other hand rub the sandpaper away from you and over the point.
This will sharpen things up for you again.

When stringing the wire through the drawplate, first notice that each carbide hole
has a concave entry and a flat entry (the flat entry is the side with the numbering).
String the wire through the concave entry and put a drop of the Bur-Life in the concave
hole. This will coat the wire with Bur-Life as you pull the wire through. Carefully,
use a needle nose pliers to start pulling the wire through the hole. When you have
enough wire through the hole, use the Draw Tongs to get a good grip. With an even
pull, pull the wire through the draw plate. It works great and you can keep drawing
down the size of the wire until you get the correct size wire for your channel.

This worked well form, hope it works for you, Good luck,

Les Schowe