Last edited: 2/7/2019
Rolling mills are great tools to have in any jewelry shop. They provide quick and efficient ways to roll out metal stock as well as countless ways to texture, pattern, and rework your metal creations. If you’re still hunting for the perfect rolling mill, take a look at the post I wrote last month on the topic, Rolling Mill Know-How Part One. Once you’ve selected your rolling mill (or even if you’ve had one for years) this post includes some great rolling mill tips; from unpacking your mill to regular care that will keep it performing its best for years to come to diving in and using it for a million different jewelry-making tasks!
Rolling mills are extremely heavy; before unpacking your mill, plan how you’ll lift it and where you’re going to mount it. Make sure to mount your rolling mill to a sturdy table, countertop, or a rolling mill stand that has been secured to the floor. The stand or counter you choose must be capable of supporting the weight of the mill and you must be able to bolt or secure the stand firmly to the floor. Without attachment to the floor, one could not achieve the tremendous leverage necessary to operate the mill and there would be a risk of tipping it.
Rolling mills come encased in grease; this is a common protective measure for most steel tools during shipping. A white solvent and a lint-free cloth can be used to remove the grease from the rollers. Once the rollers are clean, rolling can begin. To keep them working effectively, the rollers will need to be lubricated or polished regularly. In the following video, master goldsmith and renowned teacher Ronda Coryell demonstrates her method for polishing her mill. She creatively uses a dowel rod, a rag, and Simichrome Polish® to shine and provide corrosion resistance to the rollers of her rolling mill.
Maintaining a rolling mill is fairly simple: oiling and protecting the rollers from corrosion by following the advice in Ronda’s video or using a corrosion-resistant oil like 3-in-1® oil, or another rust preventative will help keep the mill rollers in excellent condition. The gears are self-lubricating and do not need to be serviced. Based on the model of your mill, additional maintenance may be required, your operator’s manual will include all the details. Avoid putting dirty or wet metal through the rolling mill as this can cause damage to the rollers. Protecting the rollers is of the upmost importance—once the rollers become damaged, they can difficult to refinish and costly to replace.
Durston has put together a helpful guide to using and maintaining a Durston mill that you will find very helpful in learning to use your rolling mill.
There are several different ways that a rolling mill can be used. Rolling out ingots, sheet or wire. Imprinting on sheet metal, foldforming, and mokume gane are a just a few of the ways rolling mills are commonly used.
Here are the simple steps for using a rolling mill to thin sheet or wire:
Pattern rolling or imprinting patterns onto sheet metal is another of the more common uses for a rolling mill. Pattern plates such as the Bonny Doon Pattern Plates will produce a detailed, low-relief pattern on metal when they are run through your rolling mill. You can also create your own pattern plates or use everyday items like paper towels or dried leaves to emboss texture on your metal.
For basic pattern rolling: