Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To: Making A Decorative Twist On Copper Wire.


These types of decorative twists can be used to add detail on knives, jewelry and metalsmithing projects.

#1. In this example, I’m starting with square wire and running it through a rolling mill to change the cross section a bit,… pushing two corners out.

#2. Texture the two opposite corners that haven’t been raised, with a sharp faced hammer.

#3. Grab one end of the piece in a vice and the other with a pair of parallel jaw pliers.

#4. Twist the piece until the desired “tightness” is achieved, annealing the copper as needed.

Note: To anneal the copper wire, heat it to a cherry red and quench it in water.


Update 8/24/2012

These are essentially the same, but the raised corners are textured instead of the un-raised corners.

This example is from ordinary square wire, and can be done without the rolling mill. Grooves are chiseled down the sides and two opposing corners are textured with a checkering file.

Here’s an example of a decorative copper twist used on a knife ferrule.



  1. I currently make no-frills knives and would like to get into more decorative projects (both knives and otherwise).

    What sort of rolling mill would you recommend?

  2. I use a simple hand crank rolling mill as do most jewelers.

    There are ways to do similar twists without a rolling mill using multiple wires and other various single wire techniques.

  3. Thanks for adding the instructions for doing this with a chisel and checkering file.

    What gauge wire did you use in these examples? I've found suppliers of everything from 10 ga. to 22 ga. and I'm not certain what to choose.

  4. Grant, I rolled the square wire myself from about 1/4 inch round, that I bought at Ace Hardware, but it could be forged square without the mill. I'd say it was about 3/16 of an inch square, not sure what gage that would be. If it's much smaller than 1/8 inch square it gets difficult to chisel the grooves. 10 gage would probably be your best bet. You can twist square wire as is, but it's not quite as interesting of a pattern. The same can be done with triangular wire.

    The checkering file in the example is 1/2 inch wide, with 15 rows of teeth.

  5. It's not a easy process but I understand it. But this twist design looks good. Thanks for sharing the tips.
    Copper Wires by Ganpati Engineering

  6. I'm having trouble getting from 1/4" copper bar to a shape like you show in your photo with the rolling mill. From the size that fits 1/4" closed, how many slots over do you go over?

    Thank you so much for posting this. It's my favorite of all time for treatment of heavy gauge wire cuff

    1. The rollers are not completely closed. There's a small gap used to get that shape. The slot should be substantially smaller than the width of the wire.

  7. Total newbie here. This is amazing. I am planing a Celtic stylized compass to mount on the current copper grid (6'x9') on the front of the house. Never thought of the twisted texture on the compass but am now. Don't know if I can pull of the etching but this twisting I will try. Any words of wisdom? Size of piping to bend (have a pipe bender), tools, techniques? All pointers are appreciated.
    This is a joint project, my husband makes clock cases (40 years worth), I design, research, his strong hand and work shop create.
    Thanks for the inspiration and information.