Annealing Copper Wire

Messages
3,219
Likes
4,614
Location
DALLAS
#1
I've read that Jim Gremel's annealed copper wire is great. It must be because it's well annealed to not have the "hard spots". Is it difficult or does it require special tools to anneal your own copper wire making it consistently soft and malleable?
 

edprocoat

Masterpiece
Messages
3,419
Likes
300
Location
Ohio/Florida
USDA Zone
6
#2
Thumbless I have for years annealed my own wire that I have left over from job sites etc. and have never experienced a hard spot. I take the bare wire (often having to strip insulation from wire first}) I roll it into a coil similar to how its sold. I roll mine the diameter of the burner on our gas stove, I start the fire and lay the coil with a pliers over the fire until it glows red then I lift it off with the pliers and dump it in the waiting water filled sink. The wire comes out a pretty orange color and is soft until bent into position. I have did this on my charcoal grill too, I read that it can be done by coiling the wire around a roll of newspaper. I do NOT suggest that route as its near impossible to control and even grab with the pliers as flames are shooting everywhere.

ed
 
Messages
33
Likes
1
Location
Detroit, Michigan
USDA Zone
6a
#3
I agree with ed. I coil it up tightly so all the individual wires heat up nice and evenly as "one" piece would. Im a metalworker so i have all sorts of torches, I usually will just use my small propane torch and heat until dull red and quench in water. If after you quench and the copper is black, reheat and get the coil hotter and re-quench. Theres a nice color temp I've found (working with A LOT of copper) I can eyeball and if you quench at the right time most of the copper oxide will blow right off in the water leaving a nice fairly clean pinkish matte color. Or you could always quench and soak in pickle (mild acid bath) to clean of all of the oxides and rinse with water. If you heat up copper and afterwards its black, that means its still completely dirty and oxidized, try bending it while black and you can see the oxide 'puff' off and float in the air- that stuff will wreck your lungs and turn your fingers/skin green. I like clean metal lol.

When I teach my students to anneal ill have them lay a straight piece of wire or strip of metal on 2 fire bricks supported at each end, much like a bridge. While heating you can see the work hardened metal 'sag' as it rises in temp and gains a dull red color. Always a neat experiment, I always imagine the metal taking a deep sigh of relief! Lol.

Also when buying coils of new copper, know that it comes 'half-hard' from processing and coiling that's why it hardens twice as fast than copper wire freshly annealed.
 
Messages
3,219
Likes
4,614
Location
DALLAS
#4
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm looking forward to ordering wire and annealing copper myself next year.
 
Messages
3,219
Likes
4,614
Location
DALLAS
#5
@bdwarner or anyone,

I'm looking around the net and found this. They list their sold copper wire as soft drawn. I've found elsewhere copper sold as hard, medium hard and soft drawn. What do these terms mean?
 
Messages
33
Likes
1
Location
Detroit, Michigan
USDA Zone
6a
#6
@bdwarner or anyone,

I'm looking around the net and found this. They list their sold copper wire as soft drawn. I've found elsewhere copper sold as hard, medium hard and soft drawn. What do these terms mean?
I believe 'soft drawn' refers to the hardness of the wire as you will recieve it. When making wire they start with a larger diameter then they need and it usually gets drawn (pulled) through a series of circular dies to reduce its diameter (quite forcefully). This process makes the resulting material very hard. I'm not familiar with the workability of 'soft drawn' as opposed to any other wire- it may be just another selling point. Perhaps you could order a few samples to test before you order in bulk.
I know as a rule of thumb, I work with a lot of sheet metal, wether it be brass, copper, bronze, or silver- it all comes about HALF hard as a result from the process of industrial rolling to achieve the desired guage or thickness, the resulting hardness aids in shipping, shearing, packaging etc to reduce the risk for deformation before it reaches the buyer. Think of it as a paperclip, a paperclip only has so many 'bends' in it so to speak, if bent back and forth repeatedly it will inevitably crack in half- just like copper wire will, this is why we anneal to return the metal to a 'dead soft state' so that the wire can be bent many times before it is work hardened again in which case it can be reannealed and reformed.

I wouldn't over think annealing. Try it out, its easy. You could use your stove, a bbq, or hell just throw it in a bonfire and pull it out when it has a good glow on it.. experiment a little before you shell out big bucks on 'specialty' wire. Hope this helps.
 

Adair M

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
8,746
Likes
15,913
Location
NEGeorgia
USDA Zone
7a
#8
I'm not going to say you can't anneal your own wire. Obviously, you can.

However, you owe it to yourself to compare your "homemade" wire to the professional wire. So, you should buy a coil or two from Gremel or Julian Adams, to see how it compares.

Both Gremel and Adams have been making copper wire for bonsai for many years. Both are potters, so they make it in their kilns. I can tell a difference between the two.

As I have stated many times, I prefer Gremel's but both are excellent.
 
Messages
1,252
Likes
1,560
Location
MN
USDA Zone
3A
#9
I have used Jims and Adans wire and done my own--I find my home made annealed wire to be comparable or better. I also unwind, save and and re-anneal a lot of wire which works fine for me.
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
Messages
19,161
Likes
24,291
Location
Berwyn, Il
USDA Zone
6.2
#10
I do the same on the stove.
Quench with sink after red hot all over.

Read. Annealing is slow cooling tho. Sorry. Drunk.

Gremels wire is kiln fire d I believe, even heat, even deifferenc3.

Sssooorrr c free.
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
Messages
19,161
Likes
24,291
Location
Berwyn, Il
USDA Zone
6.2
#11
,job site copper.

Was away better than. Alumi mm I. Lol.

Sorcerer
 

M. Frary

Bonsai Godzilla
Messages
12,400
Likes
17,523
Location
Mio Michigan
USDA Zone
4
#14
I have an old barbecue grill I anneal wire on. I build a wood fire in it and put coils of waste pieces from construction sites on the grill and cook it. I leave the insulation on. When it is burned off completely and the copper is glowing I drop it in the snow. Works great. I've never tried anyone else's wire to compare though.
 
Messages
603
Likes
415
Location
Pasadena, MD
USDA Zone
7A
#15
I strip it and coil around a coffee can. Cook it over a charcoal grill til it glows red and move it around in the fire for even heating. I fan the fire to get it as hot as possible. Remove the wire, lay it on cinder blocks and let it cool. Results are not bad at all and the thin gauges are very good.

But... not as good as Julian Adams' wire.

Be careful with this.

Augustine
 
Messages
1,524
Likes
302
Location
central Maryland
USDA Zone
7a
#16
I have an old barbecue grill I anneal wire on. I build a wood fire in it and put coils of waste pieces from construction sites on the grill and cook it. I leave the insulation on. When it is burned off completely and the copper is glowing I drop it in the snow. Works great. I've never tried anyone else's wire to compare though.
It's not great for the air to burn the insulation. In fact, around here, it's illegal. For a few bucks you can buy a tool to strip off the insulation.
 

Paradox

Masterpiece
Messages
4,611
Likes
4,335
Location
Long Island, NY
USDA Zone
7a
#17
So I have tried doing this myself on my gas grill and on a charcoal grill. I can not for the life of me get it hot enough to glow red. I had it on the gas grill right above where the flames come out of the emitters although there is a metal shield to spread the flames out. I left it there for at least 30 minutes and it wont get hot enough to make the metal glow, but it is over 600 deg F.
The wire turns black and when it cools, it is soft and doesnt seem to have any hard spots.
How important is heating it until glowing?
I am going to try the fireplace this fall/winter when we start using it to see how that compares.
 

M. Frary

Bonsai Godzilla
Messages
12,400
Likes
17,523
Location
Mio Michigan
USDA Zone
4
#18
It's not great for the air to burn the insulation. In fact, around here, it's illegal. For a few bucks you can buy a tool to strip off the insulation.
How did I miss this?
Paradox,if you really want it to glow I forgot to tell you to pour motor oil on it to get it hotter! Kidding. Kind of.
I do mine at night too because it's winter usually when I do it so when I get home from work it's dark. You see a glow then. If it hisses and steams when you dip it in water to cool it it's hot enough.
 
Messages
1,375
Likes
2,153
Location
Arcadia, CA
#19
So I have tried doing this myself on my gas grill and on a charcoal grill. I can not for the life of me get it hot enough to glow red. I had it on the gas grill right above where the flames come out of the emitters although there is a metal shield to spread the flames out. I left it there for at least 30 minutes and it wont get hot enough to make the metal glow, but it is over 600 deg F.
The wire turns black and when it cools, it is soft and doesnt seem to have any hard spots.
How important is heating it until glowing?
I am going to try the fireplace this fall/winter when we start using it to see how that compares.
I've never tried annealing on a grill, but it is my opinion that you may have inconsistent areas of heating given that the flames only come out of a certain spot. Annealing temperature for copper is around 700-1300 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually the red glow is an indicator that you hit annealing range. It is also possible that the copper is indeed glowing red, but you are unable to see it if doing the annealing process in daylight. If your copper is soft that's probably the case. Annealing wire at night makes it much easier to see the color of the copper.

I had purchased some cheap copper "bonsai" wire several months back and it was poorly annealed. Extremely tough and even my wire cutters wouldn't cleanly snip it. To anneal it I used lump charcoal in a metal charcoal starter and placed the wire evenly inside it. It reached a nice even glowing red-orange and was soft when completed. A few things to note is that lump charcoal (made from solid pieces of wood) burns hotter than the standard barbecue briquettes and made it pretty easy to hit annealing temperature. I'm still a novice when it comes to wiring so I prefer to use aluminum wire for the most part given that its cheaper and easier to use. Copper work hardens so easily so if I make a mistake I can't redo it as the copper becomes to hard and brittle.
 
Messages
226
Likes
136
#20
Guys, any blacksmith or knife forger will tell you, dipping hot metal into water or oil has the effect of hardening the wire. If you let it cool on its own it will be much softer and malleable.