Annealing copper wire

digger714

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Hello. One of my builders has some electrical copper wire he wants to get rid of. It is in sizes from 20 gauge to 6 gauge. Some of it doesnt have the plastic sheaths on it, but some does, so was wondering if this type of wire is usable, and what ways to do the annealing? Just thought it might save some money. Thanks for any advice.
 

jquast

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Hello. One of my builders has some electrical copper wire he wants to get rid of. It is in sizes from 20 gauge to 6 gauge. Some of it doesnt have the plastic sheaths on it, but some does, so was wondering if this type of wire is usable, and what ways to do the annealing? Just thought it might save some money. Thanks for any advice.
I used to have access to the same type of wire several years ago. I would separate the wire into single strands and wrap it around a coffee can to get it into a useable sized coil. Once coiled I would put them into a BBQ pit and pile hot coals on them and leave them until the copper changed color (about 30 minutes). I would then pull them out with a set of tongs and toss them in a bucket of water to quench them.
 

garywood

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Brad, there are a lot of people who use this type wire. Especially if they have limited resources or access to annealed wire. The wire will need to be stripped of its plastic coating and rolled into manageable sized coils if it is longer lengths. Annealing takes place immediately at half the melting temp. Given the alloy used the melting temp varies a little but around2000f. I use 1200F as a gauge for annealing because it's easy to recognize, dull red heat. Annealing is also time& temp associated. If half MP can't be reached then "soaking" at a lower temp will work, say 900f for an hour or so. The biggest problem is if parts of the wire gets too hot(brittle) or not hot enough(springy) A small bonfire will work but you have to be observant. Each coil needs a puller wire attached or have a rod with a small hook to lift individual coils when they reach temp. If you quench in water when pulled it will "knock off" the oxides and they won't spit slivers when the wire is bent in use.
Wood
 

garywood

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Sorry Jquast for being redundant we were posting at the same time.
Wood
 

digger714

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Would you just stick with the plain wire, or is it possible to take the plastic off? Does it burn off during the annealing when touching itself in a roll?
 

jquast

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Would you just stick with the plain wire, or is it possible to take the plastic off? Does it burn off during the annealing when touching itself in a roll?
I would remove the coating. It is pretty nasty stuff when burned and you wouldn't want to breathe it besides it is fairly easy to remove. Just run a razor knife down the length of it and pull off the sheath.
 

yenling83

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I used to have access to the same type of wire several years ago. I would separate the wire into single strands and wrap it around a coffee can to get it into a useable sized coil. Once coiled I would put them into a BBQ pit and pile hot coals on them and leave them until the copper changed color (about 30 minutes). I would then pull them out with a set of tongs and toss them in a bucket of water to quench them.
What was the quality like when you did this? How did it compare to Jim and JT's?
 

garywood

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Yengling, I don't mean to speak for Jquast but any method used that is not in a controlled atmosphere has the potential to have a lesser quality. I personally have a kiln for annealing but if your options are limited having a lesser quality is better than no wire to work with.
Wood
 

digger714

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Thanks alot wood & jquast. I agree. There is no way to get it to a very high quality, but as you said, its better than none. I have kilo rolls of aluminum, from 1.5mm and larger, so i am mainly looking for some smaller wires, which shouldnt make that much difference. I have a couple questions about the smaller wires. The larger wire was easy to take any sheaths off, but the smaller is kind of tough. It seems to break easily. I was thinking about cutting into 5" or 6" pieces, since thats usually what i use for wiring two smaller branches, and wrapping together with another wire before putting in the heat. From your experience, would that work, or does there need to be space between each piece? Thanks again for the input.
Brad
 
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digger714

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I made a few pieces to heat with my torch to try and get some idea of the color before starting with alot of it. Then ill only put a few pieces in first, some singles, some wrapped together to test everything. Ill let ya know.
 

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I probably go about it the hardest possible way, but I do strip the insulation off copper wire, coil it around a 1-gal can and put it in the gas grill until it's red-hot, then quench it in a bucket of water. It works well but is a PITA. I'll buy a length of 10-2 (or 10-3, can't remember), which is a type with several gauges from 8 to 12, and only has 1 coat of insulation to remove.

Sometimes mindless manual labor is just what one needs, however!
 

digger714

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There ya go. Ive been off work for two weeks now with the snow and rain we have had, so i have been looking for things to keep me busy. At least im getting ready for this coming growing season. Ill take care of any calls in the am, then make soil, get containers ready for repotting, now stripping plastic off of copper wire. What a day, lol. I have a few rolls of noninsulated wire, but the smaller stuff i just cut into 6" pieces, and made a tube of PVC with caps to keep it in. Do you get it red hot, or just barely glowing? What i just did has the nice deep orange color, with just a couple black spots on a few. Some of them i got very glowing red, and some just a dull red before dipping in water.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Probably closer to a glowing red. I'm far from scientific in my approach, so I've had good luck. If it's still shiny and copper-colored after I quench it, I stick it back on the fire for a while. The worst case is if it gets almost white-hot, then it's brittle and breaks, but out of several hundred coils over several years, that's only happened with 2-3 coils; so I'm ahead of the odds! Try it and see how you fare.
 

digger714

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Thanks alot Brian. I just got through stripping 100' of each size, 20awg, 18awg, 16awg, and 14awg, ive got the fire restarted, and will let ya know how it goes. It only took about 4 hours to strip them, so not too bad. Something to do when its raining, lol.
 

bonsaitodd

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Is it cheaper to go about in doing this? How much do you pay for the insulated wires versus buying bare wires.
Thanks.
 

digger714

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Well, in my case i bought a box of it from a builder that had it in storage in his office. I got over 2000 feet of assorted sizes for 25.00. From 20awg to 14. As far as buying it, i would need to study up on it, but it gets tougher to find smaller sizes that arent insulated. In romex, the ground is bare, but the others are coated. You can get size 10 and larger all day that is bare.

I just got through and it looks fine. There are a couple of black spots, but 95% looks like what ive purchased elsewhere. If if didnt get a deal on the wire, i would stick with the vendors. Thanks to everyone for the help.
 
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