About Shaped Wire

Square, Half Round and more

Gauge Sheet metal chart
& Raw Metal Terms



Updated Jan 22, 2023


About Shaped Wire

Square, Half Round and more

Wire is most often round in shape. It is also available in square, flat and 1/2 round shapes.
Jewelers, model makers and crafts people usually make their own shaped wire from slightly larger round wire. The shape is formed by rollimg the wire through rollers that have shaped grooves. As the rollers turn the wire is 'squished' into the grooves. Flat wire is formed by the flat of the rollers. It may require several passes depending on the hardness of the wire.
These mills are available from jewery or metal tool suppliers and are either hand cranked or motor driven machines.
Drawing plates are another way to form special shapes. The plates have a shaped hole in them through which a slightly larger diameter roumd wire is pulled or 'drawn'. It is clamped in a sturdy vice and the wire is pulled with a pliers. It may take several passes through successively smaller plates to shape thicker or harder wires.
Pulling or rolling the wire makes the wire thinner and harder. It can be softened or "annealed" to dead soft by heating it up to red hot and quenching it in water. Sometimes a solution is added to the water and heated to clean the wire at the same time.
An even more simple solution is to simply snap the wire with one end in a vice to straighten it. Then it is placed on a hard surface and an iron pipe is used with some force to flatten the wire. This works well on all thinner gauges to create a flatter wire. One rolling will create an oval wire. Subsequent rolling can create fairly flat wire. Annealing the wire to soften it may be required between rolling.
Metals come in many surface finishes. Sculptures, Jewelry & Art are typically made of raw metal and then cleaned, polished or coated after being worked.. They may also be textured, painted or patinated.
Novices often expect metals in the raw state to have a finished surface and do not consider the marring that may occur with creation of a piece; nor consider that metal cannot be soldered, braised, or welded if there is any coating on the metal. Precious metal suppliers are often vexed by expedient beginners expecting to be shipped mirror finish sheet and wire for crafting jewelry.
The only metals commonly in use that do not tarnish are fine stainless steel, pure gold and platinum. We do not offer these due to difficulty of working with stainless steel and the cost of gold and platinum. This aside, copper, brass, nickel & aluminum will last a long time with some care. Objects of these metals thousands of years old grace museums.

Copper is a very reactive metal and will gain a natural patina with time like the Statue of Liberty. see Patinas and Finishes. But with a little care copper and alloys of metal containing copper such as brass and Nickel silver can be kept bright for a long time.


Handle craft metal with gloves so as to minimize finger prints and protect your hands.. When opening a wrapped piece be careful not to cut or scratch the craft metal. If it is a coiled item it may spring open slightly when tape is cut.
Open packages carefully over a counter top & soft surface as metal may slip out and dent.
Craft metal shipped in tubes usually slide out an open end very easily or with with slight tapping- care should be taken not to dent the metal in the process. If it is difficult to remove, unwinding the cardboard tube will uncover the metal.
Most sheet metal is shipped in a roll. If necessary ripples or curves can be flattened by rolling it with a smooth rolling pin or plastic pipe section on a completely smooth surface such as a countertop or glass table. Our thinner gauges are shipped in a tube which works as a roller for smoothing too.
GAUGE Is thickness. The higher the gauge number the thinner the metal. For example 23 gauge sheet metal is more than twice as thick as 30 gauge. See below for gauge charts.
HARDNESS: Basically how easy it is to bend or work. Hardness has more to do with temper than thickness.   A very hard foil can be stiffer than a very soft sheet metal twice the thickness.
             Medium Soft is pliable yet holds up for folding and hammering.
             Medium Hard is stiff, bends less easily and holds is shape better in larger pieces
Grade & Finish:  
               Commercial mill grade: Metal as it comes from mill with a rolled satin finish. It has some very light manufacturing ripples, scratches & color variations.   
              Metals can be buffed up to shiny satin finish with metal cleaners and a buffing pad. We recommend a powdered cleaner called "Barkeepers Friend" available in most grocery stores. A paste wax or clear varnish can be used to keep metal bright. 
PATINA: The color that metal acquires with age and oxidation. All the metals we offer are raw with no wax or varnish and will gain patina over time.Patina solutions (available at most hardware stores) can be used to speed the aging process. More about Patina
More information on METAL CRAFT HOW-TO : Cleaning, cutting, forming, soldering & finishing
CAUTION: HANDLE WITH CARE - Raw metals have sharp edges. Rolls and coils are tightly wound and may spring open. They are not intended for young children . Gauge thickness shown is approximate.
GAUGE Charts for copper sheet & wire:
Gauge Is thickness. The higher the gauge number the thinner the metal.
The approximately 23 gauge copper sheet is heavy - traditionally used for roofs and range hoods- where it will last hundreds of years. It weighs one pound per square foot approximately.
Anything thicker in sheet is in the area of metal plate. It is difficult to bend and can not be cut with tin snips. A cutting torch or saw is used for this.

This chart shows approximate gauge thickness for wire
and may not appear correctly on all screens.
GAUGE Charts for copper sheet & wire:
To see what we offer in these gauges click to see our pages:   SHEET METAL       TOOLING FOIL     CRAFT WIRE    RECYCLED METAL
 Gauge  Dimension (inches)  Pounds per Sq. Foot in copper sheet approximately*
 8  .128  5.12 ( heavy copper plating over 1/4 inch thick)
 12  .080  3.20
 14  .064  2.56
 16   .051  2.04
 18  .040  1.60 ( thick copper sheet called "plate" as in "plate steel")
 20  .032  1.28
 22 . 025  1.18
 23  .023

  1.00 pound per square foot approximately

(standard heavy weight for larger craft work, roofing and range hoods etc.)

 24  .020  14.2 ounces per square foot .89 Pounds per square foot medium-heavy weight
 26   .016   .64
 30 .010  .40 medium weight sheet twice as thick as 36 gauge
 36  .005   .234 (heavy foil/ tooling foil)
 38 .002   .09



thin foil household foil- called heavy household foil
very thin foil - standard aluminum kitchen foil "tin foil"
More How-To articles free to view or print:
Cutting Metal Sheet and Wire
Flattening, Bending & Forming Metal
Tooling Metal with
Copper Foil, Aluminum Foil Brass Foil
Patinas and Finishes
Soldering Brass & Copper: 19 pages in color

 Back to top of page


The entire contents of this site and photographs shown herein are original and copyright protected.
(c) Copyright 2009-2010 all rights reserved -the Whimsie Studio. Larry Henke & Ronald Bodoh
These articles and writings are for our customers personal use only. They may not be copied or published in whole or part, in any form electronically or in print without express written permission of the authors Larry Henke & Ronald Bodoh