THIS PAGE IS IMPORTANT!
Spring wire can be dangerous if not properly handled.
Read this section carefully
before you start working with wire.
Springs under load want to return to their original shape. The same goes for spring wire. Spring wire will try to straighten itself out if given the chance: don't let your body get in its way.
Small wire (diameter less than about .025") will not hurt you if it hits you. On the other hand, small wire is nothing more than an edge, waiting for something to cut. Don't use your hand to try to stop wire that's moving, especially if it's moving under power (like being pulled by a lathe). Instead, wait till it stops moving. Gloves are an excellent idea, too.
Medium wire (diameter from about .025" - .312") is too wide to act as an edge, and usually not massive enough to break bones, but it can raise quite a knot if you get in its way. Again, always keep track of where the ends of the wire are, and if they start to move, get out of the way.
Heavy wire (diameter greater than about .312") needs respect. If it gets loose, it can EASILY break bones, or worse.
Stainless steel is a lot softer than other types of wire. When cut, the end of the wire is like a knife edge. Always keep track of where the end of the wire is, and keep your hands away from it while it's moving.
The two most dangerous times are when you're breaking open a coil of wire and when you're actually winding a spring.
Breaking open coils
Once you have your wire, you'll need to take it out of its coil. The coil may be wrapped in paper - take that off first.
Under the paper, the wire will be tied. Light wire will be tied with string. Medium wire will be tied with tie wire. Large wire will be tied with metal bands. Whatever size wire you have, remember that the coil should have only two ends. One will be on the inside of the coil, and the other will be on the outside. You'll normally use wire from the inside, to avoid tangling. Always make a hook on the “inside” end so it's easy to find again:
Handling Small Wire in Coils
To break open a coil of small (up to about .125") wire, cut all the ties except two. Don't cut the closest tie holding the outside end of the wire, and the tie most directly opposite to that one.
To remove wire from the coil, start with the end on the inside of the coil: this will keep the coil from tangling. Grab the end of the wire and cut off the hook. Pull it slightly, until you can see the gap between it and the rest of the coil. Grab the wire at the gap and pull the end free from the tie holding it. Repeat this process, working around the coil, until you have the length you need.
(.125 - .312") can be handled the same way, except that you should keep three ties instead of two. When uncoiling wire larger than .250", you should lay the coil flat on the ground and always stand in the center of the coil, for safety.
(.312 - .625") needs special handling. First of all, you'll probably be using a hoist or forklift to move the coil, because of the weight. Lay the coil on top of something (a 2x4 or a pipe works great) to keep one end off the ground so that you can pick it up when you're done. Stand inside the coil from now on!
Then, take a length of tie wire and double it over. Loop it twice around the coil, right next to the second tie holding the inside end of the wire. Pull it tight and twist it so that you have a 'pigtail' and the tie wire is too tight to move by hand. Then, cut the first two original ties. Grab the end of the wire and flip it over the coil, so that it sticks out.
Go to the next tie and repeat this process, working your way around the coil until you have the length you need. You can use heavy bolt cutters or an acetylene torch to cut the wire.
If heavy wire gets away from you and starts to come undone all by itself, the very best thing to do is
- Run like hell, and
- Pray it doesn't hit you.
If you're using a lathe to make your springs, you'll be standing there, letting the lathe pull the wire. The lathe will do what you want, but it will not know to stop if things get out of control. So, before you start the lathe, figure out what you're going to do if things go haywire. Know how to stop the lathe, and know which way you can safely run.
Never reach over the wire to get to your lathe controls, especially when working with heavy wire. Reach under it and avoid injury if your wire guide breaks.
Keep the lathe speed DEAD SLOW: with heavy wire, 10 rpm is about right.
Don't grab onto wire that's being fed into the lathe. Stop the lathe and back it off until there's no tension in the wire before you put your hands near.
NEVER try to guide wire by hand. Use tooling.
When you're done
After you've removed wire from a coil, the coil will be looser than it was before. Before you put it away, retie it so that it doesn't tangle up or uncoil by itself. For light wire, use string. For medium size wire, use tie wire. For heavy wire, use tie wire doubled over, looped around the coil twice, and tied in a “pigtail”:
Lastly, make a hook in the "inside" end of the wire, so you can find it again easily when you need to.
Safety first: always store your wire someplace where kids can't get at it.
Common sense second: keep your wire dry. Steel wire will rust if it gets wet.
More common sense: keep your wire tight. When you're finished working with a coil of wire, make a hook in the inside end (so you can find it again easily) and tie the coil securely. Be especially careful with heavy wire, which should be tied with at least six doubled strands of tie wire, each looped around the coil twice and cinched tight.
Still more common sense: if you live in an area that has earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc., be sure that you chock your coils of wire so that they don't get loose and start to move around when mother nature starts acting up.
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