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What are Rolling Mills?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rolling mills are machines which are used to process metal. They vary in size from bench-mounted hand-cranked mills used by jewelers to massive rolling mills utilized in industrial metals production and processing. The primary function of a rolling mill is to shape the metal being passed through the mill in some way, and many come with attachments and accessories which can be used for different types of tasks. Both hot and cold rolling mills are available for different metalworking applications.

A basic rolling mill is designed to produce sheet metal. The metal is passed between two tough cylinders numerous times, with the distance between the cylinders being decreased with each pass so that the metal becomes thinner and thinner. Using a rolling mill, an ingot of aluminum can be transformed into aluminum foil. Rolling mills are used to make sheet metal in a variety of thicknesses, and they can also be used to create custom sizes in a workshop by a metalworker who does not want to keep an array of sizes on hand.

Rolling mills can also be used to produce wire. The wire may be square, octagonal, or otherwise shaped by its passage through the rolling mill. In this case, the metal is moved through a series of progressively smaller slots in the rolling mill as it is cranked through. Rolling mills may also cut metal with a cutting attachment which can be used to create uniform standardized cuts.

Patterning and stamping are other options possible with a rolling mill. People can use patterned cylinders to stamp metal, or create their own patterns. Stamped metal can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from decorative tin ceilings to stamped wire used in jewelry making. The ability to create custom patterns allows people to play with designs to make highly individualized work, should they so desire.

Hand cranked rolling mills are reasonably safe to use, as long as people are familiar with the basic operation of the machine and they observe commonsense safety such as keeping long hair under wraps and being careful about sharp edges. Mechanized rolling mills such as those used in steel mills require more care, because if someone becomes trapped in the rollers, it could cause severe injury or death. The same force which can pull through and flatten an ingot of metal can do the same thing to a human being. With large rolling mills, it is important to know where the emergency stop is, and to be aware of one's surroundings.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Sep 09, 2011

I have a few pieces of jewelry that have been made with a metal stamp. I'd never really thought about how they were made, but I suppose I assumed it was a stamp that worked with a hammer of some kind to imprint the pattern into the metal.

This makes much more sense, because it would be much more controlled and probably quicker and easier as well.

One of my pieces is shaped like a dog tag with my name printed on it. I wonder if real dog tags are made with plate rolling mills or if they are stamped out some other way.

By lluviaporos — On Sep 09, 2011

It's amazing how thin metals can be rolled. Gold, for example, can be rolled into a tissue that is only a few atoms thick.

I don't know if they can do that with a metal rolling mill, although it sounds as though they can come close.

I'm an artist, so I have occasionally bought very thin gold sheets for use in my art. You can apply to certain kinds of canvas and paper. Obviously, it's really expensive, so most people use it very sparingly.

I wonder how much cheaper it would be if you could make it with your own jewelry rolling mill. If someone were making a lot of that kind of art, it might be worth it for them to find out.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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