Q: I am considering buying some drawplates, starting with a round or multi-shape plate. I have heard that the best drawplates are from Italy, is this true? Would it be best to purchase a tungsten plate or one made from tool steel?
A: The Italian plates are high quality and very good. So are the French plates. But even the really cheap plates from India (often found for less than ten bucks) can have some uses, though the sizing of the holes is often all over the map.) For round plates, especially if you work with harder metals, or platinum, the carbide plates are wonderful. Less friction, so less effort to draw, more precise sizing, and the wire comes off the plate highly polished already.
There are quality differences in carbide plates, though. The ones from Taiwan are good. The ones from mainland China are much more variable, sometimes a bit too thin. Drawing too hard a wire can sometimes break the carbide die inserts on the carbide plates, so they do need some care. For shapes other than round, while the carbide plates are longer lasting in terms of wear on the holes (takes drawing a lot of wire to wear down a steel plate, so this may not be an issue), and the precise sizing is nice, they aren’t highly polished, so there’s less advantage, and they’re not available in the wide range of shapes good steel plates are available in.
Again, for platinum or other “sticky” metals, carbide plates are useful, but whether it’s enough to justify the higher cost is a marginal decision. I like ‘em, but they’re probably a bit overkill for most people (including me.) The round ones, though, I love em. On the other hand, the first plates I got were French steel ones. That was some 35 years ago, and they’re still just as good as when I bought them, though they no longer look so nice and new. Good steel plates will likely last you a lifetime. Maybe more. Good carbide plates will leave you feeling pampered and luxuriously spoiled.
by Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.