Draw plates are a specialized metal tool used mainly by jewellers and model ship builders to reduce the diameter of wooden dowels or wire by pulling them through successively smaller holes which shaves off a tiny bit of the diameter of the wire or wood with each pass. Specialist jewellers draw plates which change the shape of wire to squares, hearts, ovals or other shapes are also available.
Wire workers also use draw plates to reduce the thickness of knitted wire tubing, but draw plates for this purpose are made of wood, and help to stretch the knitting out and reduce it in size, rather than shaving off edges.
Main Uses for Miniatures - Draw plates are used mainly by modellers to produce very fine wooden dowels to be used by ships modellers as 'treenails' or dollhouse and scale modellers for dowelling and wooden axles in sizes smaller than 1/16 inch or of particular woods. They are also useful for creating pegs for pegging period wooden floors or Shaker furniture in miniature. They can also be used to straighten wire, or create thinner pieces of wire from wire stocks that are easier for you to find. Square profile draw plates can be used to make square wire from your existing round stock, if you need it for particular furniture or modelling uses.
Using a draw plate
To use a draw plate with wire or wood, you taper the end of your dowel or wire (file it down) and fit it into the first hole it will pass through, then pull it using pliers through the next smallest hole and so on until you reach your desired diameter. To enable the metal or wood to more easily pass through the hole, you may need to lubricate the drawplate with special oil lubricants or beeswax (for wire only) or with a bit of soap for wooden dowels. (you want to avoid anything that will affect your later finish on wood).
- For Wire The drawplate is used with the wire going through the tapered side (the larger sized hole) and pulled from the smaller side. After one or two passes you will need to anneal (heat and cool) your wire to make it easier to shape.
- For Wood the draw plate is used 'backwards' with the wood being started through the flat side of the plate (narrow holes) and drawn out through the tapered, larger holes. For wooden models, drawplates are usually used with the smallest diameter /wooden dowels available (1/16 inch), rounded toothpick or bamboo skewers.
Where to find draw plates - Inexpensive draw plates (usually made in China or India) are available from various hobby suppliers, but these can be problematic as they are not often precision drilled, holes may be out of order, no numbering system or sizing is used, and they usually need to be oiled frequently to avoid rusting (and for wooden models, the oil on the drawplate may interfere with wood finishes, even if you clean it off carefully before use.) Micromark sell an inexpensive draw plate (made in India) without and size markings and Brynes Model Machines sell a more precise one with markings for a similar price (around $25). Quality European made jewellers draw plates are available from most jewellery supply houses, although the cost can be high, from $100 up, depending on the shape.