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Where can I get wire that is very thin (needle size, 24-26 gauge), but is stiff (like a needle)? Does it have a name?

The wire of this diameter available at craft and home stores (which comes in rolls) is too pliable. I'm looking ideally for something that is essentially a really long needle in that it is thin, stiff, and can hold a fair amount of weight without warping.

Context: I wish to suspend fairly heavy beadwork with this wire (think clothesline but with the wire running through the top row of beads).

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    I saw in other comments you are worried about the wire bowing. How long will this wire need to be. I don't think your are going to find wire that won't bend. Even if you found a 4 foot needle it would bend with weight. – Matt May 2 '18 at 19:53
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A needle may not be as stiff as you think. One reason a needle seems so stiff is that it's short. A needle of the same diameter and material that was a foot long would not seem stiff at all by comparison. This is just the mechanics of materials at play.

The design problem is a trade-off between wire diameter and material strength. The stiffness of the wire is increased with the wire diameter and also by the strength of the material; a wire of stronger material will deflect less than one of a lesser strength, given the same diameter.

The strength of steel is strongly affected by the alloy and its state of hardening. At the low end would be baling wire, which is mild steel (low-carbon) which cannot be hardened. At the high-end would be tool steel (chrome-vanadium alloy perhaps) that was hardened to maybe 60 Rc (really darn hard). These would exhibit really different deflection characteristics, from bending (permanently) with mild hand pressure to really making you work for it and probably snapping before taking too much of a bend.

A generally good compromise on these is available in music wire, as Matt mentions. Music wire is high-ish carbon steel hardened to a spring temper. This makes it good for springs, which is what a piano string is. It can be made harder, but this comes at the cost of increasing its brittleness. (If you snap a good needle with pliers you'll find that it snaps suddenly, aka. a brittle failure.)

Additional strength can be obtained using a tool steel, which I expect what the best needles are made from. This is most easily obtained as so-called "drill rod". It is supplied unhardened (but still quite strong) and can be hardened to your specifications using a propane torch and either water or (vegetable) oil.

None of these options will be absolutely rigid over any distance. You'll need to decide where to trade off a graceful curve with wire thickness. If you can prevent the wire from rotating, you may be able to "pre-stress" the wire (bend it upwards) such that it appears quite straight when loaded.

I would start with the music wire. It's much cheaper and easier to find. If it's important enough and music wire won't get it done you can look into tool steels.

  • I would add to this, that aside from using steel, one of the key ways to prevent bowing specifically is to make sure your anchor points are secure and that the wire is completely taut before it's secured to the anchor. It's unlikely that the wire itself would then stretch and cause bowing. Bowing is usually a sign of having slack on the line. – Web Head May 3 '18 at 15:43
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You may wish to look for piano wire which is made of high carbon steel and is fairly stiff.

  • If you hang something on it (about the weight of a cell phone), will it bend? – Jet Blue May 2 '18 at 18:17
  • @JetBlue you need to have it suspended from something. If it is attached at the ends it should hold the weight without any issues. – Matt Balent May 2 '18 at 19:22
  • Stiffness or Youngs modulus is a function of the material not the strength level, So, all steel is the same 30 million psi. If piano wire won't do it you need a new plan. – blacksmith37 May 8 '18 at 1:39
  • @blacksmith37 This is not strictly true; the type of steel makes a difference eprints.qut.edu.au/64377 – Ernest Friedman-Hill May 20 '18 at 16:13
  • Sounds like one researcher made some mistake when he finds modulus varies with thickness, – blacksmith37 May 21 '18 at 17:55
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I had a similar need so thought about it more. Welding filler wire ; For TIG welding , these come in about 36" lengths and are easily available at a welding supply shop. They are frequently high alloy ( exotic stainless steel ) and cold worked to high hardness . Problem , the shop may want to sell a bundle of several wires. Another : old external radio antenna for cars ; I don't know any new cars that have them. You should be able to find one at an auto junk yard.

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