Steel wire in bulk

Edited: September 27, 2019, 11:56 AM · Does anyone know where I can buy spools of steel wire appropriate for instrument strings? I'm sick of overpaying for E strings. I mean, really, at $10 US a pop, on average, before shipping, it's getting ridiculous how expensive strings are up here.

Replies (29)

September 27, 2019, 12:49 PM · I used to use 6 different gauges of piano wire to string up my hammered dulcimers and would think that the right gauge might serve your purpose at minimal cost. The wire does seem to be a bit oily maybe to prevent rusting in storage and could be wiped off .
September 27, 2019, 12:55 PM · The wire that's available probably wouldn't be as good as the Dominant e string, there are hundreds of formulations for steel, and the ones used for violin are custom made for best sound I would guess.

Besides Gold Brokat costs 3.50/string

September 27, 2019, 2:36 PM · Goldbrokat is a good string too. But you can measure your string diameter with a micrometer and order wire from places like Grainger.
September 27, 2019, 2:38 PM · I agree with you Lyndon and change it once a month and imo it is inexpensive. I sort if think these strings are my favorite E but when I sometimes pay 25 dollars for a titanium E then my mind wants me to think it is better for the higher cost.
Edited: September 27, 2019, 5:46 PM · It would be acceptable for me to buy Goldbrokats if I did change them once a month, but of course they only last about a week for me before they go false.
I want to move away from expensive "corrosion resistant" strings like the Lisa and titanium E strings because they also go bad in their own way (I just took off a 3-month-old Lisa E that squeaked more often than it actually sounded).

I'll check out the piano wire and Grainger suggestions.

September 27, 2019, 5:48 PM · Goldbrokat is $1.65 for a standard 26 E.

If you put on a new one every week, that's still only $85.80 a year, about the same price as a set of premium strings like Rondo or EPG.

I put on a new one of their $2.65 steel E on every month, and for $31.80 a year, it's well worth it.

September 27, 2019, 6:12 PM · I just found out that I can buy A POUND of spring-steel wire at 0.255 mm for 20 bucks, so I think that works out to be quite a bit cheaper than Goldbrokats if I change my E every week.
September 27, 2019, 6:49 PM · I will be interested in hearing how you make out with your roll of wire to make custom strings. I wonder if the wrapping on both ends of a string is necessary for optimum performance. And I thought I was bad as an amateur changing my E each month and not because of it being false but just for the brighter cleaner sound.

You play on plain gut and how long do you get out of a set of them?

Edited: September 27, 2019, 6:57 PM · The silk wrap at the bridge is for aesthetics, and, at the other end, so that the string doesn't slip out of the peg. It's easy to wrap strings by hand with thin wire or thread for the same purpose, though.

Plain gut lasts longer the thicker it is. Wound strings last pretty much forever, but they get warmer with time as the windings get clogged with dirt. D strings can last a few months with oil, and A string usually just over a month (not until they break, just until the sound is no longer good enough for performance).

September 27, 2019, 8:11 PM · Surely the silk windings change your tone ...

I'm wondering how much time you'll take doing your own custom windings and how that will translate into an hourly wage compared to the price of a Goldbrokat E string.

September 27, 2019, 8:30 PM · Go to You can get a 1/4" x 3" x 48" piece of maple for under $15 and a basic scroll saw for under $250. You could cut and fit yourself a new bridge every week too then. If you're feeling extra frugal, skip the scroll saw and buy a basic jeweler's saw for $25. Just think of how much you'll save.
September 28, 2019, 8:06 AM · I can certainly understand being inventive and trying to save money through unorthodox practice as I grew up without much and learned to appreciate the simple things in life, not every child is blessed with well-to-do parents and can be given everything he needs and wants, and I feel that those who are brought up with this lack have learned to foster ingenuity in all aspects of one's life and I also feel that this trait should probably not be mocked if one is fortunate enough to have a wallet full of shekels for all of your needs. I am not sure why some people like to constantly belittle other people , it is okay to opine a different but civil view but not to mock . If I can purchase my apple cider vinegar at Aldi's and save 40 cents instead of buying it at Walmart then I do so and these small savings add up to many dollars over time.
September 28, 2019, 8:32 AM · My grandfather was a violinist. I found a spool of surgical catgut in my father's inherited possessions. My grandfather had made his E strings out of it during his working life.
Edited: September 28, 2019, 9:14 AM · Jeff, unless one is truly destitute, making your own violin E strings is a false economy because of the amount of time it will take to fashion each one properly. How will the loop be created at the end of the string? My point is not to belittle someone who has (might have) less, but to question the obvious failure to include one's time in the value equation. Even poor folks value their time. Two hours spent fashioning an E string is two hours that could have been spent busking (or some wage-earning activity) thereby generating enough income for at least two E strings. So it can't just be about hardship.

By the way, most people can't taste the difference between different types of vinegar when it is used in cooking, pickling, salad dressings, etc. (Only they can when they have prepared it themselves or otherwise know that it's there, which means their observation is highly biased.) Distilled white vinegar is the cheapest, so you can likely save your $0.40 without spending half an hour driving to another store.

September 28, 2019, 9:42 AM · The ball end is no big deal, especially because of how I designed my tailpiece (baroque style slots). With a pair of pliers, you can easily loop the end of the string and add wrap at the pegbox end in 5 - 10 minutes or so. IMO entirely worth the $20 savings per individual string shipped.
September 28, 2019, 11:38 AM · I have used a Steel guitar string for the upper string on a 3/4 violin set up as a piccolo in order to get it thin enough. Just twist the end to form a loop. A guitar string is about 1 $ and long enough to make two violin strings
Edited: September 28, 2019, 12:39 PM · Much as I enjoy playing on a gut E I have to be practical when it comes to several hours per week of orchestral rehearsals. My experience of a gut E is that it starts to fray within the month and, although the tone may still be ok, the fraying becomes a distracting nuisance under the fingers.

Last year I left a Pirastro Chorda gut E on for month after month to see what would happen under orchestral conditions. After a while it was fraying on all the first position notes, but the tone wasn't all that affected. Despite the aforesaid distracting nuisance I continued using it - in the spirit of scientific enquiry, of course - until six months into the test during one fine summer's evening orchestra rehearsal when it suddenly frayed over its whole length up to the bridge. I got the message, immediately stopped playing, and changed the string.

So I now use a Warchal Amber steel E with their matching steel A together with gut G and D - a combination that works and lasts well.

September 28, 2019, 1:45 PM · I think it is somewhat related but not totally.

I got a few Goldbrokat E for next to nothing. However, they are loop end, and my violin takes only ball end string. I am planning to to take one of the ball out from the old string and put it into the loop, tighten/rotate the loop. Should I also add some glue on it?

September 28, 2019, 2:53 PM · You don't have to glue the ball ends. Just save one from an old string and pop it in to the new one.
September 28, 2019, 5:30 PM · my favorite supplier has-

The E strings I measured are .012-.015"

I suggest trying some small samples first before moving on to buying a whole roll. There are all sorts of grades and types of steel wire. Make sure you clean it off with alcohol or lacquer thinner before using to remove the oily rust preventative.

September 28, 2019, 6:29 PM · 12-15 thou is waaay too thick for an E—that's around .35 mm. The standard heavy gauge is .27 (11 thou).

I will check if McMaster has a better price for wire than Ackland-Grainger.

September 28, 2019, 7:09 PM · Also

September 28, 2019, 10:02 PM · I been using a Rondo E string for past year and it’s still pretty good.
September 29, 2019, 7:40 AM · I will second Timothy's precaution that there are all sorts of grades and types of steel wire, including the degree of heat treatment and the degree of "work hardening" from being pulled through the forming die.

I'm not sure where the estimate of $20 saved per string comes from. A Goldbrokat (considered to be a very fine E string) can be purchased for about $2.50, with free shipping from some places with a minimum order.

September 29, 2019, 7:57 AM · Not in Canada, my friend.
September 29, 2019, 11:32 AM · At least make sure you get steel music wire then there's at least a small chance that it will be good enough for violin strings.
Edited: September 29, 2019, 12:11 PM ·
September 29, 2019, 12:12 PM · or simply google stainless steel music wire
Edited: September 30, 2019, 9:08 PM · Here's a store in Toronto that's offering the Goldbrokat E string for US$1.66 (2.20 CAD).

So I'm not really understanding the "not in Canada" thing.

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