View Full Version : copper coated steel wire

08-19-2008, 02:37 AM
Can a person buy steel wire that's copper coated? I'd be looking for about .1 inch diameter (not hard to find as welding rod) but in rolls of maybe 50 to 100 feet.

If I ask this another way- what is the largest gauge copper coated steel wire a person can buy on a roll?

I guess I should add that I'm looking for solid, not stranded, and softer is better as in mild steel.

Paul Alciatore
08-19-2008, 02:59 AM
I imagine you could if you want a RR car full. Just kidding, I have no idea where to look. Not something I have seen.

But I am curious, what is the application? How thick should the copper be?

08-19-2008, 03:20 AM
It looks like 18 gauge is the largest common size in copper clad steel wire.


John Stevenson
08-19-2008, 03:35 AM
We can get it up to 4mm diameter on rolls here.



Forrest Addy
08-19-2008, 04:41 AM
It's used as antenna wire for 10 meter and below ham radio last I heard. It's not a copper plate but a heavy-ish coat over a high tensile steel core. It that what you need.? it's called (oddly enough) "antenna wire"


Sopper plated wire is available in heavier sizes in 3 ft lenghts as filler metal for TIG axd oxy-acetylene process. Hobby places sell it fir abd arm and a leg.

Also talk to wire fabricator outfits. They have wire supplier upp the kazoo. Maybe they will refer you.

08-19-2008, 06:32 AM
You should be able to get vitually any size (or used to) as a lot was used in the manufacture of lamp shades. They were spot welded into all manner of shapes and sizes but I suspect it has almost died out as a trade. Never to sure why they used copper coated wire unless it was more resistant to damp etc.


08-19-2008, 09:00 AM
These guys make the real deal not the plated type.


It's also frequently being used for grounding now because it's cheaper and not worth near as much for scrap as pure copper.

You might try your local commercial wiring supply.

It also used to be the conductor of choice in rural electrical systems.

08-19-2008, 02:58 PM
Thanks for the links and ideas, I'll check it out.

As we expand our slot car business, we intend to create a track from scratch. This is commonly called routed track, and what I want to do is keep the magnetic attraction ability which the current conductors provide, but also have the better conductivity of copper. Normally a copper tape is stuck down on either side of the slots to feed juice to the car, but that offers no magnetic attraction, plus it doesn't give the slot any long-wearing sides for the guide blades to run in. Copper coated steel seems a natural for this. Ideally I'd want a rectangular cross section, not round, but I think that's asking for too much. I can probably roll wire into a squarish shape that would work for me.

That's the application. I have another thing to consider- it's possible that plain steel of a reasonable cross section would have enough conductivity to do the job without the copper. Then there's tin plated steel- that might be just what's needed, though these days I mostly find galvanized which I don't want to use for this.

Bottom line is I want to find the ideal way to create the slots and the conductors.

Ok, I just did a quick check of conductivity of metals. I'm surprised to see that chromium is only twice as poor a conductor as copper, meaning that a 2 mil thickness for example is a better conductor than 1 mil of copper. Hmm. Mild steel is about eight times worse than copper, so it would take 8 mils of steel to equal 1 mil of copper. I'm looking at this in a whole new light now.

08-19-2008, 03:15 PM
You shoulda said that up front... When I was racing radio control cars several years ago, they were just comming out with square wire to wind the armatures with. This provided a filled stack vs all the air pockets with round wire. any of the companies that winds arms vs sells them probally will have a source for it. I would try promatchracing.com/. Ask for Jeff and say an old xsponsored friend andy from PA sent ya

08-19-2008, 03:31 PM
If you look at that link I posted Darryl you will find that the product is copper clad as opposed to copper plated. It comes in two grades, what they call 30% conductivity and 40%. I presume they mean 40% of a solid copper wire. They give the resistance for each type and gauge per 1000 feet so you should be able to calculate losses and get some idea of what you need.

Steel (NOT stainless steel) will work ok if you feed it from copper wiring every few feet.

Lew Hartswick
08-19-2008, 05:23 PM
Back more than a few years ago, the telephone Co. used Cu plated
steel wire on the open, long runs to houses in the "booneys". I
know for a fact because when the "phone" finally made it to the
little group of houses where we lived (2 mi from the pavement) a
buddy and I collected some of the scraps but couldn't hardly bend
the stuff. :-) I would guess it was on the order of 12 or 10 Gage.
I'm sure it came in loooooong lengths. :-)

08-19-2008, 05:32 PM
Model railroad track is often nickel clad and you can buy it in long sections, IIRC. Or maybe steel and feed it with copper wire every so often, as Evan says. That seems like the easiest, but I don't know ANYTHING about slot cars.

08-19-2008, 07:21 PM
That reminds me, I have 120 feet of N gauge PECO nickel silver flex track, three foot lengths, the really good stuff. It's been sitting on the shelf for 20 some years. I wonder how much it's worth now?

08-19-2008, 11:22 PM
I have worked on many high voltage overhead lines that were 6 solid copper weld they were put up years ago. I believe because of all the copper theft they are going back to copper weld wire for some gounds inside substations.

08-20-2008, 12:09 AM
Like Forrest said, antenna wire for low frequency ham antennas is a copper clad steel wire and should be available from a variety of armature radio supply places. Also, a quick search for "square copper wire" brought up a place in Philadelphia called T.B. Hagstoz, they appear to be a jewelry material supply house and they have a large variety of square copper wire available. Their web site is www.hagstoz.com take a look. I just found them with a Google search, I know nothing about them but they sell the stuff by the pound. Also as mentioned above, most of the high voltage primary wire used by the power companies is copper clad steel also. It might be worth checking with your local power company to see if they use the stuff and if they might have some spool end scrap you could buy.

Good Luck,

08-20-2008, 12:34 AM
It's used as antenna wire for 10 meter and below ham radio last I heard. It's not a copper plate but a heavy-ish coat over a high tensile steel core. It that what you need.? it's called (oddly enough) "antenna wire"


[ ... ]

One brand name is/was "Copperweld." I might be off on the spelling, but it sounds like I spelled it. I believe at one time it was used for high-voltage transmission lines. Maybe it still is, for all I know.

If you find out who makes it I suspect they might have a rather large minimum order. Somewhere in all this mess I have (or had!) a catalog from one of the wire distributors that I think carried it. You might try a google of
"Copperweld" (invarious spelling forms) and see what pops up.


08-20-2008, 01:12 AM
Transmission lines are all aluminum over steel now. It is cheaper and also has better conductivity per pound than copper. Weight matters with power lines.

08-20-2008, 03:51 AM
You can get regular mig wire in 3/32 (.093) in spools. You can get sub arc wire in 1/8"to 7/32. Both are copper coated.

08-20-2008, 08:40 AM
Been a long time since I raced slot cars, but magnets were considered cheating!
Anyway, tracks were all stapled copper braid.

08-20-2008, 09:23 AM
I built an HO track from scratch. HO cars really need that magnetic feature.

What I did was rout three slots. A center one for the guide pin and another slot on each side of that. I pressed soft iron wire (don't remember what gauge) into the two outside slots just flush with the surface of the track. The track was then painted. For a conductor I used the copper tape that the leaded glass people use. It is very sticky on one side and comes in different widths and holds up real well. Repairs were seldom needed and were easy to do.

The track was made out of the really hard type of 1/4 inch masonite. I used a 1/16 carbide router bit for the curved sections (yes they are fragile) and a radial arm saw with a 1/16 in. curf for the straight sections.

I have another suggestion concerning the building of the track. Having already built a couple of 1/24th scale tracks using this method, I recommend building a model first. What I did was use 1/12 scale and cut up card stock into 4x8 inch pieces. These represented the size of the real material. I used those to build a model and measured directly off of it to the build the actual track. It really made for figuring out the bank turns that it had in it easy, as I could waste all the material (card stock) I wanted. The pieces where held together with scotch tape and when I had the bank turns right I could just cut the tape I used to hold it together and multiplying by 12 I had perfect dimensions.

One other note. The copper tape is small in cross section and required several taps of large conductor wire around the track to make for even power. I don't remember what gauge of wire I used but it took a lot of it. The advantage is nice even power all the way around the track.

Alistair Hosie
08-20-2008, 01:29 PM
I bought my spot welder from a lady who made wire frames for burial wreaths.She had rools and rools of the stuff in a range of diameters up to about 4mm as John said.opity you weren't nearer then.Alistair