8 Different Types of Steel Wire

Metal cable on a spoolSteel wire is an extremely useful and versatile material that can be found in many things you use everyday in the home, as well as in the car you drive. Steel wire is also useful in commercial, industrial and military applications—for cleaning, for spring-loaded devices, for reinforcing, for structural integrity, and even for making music.

However, not every piece of wire can be used for everything. Steel wire is manufactured to different levels of strength, elasticity and thickness for different purposes. Here’s a quick overview of 8 common types of steel wire.


Named for its use in piano strings, music wire could be considered the “work horse” of steel wire. Its high carbon content makes it a strong, durable, all-around wire that is excellent for high levels of stress and repeated loads (for example, in springs or surgical equipment).


Similar in structure to music wire, oil tempered wire is usually drawn to thicker diameters, then heated and “quenched” with oil to make it both strong and flexible. This wire is also used for spring applications, such as garage door springs.


Most commonly used in the brushes of street cleaners, broom wire is usually a strong, high-carbon wire that is galvanized or PVC coated to endure repeated friction.


This is a flexible coated wire that is commonly used to provide structure and flexibility, such as with heating and air ducts that have to curve around corners while retaining their shape.


This is steel wire that has simply been drawn to a certain diameter without any additional treatment or tempering. It’s a good all-around wire for bending into wire forms or springs, but it is unable to endure high amounts of stress the way music wire does. It’s frequently used in products like metal baskets, shopping carts, safety pins, and some auto parts.


This steel alloy wire is cold-drawn and heat-treated to be exceptionally strong, able to withstand shock and high-impact loads that the typical wire spring could not withstand. It’s an excellent choice for recoil springs in guns or in high performance vehicles.


High carbon content makes steel strong, but at the expense of flexibility. For applications where the wire needs to bend more easily, (like low-stress springs or coat hangers) low carbon steel is a better option.


Patenting refers to a specific treatment process by which steel wire is heated and quenched to make it stronger and more durable. Patent wire is useful for high tension applications and for wire rope.

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