Wire Mesh and Textile Weaving: Same Process, Different Results

by Jenny Knodell, IQS Editor

Jenny Knodell Author Pic

Wire mesh is a pretty useful household material—not only does it help wash foods and drain pasta, it keeps pesky bugs out while allowing a cool summer breeze in. It functions decoratively inside cabinets and protects furniture and people from flying embers in a fireplace. It’s found in all sorts of filtration systems, vents, sifters and screens to keep the air/water flowing and the dust and particles trapped. For a moment, think about a world without any wire mesh. Bugs flying freely indoors and dirt in our water, life would be a lot filthier and less sanitary. Wire mesh is essentially composed of a series of thin, perpendicular wires that are woven or welded together. These two manufacturing processes determine the strength, complexity, and different applications in which wire mesh is used.

Welded wire meshes are very limited in terms of design. Their horizontal and vertical wires always form 90º angle cross points, which are heated and melted together, forming a permanent connection. Their wires have much larger gauges than woven mesh, but are used for their strength and low cost. They act as barriers like fences, animal cages and gratings to keep out larger objects. Welded meshes are often coated, dipped or galvanized to retain higher strength.

Welded Wire Meshes Sample
Photo courtesy of Fenway Wire Cloth Inc.

By far the most common type of wire mesh has been woven, or interlaced together. These meshes have a higher mesh count and finer gauge than welded wire mesh. Their weave pattern range is very broad, and may be simple or complex. Weaving wire mesh is a practice extremely similar to the textile art of fabric weaving to make clothing and rugs. Although wire mesh weaving and cloth weaving use very different materials, the process is near identical. They both use a warp (vertical threads/wires) and weft (horizontal threads/wires) that interweave together in a tight, intricate and strong pattern. The weaving process is either done by hand or by an automated loom.

Welded Wire Meshes
Welded wire meshes. Photo courtesy of
Langley Wire Cloth Products, Inc.

In both wire mesh and fabric weaving, there are 2 basic, simple weave patterns that are most commonly used. The plain weave is made when each weft wire/thread passes alternately over and under each warp wire/thread, creating a uniform pattern and square openings. Twill weaves are a little more complicated. While the warp remains straight and never moves, the weft passes alternately over two and under two warp wire/threads. The resulting pattern looks as if there are parallel diagonal lines running across the mesh.

Plain Weave in Metal Plain Weave in Fabric
Plain Weave. Photo courtesy of Fabric Plain Weave.
Langley Wire Cloth Products, Inc.

Twill Weave in Metal Twill Weave in Fabric
Twill Weave. Photo courtesy of Fabric Twill Weave.
Langley Wire Cloth Products, Inc.

There are many other more complex, intricate designs for both wire and fabric weaving. These require either skill and patience, or a machine to complete. The Dutch Weave involves larger, straight warp wire/threads and weft wires/threads that are woven closely together to make a very dense weave with very tiny openings, best used in filtration. Other types are a combination of two weaves, combining their properties and benefits. The Twill Dutch weave has the strength of the Dutch weave and finer openings of twill weave. Reverse Dutch weave uses larger weft instead of warp. For wire mesh weaving, the individual wires may be crimped. This provides extra structural stability and strength.

Twill Dutch Weave in Metal Plain Dutch Weave in Metal
Twill Dutch Weave. Plain Dutch Weave.