Interested in metal working? Crafting or building with these durable materials can be a satisfying hobby to fulfill your creative spirit, or a solid job to meet your financial needs. Here is a brief description of some of the metals readily available for use today.
1. Thin Sheet
Thin sheet metal is used by hobbyists and artists. Hammered or bent into shapes and welded or soldered together to create many objects. Thin sheet can be cut with hand held shears, either manual or powered. Steel, brass, copper, and aluminum are the most widely used thin metals.
Thin metals are used in construction to make roofs, and walls of buildings, construct forms for concrete floors and stairs, to name a few uses.
2. Heavy Sheet
Heavy sheet metal is used in many applications, but requires heavier and more robust tools to work with it. Structural components and supports for floors, walls, and roofs are formed from thicker sheet metal.
Steel is the most common form of metal used today as it is easier to work with than some other metals. Steel can be readily cut, welded, bolted, riveted, soldered, and glued together. Cutting is accomplished many ways from saws, abrasive wheels, oxy-acetylene torch, plasma cutter, and shears. Thicker steel can be drilled and threaded to accept bolts for fastening. Steel is rigid and serves well as a base for appliances, frames for autos, agricultural equipment, and tools.
Aluminum can be alloyed with other metals to make a very usable product that can be extruded in shapes for specific uses, molded into desired products, and in many ways handles much easier than steel as it has a much lower melting point. It is easier to machine, drill, and thread than is steel along with being much lighter in weight.
The most common use of copper is in wiring for electrical uses, and for use as plumbing piping, but it also finds use as a good material for roofs. Copper is used to form shaped objects for art as it is very easy to shape and to solder together. Artists and hobbyists find copper to be a good product to use.
Brass is used in many applications utilizing sheets, rounds, tubing, and flats. It is easily soldered and can be joined using gas torch welding processes. Brass is easily formed into shapes and can be cut to shape with hand tools if thin enough. Heavy brass is used for electrical components, plumbing parts, and decorator items.
Lead at one time was a very common use metal. It was used for plumbing pipes, gun bullets, sinker weights for fishing, casting toy “lead soldiers”. Its use has declined because of health issues from fumes given off when melting, and the leaching of lead into water passing through lead pipes. Lead is still used in protective shielding pads and blankets in X-Ray labs in hospitals as the X-Rays do not penetrate lead.
Metal is produced in many different structural forms for different uses and applications. Round pipe, square tubing, rectangular tubing, channels, angles, C and Z shapes, I beams, and extrusions are just a few of the forms manufactured.
Metals are joined in many ways from drilling holes and riveting through the aligned holes of metal pieces to welding the pieces together into one continuous piece. Bolting pieces together to using specialized adhesives to bond pieces together, even dissimilar metals.
Many welding processes exist to join metals together. The type and thickness of the metals to be joined dictate the process. Gas flame welding, stick welding, MIG (Metallic Inert Gas) welding, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas), and the original forge welding where the metal pieces are heated to near their melting point, covered with a flux powder, and hammered together on top of an anvil. Forge welding was used in the manufacturing of wagon and buggy wheels many years ago.
Aluminum welding requires specialized equipment and training in its use to accomplish satisfactory welds.