Introduction to Metalworking

molten metal pouring into molds

Metalworking can be extremely fascinating, and a deeply satisfying activity, as you create something useful from raw materials or even repurposed material scavenged from trash. Metalworking is a very broad based subject and covers many skillsets and skill levels. You can begin with a thin flat sheet of metal, a nail, a hammer, and a design in your head. By using the hammer and nail to punch a pattern of holes in a metal sheet you can create artistic pictures. This technique has been used for centuries to create designs for lanterns that held candles. It has been used to make door panels for “pie safes” and other cabinetry.

You can take metalworking to whatever level you care to master and your budget can afford. Here are a few of the many types and levels of metalworking. Enjoy learning new skills and increase your abilities in DIY.

Melting and Molding Metal

molten metal pouring into a mold

All metals can be melted and poured or injected into molds to make metal castings which are then used as is or further refined by grinding, filing, or otherwise ‘machining’ the metal to achieve a better fit and finish. Lead casting is very simple, but has fallen out of favor because science has determined the fumes from molten lead are harmful to people. Aluminum is easy to cast and machines well therefore making it a good choice for metalworking. Brass, iron, and steel require higher heats to melt and more equipment is needed than for metals that melt at lesser temperatures.

Tools for Metalworking

drill carving through metal

Tools used for metalworking can be very simple and inexpensive for some types of metal work. They can be extremely complicated and expensive for other types of metalwork such as the hammer and nail compared with a large CNC (Computerized Numerically Controlled). The CNC machine is basically an automated machining complex that will repetitiously make multiple identical parts for industry.

Basic metal working can be done with few tools and at minimum expense. Drills, bandsaws, hacksaws, abrasive cutoff saws, cutting torches, plasma cutters, welders (stick, TIG Tungsten Inert Gas, MIG Metallic Inert Gas), rivets, and bolts are just a few of the tools used in metalworking.

Blacksmithing

blacksmith hammering hot metal

Blacksmithing denotes a form of metalworking that involves using a forge to heat metal to softening point and then hammering it into varied shapes for specific purposes. An anvil is usually employed as a base for placing hot metal while hammering it into desired shape. Blacksmithing is a learned skill and takes a lot of experience to do well. It can be a mesmerizing experience to heat metal and hammer it into a useful tool such as a knife or hatchet.

Welding

welding

Welding is a skill that is easily learned and perfected with practice. Welding equipment and tools can be expensive, but will last a lifetime. The aforementioned welding, stick, TIG, MIG, and also gas welding where a flame of oxygen and acetylene are burned producing high heat to melt metals together thus producing a ‘weld’. This requires some skill and practice. Many people employ welding to create art in numerous forms. Welding is used to join metal pieces together for repair of broken components, constructing new building frames, creating new tools, and many other uses around the homestead.

Machining

machine metalworking

Machining of metal requires tools designed for the purpose. This is where the expense of metalworking escalates in acquiring the necessary tooling to accomplish the desired result. Many things can be made using a lathe and minimal tooling. Milling machines are a complement to a lathe as they will do many operations that are extremely difficult to do on a lathe.

You can make new parts for other tools you use regularly and keep them operating for many more years.

You can create new tools for your personal use and enjoyment. The satisfaction of taking a piece of new or used metal and employing your metal working skills to create a new part for one of your projects is the reward of getting into metalworking.

A Few Examples, Designed and Built by the Author

Utility Motorized Dump Cart

homemade pony cart.jpg

Battery Operated Shop Hoist

shop hoist home made metalwork

homemade winch hoist attached to a beam

Large Socket for Hydraulic Floor Jacks

Shop built socket

homemade metal socket