An art. A hobby. A trade. The mysterious craft of metal work is all three. Look at the Statue of Liberty in NYC and then consider the simple weld of two small metals. They’re made using the same craft, but just fall on completely opposite ends of the same spectrum…
We all know the different types of metal; copper, brass, zinc, aluminium, stainless steel, the list goes on. You’ve got hard metals, and you’ve got soft metals. Some metals can be welded, and some can’t. But metal art is a seriously impressive craft. Many sculpturists enjoy it because it allows them to make something out of materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Some of the best metal art sculptures are created from recycled or scrap metal. So not only does it look cool, it’s resourceful too!
The same goes for big metal companies in the manufacturing industry. It’s more cost effective for them to use recycled metals over anything else. Blacksmithing, boilermakers, ironworkers all use metal fabrication (building metal structures through bending and cutting). Not surprisingly, metal is a billion dollar industry.
Which metal is best?
Aluminium and steel are both popular choices in the metal art world. Some prefer aluminium for its durability and white undertone. Others lean more towards stainless steel because it has the ability to produce beautiful colours when heated, and a delightful matt finish. Copper and bronze can create quite sophisticated metal art, offering quite a rustic feel to the masterpiece.
Everywhere we look, there is metal. Now, we are not magic. We know we can’t just look at a spoon and hope it will bend. Metals are generally malleable, meaning they can be bent out of shape without breaking. They are also fusible, and ductile. In short, we can do a hell of a lot with metal.
Types of metal work
Scrap/recycled metal art
Both extremely popular choices for making metal art sculptures. Scrap and recycled metals can be reused over and over again. They can be used both in the manufacturing industry or at home to make new furnishings and fixtures! Using scrap metal is a serious way to reduce waste (Hooray!)
Metal garden art
Some people ditch the high street stores and choose to make their own garden art from their very own studio! If you’ve got the equipment, it can often be cheaper to make your own, plus it’s a pretty cool hobby to have! Garden metal art comes in all shapes and sizes, and if you know what you’re doing you could probably become a bit of a pro at it!
What metal work tools do you need?
So, you fancy having a go at some DIY metal art work. You’ve chosen the type of metal you want, you’ve got your sheet at the ready and you have an idea of what you want to make. Here’s a list of sheet metal forming tools that you’re going to need:
A good cutting torch
A plasma torch is a popular choice here. It leaves a neat, tidy finish and is easy to handle. It melts the steel and cuts like butter.
If you want your car to start it needs petrol. If you want to toast some bread, you need a toaster. If you want to stick two metals together, you guessed it, you need a welder! There are a few different types of welders, but I’ll put this as simply as possible. Welding machines have two leads, one is negative (and always attached to the metal you’ll be welding) and one is positive. Turn it on, and move the positive lead to what you want to weld and BOOM, sparks should fly! The heat melts the metal and now you can weld away to your heart’s content.
You’re going to need a decent hand-held grinder for your project. It’s one of the best metal shaping tools out there. Plus, it’s great for polishing off any excess to make your project look shiny and new!
Metal is strong, and these babies are great for tweezing and fixing certain parts that are proving a little too strong for you.
Okay, this one isn’t a tool as such, but you’re going to need chalk to draw your design on the metal so you can cut accurately.
Safety, Safety, Safety!
Helmets & safety glasses
During any kind of construction work safety is key. Safety glasses and protective gear are necessities whilst creating metal art. Imagine using your plasma gun and not having your eyes protected from the sparks?
The power tools used in metal work are extremely loud. Not only this, they act as a shield by preventing the teeny hot sparks flying into your lobes.
Welding = Hot. Enough said.
Is it just us, or has all this talk of metal made you want to jazz up your living room with some funky abstract metal wall decor?