Steel, copper, brass, aluminum and tin are some of the most common metals in use all around us, but what are they like to work with using tools like a sheet metal brake or cutting tools and what are their important physical properties – if you are just beginning in metal work ? Let’s look at that a bit, shall we?
Steel is the most commonly used metal in the world. It is especially used for construction due to its advantages in this area. Steel is really an alloy of iron and other elements, such as carbon, and depending on its chemical composition, it has quite a variety of properties. The most common alloy though, is iron and carbon, which yields a good combination of tensile strength, ductility and weight. This is used both in the construction of buildings (skyscrapers would not be possible without the use of steel for instance), ships, cars, trains, etc. Steel can be worked with normal metal working tools, it welds well and is easy to shape using normal shaping methods.
Copper is softer than steel and not as strong. It is easier to shape though, making it perfect for more artistic uses, and for plumbing work. It also does not corrode as aggressively as untreated steel, and when it does corrode, it turns a nice green color – as can be seen on copper roofs the world over.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and is often used in cast parts and bearings. It is good for applications where low friction is needed, as it is softer than many other metals. Also, it has a nice golden appearance when polished and is much used for decorative purposes on doorknobs, buttons and other hardware.
What do all these metals have in common? Well, none of them are exotic or hard to get, and all of them can be worked by any amateur in the field of sheet metalworking. Standard tools, such as the sheet metal shear, sheet metal brake and hss drills can be used with these metals, so don’t hesitate to do your next piece with one of these.