Sheet metal is used to fabricate everything from ductwork to simple shelves, and is used extensively in the automotive industry. Sheet metal varies in thickness; use thicker sheet metal when durability is essential. Working with sheet metal comes with a high risk of being cut because the edges of thin metal are razor sharp. It can take years to develop metalworking skills, but it is best to begin with simple sheet metal projects.
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You can make a simple shelf from a single piece of sheet metal; the shelf is supported by two metal triangles on either side. The project requires cutting notches into the metal and then bending them into shape. A storage tray that is enclosed on three sides is ideal for storing canned and bottled products in your workshop. The basic pattern is a T-shape with tabs that fold in to form a box. Both of these projects can be mounted to the wall with screws or anchors. These projects give experience in cutting and bending sheet metal into shape.
Try making an easy rectangular flower planter to hone your sheet metalworking skills. The finished product would make an ideal gift for Mother's Day, or you can display it on your own porch. To make the flower planter, cut a cross shape out of the metal to the desired scale of the planter. You should have a rectangle surrounded by two square and two rectangle tabs. Fold the ends of each tab over about 1/2 inch to eliminate the sharp edges. Fold each of the tabs up at a 90-degree angle to create a box. You may need to punch holes in the bottom, or line the planter with gravel for drainage.
Make a simple sheet metal toolbox to have a way to carry all your metalworking tools together. A wide variety of sheet metal toolbox plans are available. The toolbox starts out much like the flower planter, with a cross-shape piece of metal with two square and two rectangular tabs to fold in to create an open box. The lid can be made in the same way, or bent in the middle to create a raised top. Attach the lid to the box with a set of hinges and a latch. You can find toolbox handles in a variety of styles at any hardware store.
Up-cycling is a growing trend in which junked objects are made into new, useful items. The creative do-it-yourselfer can transform sheet metal into art pieces to display on his garden fence or hang from trees. Cut out an outdoor- or garden-themed shape, such as a sun or flower, from a piece of sheet metal. Fold the edges over to eliminate the sharp edges. Paint the sheet metal shape with an exterior metal paint, and seal with a polyurethane clear coat spray to protect it from the weather. The same idea can be applied to make garden markers for vegetables, or a sign for your front door.
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