Working with metal is not as difficult as you may imagine. With manageable materials and the right tools, you can make a number of useful projects. Simple metal projects consist of cutting out a pattern, making bends in the tin or metal, and adding the finishing touches such as paint colour or a rust patina. As you get more involved with your hobby, move to more difficult projects and advanced tools.
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Selecting Metal and Iron
Basic sheet metal comes in different sizes and gauges. Metal up to 24-gauge is manageable for projects at home. With only basic tools on hand, 22-gauge metal is a good choice because it is easy enough to cut and is flexible, but strong.
There are enough metal fabrication tools on the market to fill a workshop. As your skills develop your need for advanced tools will increase. Tools that will make your job easier at the beginning, and are necessary for basic projects, are tin snips in right, left and straight cutting configurations, a press brake for making clean, sharp bends in sheet metal, and a hand punch. Consider more advanced tools like a rotary shear for cutting, a welder, and a heavy-duty punch press for making holes. Safety goggles are a must for metal projects because small shards of metal could make contact with your eyes.
Beginner Project Ideas
A starter sheet metal project is making a simple tin cut-out to display inside or outside your home. Choose any shape you like that is at least 8 inches. A smaller size will be difficult to cut with tin snips in the beginning. A duck, pig, heart or star, are common tin cutouts that are often used as decorations in country-themed homes. Practice tracing or etching the pattern onto your sheet metal. Cutting with tin snips will familiarise you with the right, left, and straight blades. If your pig or duck needs an eye, a hand held tin punch will make that hole.
Leaving your project near moisture after it is sprayed with a decorative spray paint will give it the antiqued look to match your shabby chic interior. Moisture causes rust will form and will age your project prematurely. If you like a shiny, clean coat on your work, choose a high gloss anti-rust paint like Rust-Oleum, to protect the metal. For outdoor projects use paint with outdoor protection.
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