Metalwork projects can be rewarding and challenging in equal measure, and they’re a great way to develop and improve important skills.
If you are looking for a new project to try and you don’t know how to get started or which route to take, here are a few ideas and pieces of advice to give you some inspiration.
Consider purchasing used machines for your metalwork projects
Before we get started, you need to think about the kind of equipment you’ll need to work on metallic materials efficiently and safely.
While new gear will invariably be expensive, you can save a decent amount of cash if you instead choose second-hand equipment.
For example, if you check out Revelation Machinery and their vertical band saw collection, you could secure a cost-effective used model which is ideal for cutting out complex shapes from sheet metal and other materials.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need a full-blown machine to cut metal if you are choosing one of the simpler projects. A combination of an X-acto knife and thinner, softer metals like aluminum is a manual option, for example.
Whichever type of project you take on, ensure you both have the right tools for the job and that you are able to use them safely. Even if you are experienced, accidents can happen, so stick to best practices and avoid unnecessary risks, while also wearing protective clothing and glasses.
Create music from thin air with wind chimes
Wind chimes are a great starter project for anyone looking to get into metalwork. Best of all, they can be produced using a range of different materials, many of which would otherwise have been scrapped.
In terms of design, you have a lot of different options available to you. For a super-simple wind chime, affixing bottle caps to one another using single-chain links to create jingly-jangly strings that can be hung from a basic upper frame could be good, and of course, requires no need for metal cutting; a small amount of soldering will do the trick.
For a more complex wind chime, cutting old pipes to different lengths so that they give off different pitched sounds when clinking together is worth considering. Just be aware that you will need to take the time to properly finish the edges that you cut, as these could otherwise be sharp.
There are even no-cut wind chime projects, such as using outdated keys dangling from twine, or even the cogs and gears of a decommissioned bicycle’s drivetrain, which are well suited to beginners.
You could go a step further and spray paint your metal components before hanging to give it a more cohesive look or to help it blend in with its surroundings. The choice is yours!
Fashion a flower from metal
A flower that has metal petals will last a lifetime, and so it’s a great romantic gift for a loved one, as well as a project that will let you step up your metalworking game in the process.
Copper is arguably the best material for this, although any of the softer equivalents will also fit the bill, and of course, you could mix and match if you want.
A sheet of 1.2mm in thickness works best, and you need to divide this into around five rectangular pieces, each of which needs a hole drilled in the middle through which the central ‘stem’ of the flower can sit, and by which the individual pieces can be affixed to one another.
Tinsnips are a speedy manual way of manipulating copper of this thickness, although a band saw could also do the job swiftly. Rounding the edges of your rectangles, as well as cutting triangular sections into the middle to help with the eventual bending, is next.
You then have to make use of a cross peen hammer to thin out the edges and add that natural texture you’re looking for.
A threaded stem will let you piece the petals together and hold them in place with a nut; a bolt will serve well for this purpose.
Pliers can then be used to curl and bend the copper ‘petals’ into a more authentic shape, and you can use your intuition and own tastes to complete any final touches.
Make a menu board
If you are struggling to stick to a meal plan each week, or it’s just a bit of a hassle to organize your family’s food from day to day, a menu board could be the perfect thing to hang in the kitchen.
For this, you’ll need a galvanized metal sheet, along with some wood strips to make the frame. It’s as simple as cutting the metal to size, treating the wood to give it the color of your choice, and affixing the two together using two-inch screws.
A standard non-permanent marker should be able to write onto the surface of the metal, then allow you to rub it away when you need to clear space to add more information.
You can harness command strips to affix this board to the wall of your kitchen, which could be useful if you don’t want to drill into the wall itself. It could even serve as a chores board.
Also remember that because you’re using sheet metal, it could be magnetic, letting you add magnetized items and notes to the menu board, not just writing.
Obviously, this is a useful organizational tool for everyday family life, and yet it could also be a good project to use if you need a scratchpad for your workshop, or even if you are aiming to start serving clients like local businesses with products such as this.
The versatility of metal projects is almost unending, and if you cut your teeth with some of these DIY options, you never know where it might take you. Amateurs and pros alike can always stand to learn a few new tricks, and this is the knowledge that you can pass on to others as well.