which metals

So, I've been accumulating tools (a lathe most recently) and want to be ready to make some stuff if the need comes up. I have a few random pieces of metal to get me started, but would like to get a small supply that might be most useful.

Does anyone have a good reference or two about the characteristics of various metals. I think I want basic info on:

machinability weld ability bend ability strength hardness harden ability corrosion resistance

I figure I might use these types soon:

steel aluminum brass stainless

Here's some basic comments on what I think I may do. These are all home hacker type projects, not professional.

Build basic framey stuff that might be drilled/tapped/screwed/welded. I assume 1018 steel and 1061 aluminum is ok for that.

Make some project bits and pieces on the mill or lathe. 12L14 is very machinable but not good in other ways. Is 1117 another good alternative? Aluminum or brass too if steel strength isn't important.

I've never touched stainless so far, but may do if I see a reason.

Hope that gives some idea of what I want to learn and where I'm coming from.

Any links, suggestions, or comments are most appreciated. Also where to get the good stuff cheap might help, but there have been recent discussions about that.


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For home projects I use mainly O-1 or W-1 drill rod for turning and hot-rolled steel cutoffs from the junkyard for milling. These are readily available at reasonable cost and easy enough to machine with high-speed steel tools. If the part needs predictable strength I turn it from a Grade 5 bolt.

12L14 is very nice to thread and takes knurling well but knurling implies handling, which for some people causes rust.

Cold-rolled steel is stronger and smoother than hot-rolled but it often warps after you cut into the stressed surface layer.

When I design something at work I select the materials for their properties but for home projects I usually design for whatever is in the scrap pile. Building up the scrap pile means becoming aware of metal sources in your area and letting your friends know that you can use such seemingly useless items as old pipe and steel bed frames.


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for some properties of alloys. I don't have a welding resource offhand but in general, soft stuff (e.g. mild steel) can be welded, hard stuff (W1 etc.) needs to be preheated, annealed or best avoided, and some things are best left alone (cast iron unless nickel rod, 12L14 IIRC?).


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Tim Williams

The local scrap metal yard is a regular stop. Most steel I get for nothing, and I buy aluminum in useful shapes when I see it and stainless rounds when they show up. For the typical utility/hobby items that I make at home, paying full price for materials would take a lot of the fun out of it. After all, I need to save that money for more tools:-)

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[snip it all]

Lots of good comments there. Thanks.


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Because of the lead content, of course.

5052 works well for this. Set it up so the bend line is *across* the grain.


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jim rozen

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