Sooner or later, every prospective do-it-yourselfer will deal with the processing of materials made of metal. However, due to their high-strength properties, metal profiles made of aluminum, steel, or stainless steel cannot be processed as quickly as wood. But it’s not as complicated as you might think. We have collected five tips that you should keep in mind when handling metal profiles.
1. Safety first: protective clothing for metal processing.
Protective clothing is also mandatory in metalworking. The type of injury can be much higher with metal. Wherever you fight with a splinter in wood, pieces of metal can cause significant injuries.
Safety glasses, protective gloves, and, in the case of substantial profiles, safety shoes are mandatory items. In the case of gloves, one should make sure that they are not plastic gloves. Depending on the type of work, high temperatures can arise in metalworking, against which plastic gloves offer no protection. Turning is an exception to the requirement to wear gloves. The glove can get caught on a spindle and, therefore, even increase the risk of injury.
Workpieces should always be firmly clamped and fixed. If the profile tilts during drilling or cutting, the material can injure the craftsman.
2. Which metal for which purpose?
As a beginner, you might ask yourself which material is suitable for which purpose. Here is a small overview of a rough classification.
Steel is the all-rounder of metals. Steel profiles are very cheap and can be processed relatively easily. That is why steel is suitable for most projects. The disadvantage is the high weight and the susceptibility to rust. Corrosion protection with paint is, therefore, practically mandatory, and use outdoors is therefore only conditionally recommended.
Aluminum is lightweight among metals. The “soft” material can be easily processed with common hand tools and is magnetically neutral. The self-generating oxide layer makes the aluminum particularly resistant to corrosion and is therefore also well suited for outdoor use. Unfortunately, the protective layer becomes a bit milky after a while, but this is only a visual flaw. It should not be left unmentioned that the material can, unfortunately, only be bent moderately.
Stainless steel lives up to its name. If weight is not a factor, it is the king of materials. It is high-strength, corrosion-resistant, and has an elegant look that will last for a long time with a little care. Unfortunately, the hard material can only be processed with the appropriate tools and is the most expensive of the three materials due to the special alloy.
3. Process metal properly
Since metals are hard, tools must be used that are just as tough and have the necessary degree of hardness. The harder the workpiece, the harder the tool has to be. Here you should pay attention to the labels when shopping.
Rusting steel can contaminate stainless steel. In extreme cases, stainless steel can even corrode. Therefore, tools with which steel has been processed should not be used for stainless steelwork. You can find out more about this under “Can stainless steel rust?”.
Drilling – which drills for which metal
So that drilling does not become a stress test for metal, tools, and nerves, there are a few points that should be observed:
- When working with metal, it is best to use a drill with adjustable speed. The ideal drilling speed depends on the diameter of the drill and the specified cutting speed for the material. The correct drilling speed can then be calculated using the formula: cutting speed/pi * drill diameter. With hardened metal, the speed should be further reduced.
- Since metals have hard and smooth surfaces, they should be prepared before drilling. The drilling point is marked with a scriber and then worked on with a center punch and hammer to create a guide for the drill. If necessary, pre-drilling can also take place.
- When drilling itself, you should pay attention to the correct feed. If this is too high, the wear and tear on the tool increases and, in the worst case, it can break. Depending on the material, cooling is necessary. Special drilling oils can be used for this.
The choice of the drill is based on the metal profile to be machined. In general, HSS drills (High-Speed Steel, in German Hochgeschwindgkeits Stahl) are suitable for metalwork. HSS-R and HSS-G drills are ideal for drilling work on low-alloy metals, and HSS-E and HSS-E and HSS-Co are ideal for drilling stainless steel. If you are unsure, ask the specialist on-site here.
Everyone is probably familiar with the standard hand hacksaw. Compared to the blades of wood saws, hacksaws have more teeth per centimeter. These are necessary to separate the hard and tough material. The fuller the material, the higher the number of teeth.
Sawing metal with a hand saw puts a lot of strain on the muscles but requires less effort. However, the electric saw requires quite a bit of preparation. With both methods, you should, of course, clamp the workpiece firmly. Also, you should consider the cutting speed of the metal when using an electric saw and cool the cut well.
4. Connect metals
It doesn’t always have to be welding to join metals together.
Bonding of metals
When you think of metal, you don’t immediately think of gluing. The adhesive technology is a straightforward joining process that can be easily implemented by a layperson. Large-area materials such as sheet metal or angle profiles can be glued wonderfully in this way. There is a unique adhesive, especially for metal, which preferably consists of two components. It is advisable to carry out a few tests beforehand to get to know the properties of the workpiece before it is finally glued. Metals can also be bonded to other materials such as glass, plastic, or wood.
Screwing metals together
In addition to welding, screwing is one of the most common joining techniques. This technique is particularly useful if you do not want to enter into permanent connections. The implementation of screw connections basically only requires drill holes. A screw connection with a nut can then be used as required. Alternatively, depending on the material, a thread can also be cut directly into the metal using a thread cutter. Here, too, it is possible to screw metals to other materials, which is a great advantage over the welding.
5. Deburring – last but not least
Follow-up is mandatory. To avoid injuries during work and after completion, the workpiece should be free from chips, burrs, fraying, splinters, and sharp edges. To do this, a file or flex should be used to remove excess material between different work steps. The workplace should also be cleaned thoroughly with a broom in between to avoid injury later.