Aluminum is an extremely versatile material, which is why it’s one of the first metals home metalworkers and hobbyists learn to work with. It is much softer than steel, making it easier to machine and weld with less powerful equipment. Aluminum is lightweight, strong, corrosion-resistant, and durable. Its sleek appearance also makes it an attractive material for things like furniture and decorative items.
All these characteristics make aluminum a popular choice for a wide range of metalworking hobby projects. Read below for project ideas and tips for working with aluminum so you can create the metalworking project of your dreams.
Metalworking Hobby Project Ideas
Here, we’ve listed seven interesting but relatively simple ideas for aluminum projects you can make at home with basic equipment.
A fire pit is a backyard staple for enjoying outdoor time with family, friends, and a few drinks. When you make your own, the design possibilities are endless. It can be rustic or modern and in any size you like. It can be as simple as a metal box, or you can include a screen with designs to showcase the light from the flames.
While store-bought fire pits are often made of steel or cast iron, they can be made from aluminum as well. With a melting point of more than 1,200 °F, aluminum can easily stand up to small fires and is perfect for a lightweight, portable fire pit.
DIY chandeliers and light fixtures allow you to customize your home with any design you like. You can use virtually any metal, including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, or brass to achieve the look you want.
A trellis is a nice feature for any garden, especially if you have vines or climbing vegetables. It is essentially just a supportive frame, giving you lots of room for creativity. Weld lengths of aluminum tube or rod, or angle together in a simple ladder configuration. You can even try more complex patterns like diagonal hatching or curved features.
If you have ever tried to find picture frames in non-standard sizes, you know how expensive and hard to find they can be. Fortunately, custom picture frames are easy to make from aluminum rod, angle, or tubing. Simply cut pieces at a 45-degree angle and weld them together to make beautiful metal frames in any custom size and shape.
A pair of aluminum dice is a great metalworking hobby project for beginners, as they are simple to make but require careful attention to precision. All you need is a small piece of aluminum for each die. Make some facing cuts to form them into cubes, break the edges, and drill the dots onto each face.
An aluminum pen is another great beginner project that requires only a few tools and techniques—mainly drilling and some shaping. Add more complex features like a retractable tip or decorative lines for a more challenging project. This is a relatively quick project that makes for a nice gift or even a product you can sell.
If you’re interested in PC building or you just want to spruce up your desktop computer, you can make an aluminum enclosure. Making a custom computer case allows you to add as much space as you need for internal components, and you can cut outlets for USB, HDMI, and other ports wherever you want. It can be a simple box with a removable panel, or you can design something that blends into your office decor or stands out as an artistic piece.
Tips for Working with Aluminum
While aluminum is generally easy to work with, it is different than working with other metals like steel.
When welding, it does not change color until it has surpassed its melting point, at which time it will glow a dull red. This can make it difficult to know when the welding temperature has been reached. When welding with an oxyacetylene or oxyhydrogen torch, the surface material melts first and assumes a wet and shiny appearance. With TIG or MIG welding, this is not as critical because the weld is completed before the adjacent area melts.
Aluminum is also a fairly easy material to machine, but depending on the type of aluminum alloy, its relative softness can produce gummy chips or lead to galling. It’s important to adjust your machine’s speed and feed in response when cutting aluminum.
Your Trusted Source for Metalworking Hobby Materials
For more than two decades, Industrial Metal Service has been providing the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond with affordable, quality aluminum and other materials for manufacturers, metalworking hobbyists, and other fabricators of all kinds. We maintain an extensive inventory of aluminum, including 6061, 7075, MIC-6, 5080, and more. We offer U.S. mill-sourced aluminum as well as verified remnants at unbeatable prices.