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Hobby Metal Supplies for Makers Working from Home

Today’s virtual world offers limitless opportunities to explore creativity, and with the help of technologies such as 3D printing, you can even design sophisticated projects from the comfort of your home. Many of these projects can be taken to an even higher level if the right materials and metals are incorporated; however, material selection is one of the core engineering challenges for any aspiring designer. The material industry is constantly evolving, and specialty metals are replacing traditional metal alloys for sophisticated projects. Procuring some of these specialty metals can be difficult, however.

Below, we highlight some of the major challenges that home designers often face when purchasing hobby metal supplies and discuss industry best practices to overcome them with ease.

Challenges with Procuring Hobby Metal Supplies

Although specialty metals like Inconel are becoming more widely used in complex home projects, it can be difficult to know which type to use and where to purchase it. Below we list common challenges that can prevent homemakers from using the best materials for their projects.

Material Selection

Knowing the physical strength and chemical resistance of different metals, superalloys, and specialty metals can help you make the best choice for your project. Experts make use of the following key parameters:

  1. Tensile strength
  2. Weldability
  3. Machinability
  4. Ductility
  5. Weight
  6. Corrosion Rate

The table below shows a comparison between four widely used metals for sophisticated home projects based on the aforementioned key properties.

Steel Stainless steel Aluminum Copper
Tensile strength Medium High Low Very Low
Weldability Easy Medium Hard Very Hard
Machinability Medium Hard Easy Very Hard
Ductility Medium High Low Very High
Weight Medium Heavy Light Medium
Corrosion rate (mm/year) 0.2 0.025 0.8 0.5

Based on the data in the table, it is imperative to understand the properties of different metals to make the right choice. However, it is also a challenge to select from different grades of the same alloy, such as aluminum 6061 and 7075, as each has its own set of unique application properties.

The table below shows a quick comparison between 6061 and 7075 aluminum alloys.

Aluminum 6061 Aluminum 7075
Tensile strength Medium High
Weldability Good Poor
Machinability Good Fair
Ductility High Medium
Weight Heavy Medium
Cost Low High
Corrosion rate (mm/year) Less More

Compared to aluminum 7075, aluminum 6061 is ideal for low-budget applications requiring frequent welding under a corrosive environment. Thus, you need to have a good knowledge of metals as well as their available grades to narrow down your list for hobby metal supplies.

Missing Out On Specialty Metals

Many home designers don’t realize the value that high-temperature specialty metals like Hastelloy, Invar, titanium, and Inconel can bring to their projects. These specialty metals are starting to outperform conventional materials in critical projects where a few degrees could alter the function of the part. For instance, Invar, known for its near-constant dimensions and long-term dimensional stability, is more ideal than plastic for designing precision-measuring devices such as LiDAR. Similarly, Inconel, a nickel-chromium-based alloy, is the most useful material for the 3D printing industry over hard-to-machine options such as tool steels and titanium for designing high-temperature fixtures and corrosion-resistant fittings. Exotic metals can take your project to a new level if you know how to use them right.

High Prices

There often is a huge cost difference between two different grades of the same alloy. For instance, grade 316 stainless steel costs 30% more than grade 304. However, 316 offers excellent corrosion resistance against seawater. In this regard, grade 2 titanium could also achieve the same while adding a low weight factor into the equipment (e.g., tanks), but it would cost four times more than grade 316 stainless steel.

Minimum Order Quantity

Most metal suppliers only sell metals purchased in bulk. Thus, it is a challenge for home designers to procure metals, especially precious metals that could add precision to the design performance, in low quantities. This situation often forces designers to stick to old designs and make the best use of the materials available, even if they’re not as ideal for the project type.

Reduce Cost and Increase ROI with Industry Best Practices

Shortlisting the right metals for your project is the first step towards success. Given the vast array of options available, choosing the best metal for your project isn’t always easy. It’s important to seek the help of a metal expert who can carefully analyze your project requirements to help you select the best metals that can function exactly as intended.

To reduce your investment in precious metals, look for a certified supplier of premium metal scrap nearby. Verified metal remnants cost much less than metals sourced directly from the mill. Usually, they are leftover remnants from a high-volume production process and are too small in quantity to be reused by the manufacturer. However, they could be ideal for use by home hobbyists and can usually be purchased in small quantities at reduced prices to meet project requirements.

Pro Tip: Seek the help of a metal expert who can carefully analyze your project requirements to help you select the best metals that can function exactly as intended.

Metalworking Tools and Safety Equipment for Hobbyists

Embarking on a metal crafting hobby brings the joy of transforming raw material into exquisite pieces. To ensure a smooth crafting experience, it’s crucial to have the right tools and safety equipment. This guide is tailored for hobbyists eager to delve into metal crafts and create high-quality pieces.

Firstly, choosing the right material is vital for your craft. Whether you’re working with aluminum, brass, or copper, each metal has unique properties that influence your hobby projects. The material you select will dictate the tools needed for shaping and finishing your pieces.

For cutting and shaping metal, a variety of hand tools are indispensable. These include metal shears, hammers, files, and saws, each serving a specific purpose in manipulating your chosen material. Additionally, for more intricate craft work, a jeweler’s saw or miniature hand tools can be invaluable for detailed adjustments.

Safety in metal crafting cannot be overstated. Protecting your eyes, hands, and lungs is paramount. Safety glasses are a must to prevent any material chips from injuring your eyes. Gloves protect your hands from sharp edges, while a good quality respirator guards against inhaling any fine metal particles. Remember, your safety is as important as the quality of your craft.

For hobbyists looking to join metal pieces, soldering or welding equipment may be necessary. These tools require additional safety measures, such as fire-resistant work surfaces and proper ventilation.

Finally, a well-organized workspace is key. Keeping your tools and materials in order not only makes your crafting experience more enjoyable but also safer. With the right tools and safety measures, your hobby in metal crafting is bound to be a fulfilling and creative journey.

Purchase Hobby Metal Supplies from a Local Metal Supplier

Industrial Metal Service is a reliable supplier of new metals and verified metal remnants in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide. In our warehouse, we carry a wide range of verified specialty metal remnants, such as titanium, Inconel, and Invar, verified with our x-ray fluorescence scanners. Our team is always ready to guide novice hobbyists into selecting the right metal for their projects. For our customers who aren’t local, we can ship nationwide with no minimum order requirement!

Published by IMS Team

Industrial Metal Service has decades of experience and over 1.1 billion pounds of metal sold and recycled. Our founder, Jeff, has spent his life in the industry and prides himself on offering fair, efficient, trustworthy, knowledgeable, outstanding customer service. We offer metal salesmetal recycling pickup service, and other associated services, such as precise metal sawing, machinery teardown, and warehouse cleanupGive us a call and we’ll get it done.