Knowing how a metal fabrication process like welding or machining is done is not the same thing as knowing how to do that process well. If it were then metal working shops wouldn’t have bins full of broken mill ends and other bits accumulating for recycling, welding shops wouldn’t need replacement torch heads. The overhead for material purchases for both would be significantly lower as well.
Metal fabrication tips and tricks are those little things that make completing a process either a lot easier, or substantially improve the quality of the end result. Oftentimes they accomplish both. A worker who isn’t exhausting themselves trying to make awkward positioning or uneven surfaces work is one that is free to do the best job possible.
Metal Fabrication Tips and Tricks for Beginners and Pros
Frequently, the difference between a job done well, one barely completed, and one that takes two or more tries is a little extra effort in setting things up before getting started. This can also be more than just a time and money savings too. The equipment used in metal fabrication work can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Often the products that come from metal fabrication are used in difficult environments, and a finished product that fails can cause hazards. Taking a little extra time to think through what metal fabrication tips and tricks to use can prevent injury as well as save time and money.
1. Work Through the Process Before Starting
The most basic and most important metal fabrication tip is to work through the actual production process completely before getting started. In machine shops it is not uncommon to receive technical drawings that are nearly impossible to machine as they are initially presented. A tube that makes multiple right angle turns is very useful on paper. However, it is nearly impossible to machine in real life. Welding fabrication isn’t subject to the same extremes of impossibility, but shop drawings that would require the welder to complete a highly technical weld while simultaneously doing a handstand have been known to happen. While technically possible to perform, it isn’t practically feasible.
Developing a clear plan of action for metal fabrication before starting will identify any potential pitfalls before metal materials and equipment have been expended. If there are none, then a clear plan of action will enable completion with the best quality of work.
2. Use the Right Materials
That there are differences between metals like aluminum, steel, and stainless steel are widely known. Even professionals may be unaware of the differences between different alloys of aluminum and other metals. There is a high degree of difference between 6061 aluminum vs 6063, and even wider degree of difference between 5000 series aluminum and cast aluminum plate in the 7000 series. The differences between different grades of steel and stainless steel are subtler, but can still be consequential. Knowing what the specifications call for and using the material will save time, money, and frustration. It is always worth the effort to ensure that you’re using metal with a mill test certificate or verified aluminums.
3. Have the Right Tools
Some tools are no-brainers. Machinists need mill ends and bits, not to mention CNC machines and lathes. Welders need the welder of course and all manner of grinders and cutting devices. Clamps, anchors, slides, magnetic welding angles, and all manner of anchoring tools are often overlooked. These devices hold workpieces in place, and free up hands to make extra needed adjustments. It is well worth the time if a need for these devices is discovered during planning to make sure they’re in the inventory. In large jobs where a lot of pieces need to be assembled quickly these can vastly speed up production times.
4. Never Trust the Mill’s Edge
A common error in fabrication is when confronted with a new clean piece of metal direct from the foundry is to begin measuring dimensions from the existing edge. This is a mistake, because unless one has taken the time to employ a precision metal cutting service these edges are never straight. This causes everything to be slightly off as the project progresses. Metal fabricators should always take the time to make a true edge to measure their dimensions off of, whether they cut it or they mill it. Companies that specialize in accurate metal sawing can make a huge difference here, as they can deliver process ready metal directly to metal fabricators. On large jobs this sawing service is worth far more than its price. On small jobs taking the time to cut true edges before starting enhances the precision of work, and the quality of the final workpiece substantially.
5. Guides Make a Difference
Welders are excessively proud of being able to draw straight lines freehand. Doing so over and over is vital skill for welders, and important when in the field erecting structures or assembling a pipeline through a wilderness. When you’re fabricating something in a shop, guides make a difference on ease and precision of the workpiece. Even if these guides are as simple as a piece of angle iron tack welded in place. If the quality of the final work isn’t inducement enough to use guides, then a piece of plasma cut metal that used a guide requires a whole lot less grinding than one cut free hand.
These are all common sense measures. However, they are often overlooked in the rush to complete the job. While taking the time to think things through, have a plan, and get the needed equipment can seem like a delay. In reality it makes all the differences in the final quality of the piece. It is the basics that are most often overlooked by both professionals and hobbyists. At the most basic level is buying metals and raw materials from a supplier you can trust.
Finding an Aluminum and Metal Supplier You Can Count On
In addition to providing process ready metal stock for your fabrication project metal sawing services can provide a reliable source of exactly the hard metal alloys that you need. Industrial Metal Service is a company with decades of experience in metal recycling and sales. We have direct contact with aluminum manufacturers and can provide you with metals from 6061 aluminum, cast aluminum tooling plates, and stainless steels and nickel super alloys to meet your needs.