Metal is, in a word, incredible. Long-lasting, cool-looking, and incredibly versatile, it’s an amazing material and medium to use when you seek to make great art. But whether you’re planning on producing small-scale jewelry projects or a larger installation, you need to know the benefits, attributes, and requirements of various kinds of metal to be sure you’re using the right kind. To help you get started, here are a few tips for choosing metal for art projects.
Metal has four main properties to keep in mind when you’re choosing which kind is best for your project. Ductility relates to how easy it is to form a metal into the shape you require. Various tools allow you to shape and form metal, but the ease with which you can do so depends on the metal’s ductility. Copper is very ductile, for example, while aluminum is less so.
Weldability indicates how difficult it is to weld, of course. For example, steel is easy to weld, while once again, aluminum is more difficult and requires different equipment. As for machinability, that’s how easy it is to cut the metal using saw blades and the like. In this case, steel is harder to cut, while aluminum is easier. Finally, tensile strength establishes whether the metal is strong enough not to snap under pressure. With this property, stainless steel comes out on top, while copper loses. Keep these attributes in mind while choosing the metal for your project.
Now that you have an idea of what different metals can do, consider which is the right one for your artistic effort. Steel is a good, all-around metal according to the four properties, but it’s also apt to rust in wet or humid conditions. Stainless steel won’t rust, but it’s quite heavy and hard to work with. Aluminum also won’t rust and is easier to cut into shapes, but it’s much harder to weld, and it can lose its corrosion resistance when combined with other metals. Copper is beautiful and easy to form, and it develops a nice patina, but it also sets quickly and requires extra effort to rework.
Cost is always the biggest determiner in the end. When you’re considering these tips for choosing metal for art projects take not only price into consideration but also your experience. The best metal for a beginner to begin with is steel. Some experts recommend starting with a mild steel in sheet form of a lower thickness, such as one millimeter. This will be easy to work with, and one can turn it into many different things. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive compared to fancier metals such as copper, brass, bronze, nickel, and the finer metals. It’s also more forgiving. Making a mistake with steel isn’t as dear as making one in silver or gold!