Catching up with our Student Sculptor 2017 winner

(Last modified: April 6th, 2018)

In May last year, metals4U launched our first student sculptor competition in association with Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The first prize was a place on ‘Brian Fell’s Midsummer Metal Workshop’ worth £270. The course ran over two days and was packed with demonstrations, advice and extensive access to metal and specialist equipment.

To enter, students had to be over 18 years of age and simply submit a picture of either their current or best sculpture or their design drawings to be judged by metal sculptor Brian Fell.

Jessica Smith, a student from York St John University, heard about the metals4U Student Sculpture competition from her tutors at university and decided to apply. Her submission was a piece titled, “Sticks and Tape.”

Sculpture made from sticks and tape by student Jessica Smith

‘Sticks and Tape’

The entries into the inaugural competition were all very strong and showcased a tremendous amount of emerging talent from students across the North of England. Brian Fell felt that Jessica’s entry really stood out by saying, “Jessica had the strongest application and we felt she would benefit the most from the course.” Jessica says she was thrilled to win the competition, especially as she had never entered a competition like this before, nor had she ever set foot inside a metalwork shop.

metals4U Student Sculptor competition winner Jessica Smith with Brian Fell at his Midsummer Metals workshop

Jessica attended the course in June 2017 under the expert tutelage of Brian Fell, George Fell and Owen Cunningham. Jessica found the course invaluable to her learning new skills, techniques and discovering the possibilities for creative exploration using metal.

The course began by introducing the students to all the equipment and a tutorial on how to use the tools with the materials available. The workshop attendees were then left to explore and experiment under expert guidance and with practical help always on hand. Jessica particularly enjoyed using the plasma cutter and learning how to weld. This is highly evident in the pieces she is now producing.

Jessica was brought up in Huddersfield; a large market town between Leeds and Manchester in West Yorkshire. Jessica’s grandmother, Kate Powell, is an accomplished artist and provided Jessica with her earliest introduction to technique and, perhaps more importantly, the appreciation of art in all its forms. On leaving King James’ School in Huddersfield where she studied textiles at GCSE, she enrolled on an apprenticeship in floristry. After a short while her growing interest in the formal study of art led her to enrol on an Extended Diploma course at Leeds College of Art. On successful completion of her course in Leeds in 2014, she relocated to start a fine art degree course at Bath School of Art. After a year, Jessica decided to return to the north and transferred to study Fine Art at York St John University. York has been a perfect fit for her as she has fallen in love with the city and the location works well for her to create and promote her art.

Jessica’s early work was focused on landscapes that were created on canvas or board by using mixed media such as rust particles, assorted fibres and, as she confesses, “Anything I could find really, just recycling anything I could get my hands on.” Jessica states the inspiration for her work comes from her love of the Yorkshire Dales.

Her work in sculpture also began by using anything she found lying around; sticks, canes, old broken paint brushes and truly random finds can all be recognised in her early work. Jessica is intrigued by balance and creates structures to see just how far she can push the boundaries to find the critical point just before collapse.

This piece, based on her submitted competition entry, was constructed on the Midsummer Metal Workshop using mild steel, however, Jessica is eager to try out weathering steel (Corten) to see just how the oxidation would change the look of her work over time.

Metal sculpture created by Student Sculptor winner Jessica Smith at Brian Fell's Midsummer Metals workshop

The work she produces now show her inspiration and motivation to demonstrate the transparency of the construction process as an integral component of the final piece.

These pieces have been made since attending the course and show how her metal working skills have flourished and developed to create stunning effects on sheet steel.

 

 

Jessica loves how she can use metal to depict the patchwork effects of the dry-stone walls and fields of the rural northern landscape.

Metal manipulated by Jessica Smith

Since attending the metal sculpture course, Jessica has had her work accepted to appear in several exhibitions.

In July 2017 her work was showcased in a charity exhibition in her home town of Huddersfield to help raise money for the homeless charity, “Huddersfield Change project.” In January of this year her work was shown alongside her fellow third year students in the “Arts and Draught” exhibition at ‘Brew York’ on Walmgate in the heart of the city.

Jessica is certainly gaining a lot of respect within the art local art world and has had several pieces of her work selected to be included in the “ Ones to watch” emerging artist exhibition at Sunny Bank Mills, Leeds, which is on until April 12th – it is well worth the visit to have a look at her work alongside that of another  thirty four  emerging artists. If you cannot make it to Leeds before mid-April, the degree show at York St John University that exhibits this year’s graduating students’ work, will be held in York from June 8th. Do pop along if you get the chance.

Within the next year or so, Jessica hopes to do a master’s degree to extend her skills and knowledge, until then, she intends to keep herself active with her sculptures by applying for the ‘emerging artist’ place on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop’s summer residency. If successful, she will get an opportunity to immerse herself for a whole month in developing her sculpture techniques. We wish her all the very best of luck with her future endeavours and metals4U are thrilled to have been involved in introducing Jessica to the world of creating art from metal.

To see more of Jessica’s work, check out her new website and Instagram portfolios.

Getting to know Alec Steele

(Last modified: June 12th, 2018)

We’re excited to be working on some amazing projects with blacksmith and YouTube star, Alec Steele.

Alec is already a legend in the blacksmith world, even though he’s just 20 years old. If you aren’t one of the 725,000 people who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you should be, because you won’t believe the incredible things he makes.
YouTuber and blacksmith Alec Steele holding a hand forged sculpture of a hammer and anvil

Check out Alec’s Viking battle axe, or Damascus Rapier sword for an idea of his skills. He’s a true inspiration for anyone interested in getting into blacksmithing.

We wanted to get to know a little more about him, so we spoke to Alec about his current projects, his metalworking heroes and his love of PPE:

Q: How did you get into blacksmithing, Alec?
A: It became a hobby of mine age 11, after seeing a blacksmith demonstration at a county fair.

Q: What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of?
A: My million layer Damascus Katana! It took fourteen days to make and it taught me an enormous amount about blademaking and craftsmanship.

Q: What’s the one tool or piece of kit you couldn’t do without in your workshop?
A: My PPE. Over the last year or two I’ve become extremely committed to keeping myself as safe as possible and setting the correct example.

Protecting my lungs, eyes and ears is so important to me, because that means I can work tomorrow.

Although… the power hammer’s a close second!

Q: What else are you working on at the moment?
A: I’m currently working on a Damascus Rapier sword. The blade is over a metre long and extremely narrow. It’s been a real challenge but I love that.

Q: Who are your blacksmithing/metalworking heroes?
A: Claudio Bottero, This Old Tony, Brian Brazeal and Mareko Maumasi.

Q: What prompted you to start sharing your skills on YouTube?
A: As a means of growing my business and selling my products and courses when I still offered them. I never imagined it would grow into being just a content creator.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone interested in starting blacksmithing?
A: Go and find a weekend blacksmithing class and get some knowledge. You’ll make great contacts for future learning opportunities and will be able to get back to your own workshop knowing exactly the tools you need to make or buy to get started. 

Visit our blacksmith page for all the tools and supplies you could ever need for your project.

Want to see a master at work?

(Last modified: March 6th, 2018)

Imagine you received a mystery delivery of steel and copper, and had 24 hours in a blacksmith’s workshop to create something cool. What would you do?

That’s the challenge we set YouTuber, blacksmith and all-round entertainer, Alec Steele. Though Alec being Alec, he said he didn’t need 24 hours to create something awesome as he could do it in just 12!

It turns out he was right.

Check out the video below to see what he made.


If Alec has inspired you to get into blacksmithing, or put your existing skills to use creating a sculpture of your own, metals4U has got you covered.

Visit our blacksmith page for all the tools and supplies you could ever need for your project.

Also, be sure to follow Alec on YouTube to see more amazing creations.

Blacksmithing is back with a bang

(Last modified: February 15th, 2018)

The word ‘Blacksmith’ whisks you straight back to medieval times. It conjures up images of cobbles, blackened hands, open fires and the odd horseshoe. But this beautiful craft is far from lost in time.

Blacksmithing is making a huge comeback and we’re joining forces with one of those on the front line.
Youtuber Alec Steel with question mark

Enter Alec Steele. This energetic entertainer is reviving the craft one YouTube vlog at a time. His channel gives you all the tips and tricks you need to get started with this rewarding hobby – and plenty of laughs to boot.

Expect videos filled with the clashing of steel on steel and sparks from yellow-hot metal, ending with weird and wonderful treasures straight from the flames.

Covering everything from forging huge machetes to dissecting ancient meteorites, his daily vlogs will have you itching to try blacksmithing for yourself. You only have to take a look at the comments section to see the passion he’s ignited in millions of viewers. And here at Metals4U, we’re no exception.

Obsessed with all things metal, we were eager to put Alec through his paces. We invited him to take on a tough 24-hour challenge using only Metals4U materials.

Never one to turn down a chance to get creative, Alec will be tackling the Metals4U challenge on his YouTube channel in the next few weeks. Make sure you follow us on social to see him in action.

Want to give blacksmithing a go? Keep your eyes on our blog for more about Alec and how to get started.

Weld wish you a merry Christmas

(Last modified: December 21st, 2017)

The tree is an essential part of every home at Christmas, but have you ever thought that maybe it’s time to mix things up a little?

Real trees look great, at least until the needles start to drop and you’re left with a sorry looking collection of bare branches. Artificial trees, on the other hand, are mess-free but can lack a little festive magic.
A collection of Christmas trees welded from metal

This year, if you’re up for the challenge, try welding your own Christmas tree.

The great thing is you can use any metal you have lying around in the shed, or choose the ideal materials to create something that’s pure bling. Make it right and it’ll not only last for years, but save you a fortune in trees!

If you’re new to welding, we’ve got you covered. We’ve written a whole blog on everything you need to know about learning to weld. Here’s a reminder of the key points:

Keep safe

Don’t scrimp on safety gear. You’ll be using some pretty powerful equipment so protect yourself.

Prep your space

Choose a workspace with plenty of room and good ventilation. There’ll be lots of sparks flying so make sure there are no flammable materials lying around.

Know your material

Read up on the properties of the metals you’re using, as this will influence how you tackle the project. A little research now can save time and trouble later.

Choose your power

Most homes have two voltages available: 110v and 230v. You’ll need to choose the right one for the machinery you’ll be using. Ask in-store if you need advice on this.

Stock up on fillers

Find out what fillers you’ll need for the type of metals you’ll be using – then stock up on them. You don’t want to run out when you’re in full creative flow.

So, all you need now is a little inspiration. Check out the amazing examples above.

And if you need any kit, remember that Metals4U are the cheapest online suppliers of welding equipment.

How to winterproof your home

(Last modified: February 7th, 2018)

Winter has arrived, we’re ready for festive cheer, crisp snowy walks and relaxing by the fire.

But it’s not all sleigh bells and cosy evenings; falling temperatures increase the chances of your home fuel and repair bills rising.

Don’t let the outside affect the inside, take these few simple steps to make sure your home is protected throughout the colder months.
frost and icicles forming on a frozen outdoor water pipe

Wrap those pipes

Pipes need special attention in the winter months. With extreme freezing and thawing, metal pipes are more prone to fracture or burst, with the potential to cause vast damage to your home.

You can pick up foam jackets for your pipes and hot water cylinder quite cheaply, and the good news is they’ll help keep your water warm, saving you a few pounds on the heating bill too.

Protect your furniture

The great outdoors doesn’t always live up its name in the winter months. Constant battering from rain, snow and frost can leave your garden furniture discoloured and damaged.

Get ahead of the game, grab a tin of waterproof paint from our website and keep all your exterior woodwork and furniture looking fresh for spring.

Get the tools for the job

The last thing you’ll want to do in the winter months is try to find a hardware store if something does go wrong – especially over the Christmas break.

Make sure you’re all stocked up with the right tools to fix leaks and breaks as soon as they happen.

Stop the draughts

Nothing drains the heat from your home more than leaks and gaps in windows and doors. An easy way to tell where a draught is coming from is to hold a lit candle close to the frame, check for a flicker and locate the draught; then you can simply patch the gap with sealant to help keep your home warm.

Cover your electrics

Stormy weather can cause vast amounts of damage to outdoor electrics. Make sure you’ve bought some waterproof casing to protect electrical cables and keep people and animals safe; especially if you’re planning on using outdoor decorations at Christmas. This weatherproof box is a quick and easy fix.

Add some insulation

One of the biggest culprits for heat loss in your home is through your roof. If it’s not properly insulated this can hike up your fuel bills, especially in winter. Make sure you pad out attics, crawl holes and even basements to save energy, heat and money.

Do you have any top tips for weatherproofing? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook

Which metal’s 4 u?

(Last modified: December 18th, 2017)

If you’ve got a project in mind and you want a material that’s strong, durable and flexible, metal is your go-to option. But how do you decide which metal is up to the job?

The choice might seem straightforward; steel, copper, aluminium or stainless steel. But before you dive straight in, here’s a quick guide to make sure you punt for the right metal.

Steel

Mild steel box section

If cost is one of your main factors, steel is the cheapest of the four options. It’s also strong and easy to weld, which can save you time. It’s harder to cut than aluminium, for example, but can also be found in many more pre-shaped options than the other metals.

One negative with steel is that it can rust, so you’ll have to treat it to keep it looking good over time.

Copper

Copper metal sheets

Copper is a beautiful material that looks great, not only when first installed but also as it ages. Sure, it’s the most expensive of the four options, but the aesthetics you can achieve, combined with it being easy to form and work with, makes it a great choice.

It’s worth considering that copper has a low tensile strength, so best not to use it as a structural material.

Aluminium

Aluminium corner cleat

If it’s all about weight, aluminium is a winner. It’s the most practical lightweight metal around, but it has other benefits too. It’s easy to machine and can be found in all manner of structural shapes. It also has an oxide layer that keeps rust as bay, so long as it’s also protected from other metals.

On the downside, it costs a little more than steel and can also be tricky to weld unless you’ve got the knack.

Stainless steel

Various stainless steel tubes and blocks

Affordable, strong, heavy and the most protected of the four options. Stainless steel is a reliable choice and it won’t rust unless exposed to other untreated metals.

The fact that it’s difficult to fabricate may influence your decision, and it can also warp on welding, but this is balanced out by the fact it’s extremely formable.

So, there you have it. There’s a lot to consider, but now you know what you’re dealing with, get the right metal for your project then get to work.

So you want to learn to weld?

(Last modified: November 29th, 2017)

That’s great. Master the art of welding and there’s no end to what you can create. From beautiful art to urban furniture and pretty trinkets, you’ll make great original pieces – and save yourself a shed load of money in the process.

A person welding metal in safety gear

But like any practical skill, welding takes practice and patience to get the technique just right. Here’s our starter checklist for all you novice welders out there to get you ready to start learning.

Safety first

We can’t stress enough how important it is to think about what you need to keep yourself safe before getting started. You’re working with instruments powerful enough to melt metal, so don’t scrimp when it comes to safety gear. You’ll need welding gloves, a welding helmet, safety glasses, and a fireproof coat.

Prep your space

Whether you’re in a workshop or garage, you’ll need to give your surroundings some thought if you’re thinking about welding. Make sure you remove anything flammable, have plenty of space for sparks to fly and have plenty of ventilation. It’s also worth investing in rubber mats or boards to protect yourself against electric shocks.

Know your material

It’s a good idea to swot up on the properties of different metals so you’ll know which are fit for purpose. This includes things like melting temperatures, rate of thermal expansion, heat conduction and cooling rate. It’ll help you to apply the right techniques to stop materials cracking or distorting, for example metal clamps or heat treatments pre and post-weld.

Set your voltage

In most homes you’ll have two voltages available: 110v and 230v. The thicker the material the higher the voltage you’ll have to use. If you’re not sure which voltage to use you can install machines that match them automatically. It’s also worth checking your gas and electric connections at home to make sure they’re secure enough to handle the machinery.

Stock up on fillers

Fillers, or consumables as they’re known in the industry, are materials added to joints when welding. They’re a crucial part of the process. Different materials work best with different fillers, it’s worth asking in-store when you start your project as to which is best to use. Fillers should be kept in a shaded, dry place so make sure your workshop has a good area to keep them.

Now you’re all set to start learning to weld and as the cheapest online supper of welding equipment, we have everything you need to get going. Shop our range here.

From scrap metal to masterpiece

(Last modified: November 7th, 2017)

Where some see waste others see opportunity. This is never more true than with our favourite material… metal! Versatile and tough with attractive colouring, most metals work well to up-cycle for urban art and sculpture.

Here are some of our favourite artists who thought scrap shouldn’t mean skip and created stunning art pieces to awe and inspire.

John Lopez/ T Rex

T Rex made from scrap metal by sculptor John Lopez

This dinosaur is anything but ancient. He’s clubbed together from found metal items as well as real tools used to excavate fossils in the area. Standing tall and proud he’s remarkably life-like. The sculptor invited an expert on the subject to guide his hand creating the perfect posture and even used the second largest T Rex skull ever discovered to model his head on. Take a closer look here: www.johnlopezstudio.com/t-rex/

John Heppenstall/ ReBar Godwit

Sculpture of a bird created by sculptor John Heppenstall

The perfect example of how scrap material some people wouldn’t give a second thought to can turn into something beautiful. This regal looking godwit made from found materials sits alongside Alexandra Dock in the Hull Estuary. You can find out more about the artist’s love of turning scrap into art here: www.greenporthull.co.uk/rebar-godwit-by-jason-heppenstall

Harriet Mead/ Rake Ribbed Caracal

Scukpture of a cat creaed usuing scrap metal by sculptor Harriet Mead

A great way to show how wear and tear doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to art. This majestic feline is built entirely from rusty scrap metal. She’s part of a series of wildlife sculptures all coated in the red orange hue of weather damaged metal. You can see the entire collection here: www.harrietmead.co.uk/exhibitions/

Jason Lane/ Mechanical Rocking Horse

Sculptor Jason Lane riding is scrap metal sculpture

This rocking horse definitely isn’t a step back into childhood for most. This huge metal contraption is made entirely from found materials and includes an engine to make it rock. It’s designed to scale proportionally for adults to experience the same as if a child were to ride a rocking horse. You can see the finished design here: www.jasonlane.org.uk/mechanical-rocking-horse/

Karen Cusolito/ Ecstasy

Karen Cusolitos Ecstasy sculpture in day light and lit up at night

This sculpture is so ornately beautiful, it’s hard to comprehend that it’s made from 9 tonnes of salvaged steel. The artist has managed to balance perfectly the contrast between a feminine, delicate figure and the harsh, heavy metal. You can find out more about her work here: www.mymodernmet.com/karen-cusolito-ecstasy/

Have you made anything from offcuts and scrap? We always love to see our customers work. Show us on Facebook and Twitter.

How to build the ultimate home workshop

(Last modified: March 7th, 2018)

With winter fast approaching and the weather taking a turn for the worse you may have shelved those summer DIY projects. But now’s the perfect time to clear out that garage or shed full of forgotten junk and make room for a great new home workshop.
A shed converted into a home workshop filled with tools
With a few easy renovations, you’ll be well on the way to getting those half-finished projects done in time for Christmas. Here are our top tips and tricks for creating the perfect workshop space at home:

Create a storage area

Choose a dry area to store any wood, metal and other materials you need. Ideally it should be close to an entrance so you don’t have to carry heavy, bulky materials far.

Leave some elbow room

If you’re a little tight on space but still want to install large tools like a mitre saw or a metal vice, make sure you leave enough room each side to cut longer, larger materials down to size.

Keep it well ventilated

It can be tempting to stack your materials and tools high when you create a workshop. But make sure you leave windows and doors free so you’re well ventilated if you create a lot of dust or use toxic sprays and varnishes.

Work with your space

Built-in furniture is a real space saver, fit your bench to a wall if you don’t have much room. Get plenty of shelving in to house any paints, varnishes and raw materials. Magnetic bars are also a great, compact way to store tools.

Quiet down

Soundproofing your workshop is a must if you don’t want to risk becoming the noisy neighbour or annoying the family. Simple tweaks like installing rubber mats to your floor to dampen the noise of dropped items.

Separate your circuits

In the name of health and safety, it’s best to put your lights on one power circuit and the power tool outlets on a separate circuit. That way if you trip the electrics with a power tool, you don’t also knock out the lights.

We love to see our customers creations. Show us your workshop on Facebook and Twitter!