Category Archives: Knowledge Centre

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.

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 6th, 2018)

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.
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.

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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: November 15th, 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: November 15th, 2018)

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 15th, 2018)

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.

How to build the ultimate home workshop

(Last modified: November 15th, 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!

How to win the war on rust

(Last modified: November 15th, 2018)

Rust. It’s every metal’s worst nightmare. And with summer gone, now’s the perfect time to think about protecting your metal against whatever Mother Nature throws at it. Luckily, we know a thing or two about metal, so here are some of our top tips.

Know what you’re dealing with

A metal beam covered in bad rust

Firstly, it’s good to know what you’re up against.

Rust is nasty stuff. It’s the result of the reaction between iron, oxygen, water or air moisture. And when you throw salt into the mix, rusting can happen at an even faster rate. You’ve only got to look at the state of properties near the coast – where the spray of salty seawater can play a part – to see this in action.

If metal is exposed to the elements, and left untreated, rust can take hold. And it’s a slippery slope from there, with the metal flaking and disintegrating.

Start with prevention

Like anything in life, it’s easier to prevent rust than deal with it once it’s a problem. The best prevention is to either buy metal that’s already been treated, or to treat it yourself. But even with the best preparation, rusting can still sometimes happen, so regularly inspect any metal objects that are found outside to check for signs.

What to do with rust

A mechanic cleaning rust from a car wheel

If rust has already taken hold, the good news is there are lots of ways to remove it with a little patience and plenty of elbow grease.

Let’s start with the obvious choice. You can pick up specialist rust removal products at all good hardware stores. Typically, you spray this on the rust or put it on a cloth and rub the rust off. These products can be really effective, but because they typically contain phosphoric or oxalic acid, make sure you’re careful using them.

Now, for the fun ideas – and you’ll be amazed what you can use from around the house to remove rust.

Some people swear by white vinegar, which they leave the rusted item soaking in for 24 hours before rinsing. Others prefer salt and lime. This works by sprinkling salt all over the rusted area and then pouring lime (or lemon) juice over the top. After 2-3 hours, scrub the mixture off and see the rust vanish with it.

And if it’s strange you’re after, how about a potato? Cut a potato in half and place the cut end in some washing up liquid or baking powder. Then put the potato on the rusted metal and leave it to soak in. After a few hours the rust should scrub away.

There are even people who recommend using Coca Cola to treat rust. Crazy, but it seems to work.

If you’ve got any tips that we haven’t covered here, let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Brian Fell’s ‘top tips’ for sculptors

(Last modified: June 26th, 2017)

We’re really excited to get our latest competition up and running. One of you budding sculptors will win a place on Brian Fell and Owen Cunningham’s ‘Midsummer Metal’ course over at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Sculptor Brian Fell working with metal

All you have to do is get your creativity flowing and show us your latest and greatest work. To give you some inspiration for your entry we dropped in on Brian to get his ‘top tips’ for sculpting a masterpiece:

Inspiration  

Take a look back into the history of sculpture. There are a limitless number of styles and subject matters from different eras. Find one that means something to you and start there.

Equipment

The best place to work is an industrial premises that has a lot of space and light. It’s good to get the help of qualified technicians to help choose good quality equipment. At the very least you’ll need a vice, hammers, drills and an angle grinder. If you can afford it, invest in a bench shear for cutting sheet metal and an arc welder. You might also want to think about getting yourself a plasma cutter, a MIG/TIG welder and oxyacetylene equipment, but these can be a little pricey.

Techniques

There are tons of amazing books on sculpting techniques, along with engineering books which can be really useful. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube if that’s how you prefer to learn. The best way I find to learn new sculpting techniques is practice – that’s what ‘Midsummer Metal’ is all about.

Draw

Doodle, draw and sketch out your ideas. Pen and paper are your best friends. After you’ve got a design you’re happy with, try making prototypes – wire, rod and even matchsticks are great. I personally use scissors, card and glue.

Health and safety

Last but definitely not least, make sure you stay safe in the studio. The bare minimum you’ll need to properly protect yourself are leather gloves (not rubber), toe protectors, goggles and earplugs.

That’s about it. Drink tea. Have fun. It’s only art.

Get involved in the competition here.

The reasons why tube clamps have surged in popularity

(Last modified: June 26th, 2017)

A structure is nothing without the things that hold it in place. Traditionally those are the nuts and bolts, but let’s not forget about tube clamps – they give structures their strength and shape.

Tube clamps have been used for years in the construction industry, effectively acting as a T-junction or 90 degree joints for metal tubes. The range of types and sizes means different directions and gradients can be catered for, so structures like handrails, warehouse racks and shelves, exhibition stands and safety barriers can all be fixed together exactly as intended.

With most things that are modest, dependable and functional, they often miss out on the glory. But more recently we’ve seen a trend of tube clamps being used by designers and even furniture makers as they strive to achieve a more authentic look.

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Those who use them to make ‘industry chic’ furniture tend to go for tube clamps with the smallest diameter to match the small tubing. That tends to be our Size A, which is 27mm in diameter and manufactured from galvanised mild steel.

So they’re now being used at home as well as in the industry. Perhaps one of the reasons why their reputation has shifted is down to how easy they are to use. Basically you don’t need to be a welder to work with them – it’s simply a case of tightening a couple of grub screws.

Tube clamps provide a temporary or permanent solution, and they can be used outside as well as in. They’re durable, long lasting and easy to fix. When you piece it all together you can see why they’ve grown in popularity.

They’re also available in sizes B to E, which range from 33.9mm to 60.3mm in diameter. These are all hot dipped galvanised steel and suitable for bigger structures.

We also supply tube clamps to fit handrails that comply with the Equality Act 2010, and they meet the requirements of the Building Regulations 2010 Part M, British Standards BS 8300. Don’t forget – we can also supply you with the steel tubes, handrails and balustrades too!

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Next time you’re out and about, see if you can spot these tube clamps in action. If you’ve bought them from us to use as part of your project, let us know.