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.

Can Metallicar ‘pop’ into York’s Top 10?

(Last modified: March 7th, 2018)

Metallicar’s third and final race of the season took place at the Micklegate Soapbox Challenge in York on August Bank Holiday Monday. It was the biggest and most exciting event we’ve raced yet.

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Our cart was given number 48 out of 50, so we had plenty of time to prepare and make a few final tweaks. And it was a good job too. As we got closer to the front of the queue for our first run, our front left tyre decided to blow out.

Luckily, there was a bike shop right across the road, so we quickly dodged the crowds to get a replacement, and repaired the puncture. Phew! But as we edged forward and sat third in line, suddenly, there was another pop from the exact same tyre!

Panic stations again, but we quickly repaired the tyre once more, entered the track, and got in position for our first run of the day. The countdown began, we settled the nerves and flew down the course in a respectable 36 seconds. We were happy with that.

After pushing Metallicar back through the streets of York to our pit, we got the BBQ lit and enjoyed the sun with some chilled beers.

As the second runs of the day began, we could see that teams were pulling out some very quick times. The pressure was on and we were still nervous about a third blow out.

Metallicar was called and we took our position. We had to beat 34.2 seconds.

We burst down the start ramp, picking up speed. It was an exciting, quick start and everyone knew our final time would be close to the top ten. We raced through the finish… but came up just 1.3 seconds short of what we needed. We were done.

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We had a great day and have already been thinking about the improvements we can make for next year. Extra weight and downhill force will surely get us into the top ten. Bring it on!

Inspiring student sculptors

(Last modified: July 13th, 2017)

Earlier this month Jessica Smith from York St. Johns University was chosen as the worthy winner of our Student Sculptor competition. She took home an invaluable prize – a place on the YSP metal workshop with renowned Sculptor Brian Fell. You can take a look at how she moved her designs on to create a new and exciting piece here.

But it wasn’t an easy decision. Our competition brought a whole host of budding artists out of the woodwork. Here at Metals4U, we were so inspired by the level and quality of entries we had to share some of our favourites with you:

Sharon Thompson
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‘My steel sculpture is called “The Lure of Attachment” and is a discarded Mermaids tail. It is a story of transformation, how the lure of attachment, which is represented within the welded metal joins, can entrap us and halt our development.’

 

Hannah Duckworth
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‘My art looks at that most primordial of questions… working with the concepts of religion, redemption, preservation and alchemy I tackle this question. In my most recent work by casting lead into The Bible, a highly symbolic and holy book, I represent two opposing ideas, preservation and destruction of religion.’

 

Sam Copsey
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‘I am building a large scale insect-like sculpture from found objects and scrap metal, built upon a functioning off road go kart. The twist being that the initial static appearing sculpture comes to life when approached by the viewer.’

 

Deborah Sisk
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‘I made the sculpture for a nature reserve in the north east of England from nails and wood. Using various types of nails for the feathers I wanted to depict the harsh nature of the metal juxtaposed with the softness of the feathers.’

 

Connor Frederick Lowe
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‘I predominately focus on processes of compression, in which I force durable industrial materials such as steel and concrete to behave unpredictably. The stresses between these materials when compressed force them to change in appearance making them look deformed, reflecting my inner personal frustrations with aspects of my life that appear un-controllable.’

 

Megan Louise Ekberg
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‘The genesis of my structure is derived from my interest in architectural art. All buildings as I see them take linear proportions which I first noticed in old classical buildings.’

To see every entry we received head over to our Facebook page.

Metallicar climbs the leader board at Humber Bridge

(Last modified: July 11th, 2017)

After a mishap at Wicksteed Park Derby left us missing a wheel and a front spindle, Metallicar was back in the Metals4U garage, and in need of some TLC.

We were taught some valuable lessons at our first race of the season, mainly the need for strength as well as speed. With tight timings, our engineers took on the challenge of making Metallicar bigger, better and ready for another round.

Humber Bridge Soapbox

Back in action and ready to rock our second Humber Bridge Soapbox Derby, we headed over to Hull on the 1st July. Away on business, our usual front-man Fred had to sit this one out, so the keys were handed over to our resident speed demons Scott and Sam.

We were up early and excited to test out our improved soapbox. The practice run to make sure we were in ship shape started at 8am and, as expected, Metallicar sailed through without a hitch.

Humber Bridge was no exception to the usual parade of weird and wacky homemade buggies. We spotted everything from brightly coloured racing cars and bulky trucks, to a wedge of cheese and a toad in the hole!

Humber Bridge Competition

At 11am it was time for Metallicar to take its place on the start line for our first race. Running smoothly, even over the bumps and obstacles, we finished with a great time of 36.10. Our second run clocked in at 37.65.

Then all that was left to do was to cross our fingers and watch the others race to the finish line for a coveted place in the final five.

We made it! Metallicar had beaten back the competition and made it to the final. A huge crowd formed to cheer the top five on as they lined up for the last time. Our final race round the track saw us clock our fastest time all day- an amazing 34.95.

 

The results were in and we bagged the respectable position of 4th place. We’re all really impressed with the result!

Here’s what Fred had to say: “The Metallicar soapbox is climbing up the leader board. Considering it is our second season we are very happy with 4th place.”

Be sure to check back in with us to find out what else Metallicar gets up to this summer.

Learning from the master with Brian Fell

(Last modified: July 5th, 2017)

Our recent competition to win a place on a masterclass workshop with celebrated sculptor, Brian Fell, proved to be a huge success.

We saw a great response with dozens of fantastic entries, which made Brian’s job a tough one when it came to judging. But one entry stood out above all the others, and that was from our winner, Jessica Alice Smith. Jessica_Smith_1-entry

Brian said of her submission: “Jessica had the strongest application and we felt she would benefit the most from the course”. Here’s her entry that caught Brian’s eye:

My current practice works with themes of balance and fragility; primarily playing with the idea of building up each side of the structure to the pivotal point before it collapses. By doing this I am able to capture the greatest level of tension between the structure and its material.

Though the majority of my work utilises natural and found material, I would love the opportunity to expand this further. The metal workshop would give me the tools needed to push my structures further than ever before, and the opportunity to experiment with heavier, more durable material.
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Her prize was a place on the Midsummer Metal workshop that Brian and fellow sculptor, Owen Cunningham, ran in conjunction with Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Here’s what she said of her experience:

“At the beginning of the course, Brian and Owen ran through all the equipment and showed us how to use each piece. After this, we were shown in groups of three how to weld, including each having a go at welding a straight non-bubbly line.
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“The rest of the course was quite self-led. We were provided with all the materials we needed and were given the opportunity to experiment with any ideas or designs we wanted to pursue.

“Both Brian and Owen were really helpful with any questions, and stepped in to show me in more detail how to use the equipment when I needed it. In particular, I was given an extra demonstration on how to use the plasma cutter. I really enjoyed this tool and used it both to cut layers of metal into mountainous shapes for my landscapes, and also as a drawing tool”.
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Watch this space to see how this star of tomorrow progresses in her work.

To see all the amazing submissions we received as part of our Student sculptor competition head to our Facebook page.

Metallicar gets in a spin at Wicksteed

(Last modified: June 29th, 2017)

The warmer weather has arrived and it’s time for Metallicar to rock and roll into its second Summer of Soapbox derbies. We’ve been tweaking and tinkering for weeks to get our buggy ready to face the speed demons on the tracks. We can’t wait to get back out there.

First stop was the quaint town of Kettering for the Wicksteed Park 2017 Derby! After making a pit stop at a couple of local cocktail bars for some well earned refreshments, we got our heads down before the morning’s festivities.

Stache

Up and out early doors with fake beards on, the final checks on Metallicar got underway for the big race. 40th in line after the kids race, we had a bit of a wait. But at an amazing 28°C, it was shaping up to be the perfect day for a race, and we were happy to watch all the other marvellous creations make their way onto the track.

Kids

From ghost trains, to old school race cars there was a mix of soapboxes that would put Wacky Races to shame! We even spotted a father-son team with a Star Wars themed cart ready to make their galactic debut – definitely one of our favourite soapboxes of the day.

Grave Digger

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Finally it was time to take our place at the starting line. The DJ boomed out some heavy metal to get us ready and raring to go, and the crowd went wild as we launched onto the course. Looks like our emphasis on speed when tweaking the car worked, we sailed towards the finish line in our fastest run ever!

Metallicar

As we screeched to a halt to avoid crashing into the bales of hay, disaster struck. The force of Metallicar’s breaks sheared the front spindle clean off. Then we saw one of our front wheels bounce off down the track, and it all ‘faded to black’!

Our first run saw us take the bronze in the respectable position of third place. But with the state our soapbox was in, it was all over for Metallicar.

IMG_4509We called it a day and headed back to Wetherby with lessons learnt. Mainly how important strength was as well as speed! Keep your eyes on our blog, you haven’t seen the last of Metallicar this summer!

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.

Calling all sculpture students!

(Last modified: June 26th, 2017)

Are you a student who knows their alloys from their aluminium and their block scraper from their bush pick? Do you love discovering materials, learning new techniques and designing weird and wonderful sculptures? If you’re nodding along then we want to hear from you.

We’ve teamed up with Yorkshire Sculpture Park and artists Brian Fell and Owen Cunningham to give one lucky student a chance to win a free place on their workshop, Midsummer Metal, usually costing £270 per person.

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Brian Fell is known for creating amazing large scale sculptures in metal like the ‘Ha Ha’ bridge – specially developed for YSP. While Owen has worked with steel for over 20 years creating memorable pieces on display at the Ironbridge Museum and Telford.

The two-day course gives you the opportunity to get creative in a sculptor’s wonderland. You’ll have access to every tool you can think of and all the metal you could need, along with demonstrations, direction and advice from Brian and Owen.

All you have to do to win the prize is show us photos of your sculptures. It could be your latest masterpiece, a sculpture you’re particularly proud of, or your designs for future pieces. Maybe the one you’ll make at Brian’s workshop? Once you’ve got your entry photos ready, submit them here.

Entries are open now and the winner will be announced on June 1st. You have to be a student and over 18 to enter.

Good luck!

Robot Wars reboots for 2017

(Last modified: November 15th, 2018)

And defending champion Apollo is taking no prisoners!

Roboteers stand by, Robot Wars is back on our televisions this year for an explosive second season. Summer 2016 brought the series back with a bang on BBC 2, and we couldn’t get enough. From Razer to Matilda, the starting line-up of house robots brought a real sense of nostalgia to fans of the 90’s show. Along with a remarkably familiar arena we were on the edge of our seats every time we heard the word ‘activate’.

After 53 adrenaline-pumping battles over six shows, it came down to Carbide vs. Apollo. Carbide had wreaked havoc in the arena, managing to take out a steel wall and halt play while engineers repaired it. And Apollo had sent the house robots into orbit with its ‘flipper’ on more than one occasion. It was definitely a battle too close to call even for their biggest fans!

After a tense final battle both robots resisted destruction, even with the roaring fire pit and house robots on the war path! It came down to a vote from the judges. It was a unanimous decision and Apollo was crowned the winner.

Team Apollo Win

Team MAD who built Apollo are now back for more robot blood in season two. The team of three who met at a Pontins holiday camp, are all from a non-engineering background and were thrilled to have ‘flipped’ their way to victory. Excited to come back and defend their title, they will be working hard to finesse their 107 kg creation.

With a name taken from a NASA spacecraft and a flipper that ‘launches’ 100kg robots into the air, it’s not surprising that a lot of metal is needed to keep Apollo looking shipshape. Huge fans of the show, we’re proud to sponsor the team and help Team MAD defend their title. We’ll be providing all the metal needed to bring Apollo back from the brink of destruction promised by the fierce battles ahead. Dave Young and his team mates can’t wait to have us on board:

“We are delighted to be working with Metals4U, the metal that they are supplying us will form the build of a new Apollo for the future. Apollo’s strength has always been strong armour and is one thing that helped us win Robot Wars. Metals4U will be helping us make sure that our future project is as strong as ever!”

Make sure you tune into BBC 2 to catch all the action this season!  Plus, keep up with the latest news from camp Apollo and Robot Wars on the Metals4U blog.