Getting to know Alec Steele

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

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: February 11th, 2019)

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 11th, 2019)

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: February 11th, 2019)

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: February 11th, 2019)

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: June 20th, 2019)

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: February 11th, 2019)

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: March 19th, 2019)

metals4U workshop

Once the decision has been made that a dedicated workshop space is needed, it is really easy to rush in and just get on with it. While that enthusiasm is a great force for getting things done, it is worth spending some time planning out exactly what you need and the best way to organise things to get the very best out of your new workshop. Everyone has tried to complete a project or task in an environment that made the job ten times harder than it needed to be; inadequate storage, poor ergonomics, and cramped working conditions are just some of the factors that can be easily avoided with a little forethought.

The secret to success is all in the planning.

The building.

Before investing time and money in a new project, it is always advisable to check with your local authority to make sure any plans you have do not violate any planning regulations in your area. You may find it useful to check out our blog post about planning regulations here.

When converting any building, whether it is an old shed, a garage, or an outbuilding, it is worth taking time to ensure it is fit for purpose; make sure it is watertight, well insulated with a non-slip floor.

It is recommended that a dedicated workshop electrical circuit should be installed to take care of the demands of running machinery in a home workshop, simply running an extension lead from an existing power supply is not a safe option.

Power.

electricity metals4U workshop

If the workshop is being set up in a garage, it is most likely that there are a couple of 13amp sockets; these are usually just run as a spur off the downstairs domestic ring main, if so, these should be upgraded to a circuit capable of handling the extra output or you risk overloading the ring main and tripping the fuse box.

A workshop in a shed or out-building will need to be supplied with power from the existing consumer unit in the house to a small two-way distribution board in the workshop. A circuit breaker should be fitted to the house consumer unit and RCD (residual current device) fitted at either end of the new cabling. The most usual solution is run an SWA (steel wired armoured) cable underground to a sufficient depth to avoid accidental damage.

None of these electrical solutions are a DIY job; these tasks are covered under Part P of the building regulations and should be undertaken by a certified electrician.

Placing power sockets over head can be really useful for some tooling requirements as it ensures flexes are not trailing on the floor. Forward planning is important here to ensure the socket and switch placement is as ergonomic as can be. It is a good idea to label each plug to identify which tool it is for- this can reduce the risk of injury if the wrong plug is disconnected in error during changing a cutting blade for example- most plugs look the same.

Security.

Although a workshop can be set up on quite a tight budget, securing it is a really important step. Motion sensor lights on the outside can help deter the ‘would be’ burglar but do make sure they will not disturb your neighbours every time a cat walks past. Some people opt for a shed alarm to emit a piercing sound to let you know if someone has entered, usually a loud siren will be enough to make any intruders leave quickly.

Good quality sturdy locks should be fitted to doors and windows to protect your property, for further security, grids can be easily constructed from mild steel welding mesh to cover windows and doors.

Plan your working area

metals4U workshop planning

The work bench is most likely going to be the hub of the action, so it is very important to get this right. When deciding where to place it, think about the positioning of light and power to ensure the best working conditions. A built-in work bench is the best option as it will provide a robust and secure working area that is perfect for securing bench tools to. If the work space is large enough, a free-standing bench with room to walk all the way around is perfect, however, if the workspace is housed in a garage or shed, then building the workbench against the wall will help utilise the space more effectively. If space is tight, or home building a work bench is not a viable option, there are some very reasonably priced workstations available that require simple home assembly- these are a great addition to any workshop as they have storage built in, have a reasonable weight bearing capacity, are economical to buy and are compact.

Storage

 Having well thought out and adequate storage in your workshop can be a real game changer. If the workshop has a built-in workbench, this will probably be the place that works best to store tools and equipment as they can be wall mounted for easy identification and ease of access.

metals4U workshop shelving

Shelves are a good way to keep tools and equipment out of the way, but easy to see- do make sure the shelves are constructed well enough to hold the weight. Heavy duty shelving units are available to buy that are easy to construct and can be extended and reconfigured as your needs change.

A wall mounted panel with plastic storage bins provides a clear open view of small tools and bits and bobs; as the bins are available in different colours it would be possible to use different colours for different categories of consumables and tools.

metals4U workshop storage

Storage boxes to lock your tools and equipment in can be a good investment- these help to keep children safe should they wander into the workshop and stop any intruders helping themselves to your equipment. A wide range is available to suit all pockets, from lockable tool chests and secure in-vehicle storage, to secure hazardous storage for gas and chemicals, and secure site storage.

A peg board with hooks can also provide a clear view of all tools without having to rummage through a tool box; some people decide where each hand tool will be placed and draw around them on the board to make tidying up even quicker. Wall mounted hooks are a great way to provide storage of bulky items to keep the floor space clear.

metals4U workshop pegboard

Hooks are available that can support bike frames, metal profiles, and cables, right down to handy small ones to hang your coveralls or welding apron on.

Keep it safe.

When embarking on projects in the home workshop it is important to pay attention to your safety. No job, however small, is worth risking an injury. Always wear eye protection and protect your hearing with ear defenders or ear plugs when using loud machinery. Heavy duty gloves are important when cutting and welding metal or using other heat sources and chemicals. A dust mask helps to protect your lungs from dust particles or for protection from irritant or toxic particles, a face mask with replaceable filters is recommended.

Don’t forget to wear protective shoes or boots, just because you can pop into the new workshop in your slippers, doesn’t mean you should; always maintain a responsible attitude to safety.

metals4U workshop PPE

Due to the nature of the projects that may be undertaken in the workshop, there may be a risk of fire- this may be from welding equipment or flammable liquids. To help protect yourself, a dry powder fire extinguisher is definitely worth installing. These can quickly put out small fires before they take hold, although never put yourself at risk of becoming trapped in the workshop or burned. If in doubt as to whether you can safely tackle the fire, it is best to get out quickly call the fire service.

Make sure you have a first aid box within easy reach of your working area, and that it contains eye wash, burn gel, and a good selection of dressings and plasters- although hopefully, you will never need to use it.

At metals4U we stock all the items you need to create your perfect workshop, just browse our ranges online or call customer services for more help finding what you need.

We would love to see your home workshops, so please do send us pictures; you may even get featured on our social media!

Useful links to products.

metals4U workstation

Work benches

 

 

 

metals4U hooks

Hooks

metals4U storage bins

Storage bins

metals4U tool storage

Tool storage

metals4U weld mesh

Weld mesh

 

 

 

 

 

metals4U fire safety

Fire safety equipment

metals4U PPE

PPE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to win the war on rust

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

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: February 11th, 2019)

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.

IMG_3507

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.

IMG_0834

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!