Metals in creation and restoration projects

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)


Creating something from scratch takes vision, skill and – above all – patience. We’re inspired by the level of ingenuity our customers show when working with metal to create things they’re passionate about. Take Ben Talbot, for instance, who is aiming to make a bicycle that’s sustainable, affordable and easy to manufacture on a large scale.

It’s what he calls the ‘Sustainabike’. It’s mostly wooden, but it’s all pieced together using various joining brackets made out of steel. It’s a work in progress – all the brackets are cut and welded according to the design. Now he’s got to finish tapping the holes and then make the wooden components before bringing it all together.



Ben has decided to use larger wheels and based the design more on a road bike – the image above shows this new design complete with forks.

Meanwhile another of our customers, Eric Rawcliffe, is using a flat brass bar and brass angle to restore the droplight window of a first-class carriage, which was built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1880.

The flat brass bar is mounted on a door with a 3/16th spacer and the brass angle is mounted on the underside of the window (which is called a droplight). To hold the window closed, the 1/8th inch angle sits over the flat bar.


To allow the window to be opened, it’s fitted with a leather strap that is recessed into the window frame. This clears the angle from the flat bar, allowing the window to drop into the door casing (controlled by the strap, which is yet to be fitted).

Eric is also encasing a steel tube within a wooden channel, which will form a guide for the passenger emergency cord.

Restoring treasured items can be hugely rewarding and extremely satisfying once the job is complete. Paul Geraghty was able to email us about his restoration project, but once he’s completed it he might have to let us know in a letter!

That’s because he’s hand-building a replacement space arm and ratchet mechanism in 3mm stainless steel for his 1920s Underwood Standard Portable typewriter.


The original space arm was lost to the mists of time, and the machine itself was sold as unserviceable for £20 before Christmas.

Apart from manually advancing each line, he says that the machine works beautifully – so he’s really pleased that he could find short lengths of good steel so easily. His ambition has been to get the typewriter up and running so he can write a novel in the traditional way!

Good luck to Paul, Eric and Ben with their projects – we’d love to see them when they’re complete.

Modified racing sidecar

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

One of our customers, Ginny Bourne, is a competitive sidecar racer. Using our CDS tubing he fabricated custom handholds for his sidecar (talk about putting faith in our products!), which propelled him and his partner to 2nd place in their championship.

To make them even more competitive, a second order of the same tubing was used to extensively modify a new chassis which they’re hoping will deliver the results needed to obtain their ACU National licence, and compete in Camathias Cup Championship races across France, Belgium, Netherlands, the Isle of Man and mainland UK.


Case Study: Arcadia at Glastonbury Festival

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

The British music festival season may now be over for this year but the 5th October sees the return of the annual Glastonbury ticket sale for next year’s event.

73688Last year over a million people applied for 150,000 tickets which sold out in record-breaking time. Dolly Parton, Kasabian and Metallica all took to the Pyramid Stage during the summer and it would be no surprise to see a greater demand for the event in 2015.

For those who haven’t witnessed Glastonbury Festival first-hand, one of the most spectacular aspects of the site is the area hosted by Arcadia. The Bristol-based company combine sculpture, lighting, special effects, music and pyrotechnics to create of the most extraordinary audio-visual experiences you will ever witness.

Created using welded metals from recycled military hardware, some of the world’s biggest DJ’s have played the spider-like stage and Metals4U spoke to directors Pip Rush and Bertie Cole regarding the process of sourcing the metals, the importance of recycling…and dancing policemen!


According to Pip and Bert, the creative process is very much a “chicken and egg” scenario were the materials they come across can often steer a creative idea in an all-together different route. Alongside the duo are a team of other creatives ranging from artists, technicians and performers (some from different companies) to feed into the process and make it what it is.

Experts such as Sir Henry Hot provide the know-how for the fifty-foot flames using computer-controlled techniques…and cause the ground to rumble! BlinkinLAB create the most incredible UV video mapping content for the spider legs, whilst overall the collaboration between the different disciplines is seamless.

Arcadia use a variety of materials to create their stages and these are all recycled parts from jet engines, helicopter blades through to customs & excise scanners.

“We go on a ‘scrap tour’ once a year, which consists of a UK wide motorbike journey taking pictures of everything we find that looks useful. Then we send a lorry round to pick up the good bits at the end (hoping they haven’t reached the crusher yet). We use a bit of everything… plastics, wood and all sorts of metals”


Material testing is a vital part of any engineering project and Arcadia are no different. Ensuring the materials are safe with structural integrity is essential and Bertie further explained the process:

“Arcadia work with structural engineers to assess the type of metal the structural components are made from and then use computer modelling to calculate the structural strength of the components assembled into complete structures.”

With upcoming events in Thailand and New Zealand, the crew at Arcadia are continuing to push boundaries and create new ideas for the future. When asked whether they had any future creations in the pipeline the duo stated: Always… the world is full of scrap and we’re starting to travel further afield.”




Many well-known DJ’s have graced the Spider.

Mary Anne Hobbs, Fatboy Slim and Norman Jay MBE have all claimed that it is one of the best and most bizarre stages they have played, which hosts the finest Funktion One sound system in the world. Pip and Bert don’t have a favourite act but they have many stories to tell, with dancing policemen being a particular highlight.

“We had a couple of exited policemen climb on it for a dance once which was pretty funny…not sure if they still have a job though!”

The 2014 event saw Arcadia claim their very own area adjacent to The Park which attracted an estimated 70,000 people for the main acts. Alongside the Spider stage, Arcadia built on their creative recycling ethos with a number of interactive structures in the Mechanical Playground.

Developed by American sculpture and artist Christian Ristow, ‘The Hand of Man’ is a 26-foot long interactive piece which is capable of picking up old cars and crushing them. Operated by a cyborg-like hand glove, the creation is open to the public and is one of the many mind-blowing creations which take the evolving world of creative recycling to a whole new level.

To find more information about Arcadia head to:

More information about Glastonbury Festival can be found at:

(Images supplied and used with kind permission from Arcadia. Many thanks to the team at Arcadia for their time and help)

Animal Skeleton mounting

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

Chrissie has been using our metals to mount animal skeletons, one of the more unusual tasks our materials are used for.

Here are her project photos. In the first picture Chrissie has used brass rod threaded through the spinal canals of the Great Dane and the Alligator.

Skeleton mounting 1

She quickly left acrylic rod behind after these two, and in the second picture an Alpaca you can see brass uprights with mild steel sheaths attaching the uprights to the brass spinal support rod.

Skeleton mounting 2

This picture is Chrissie’s current project, a Swan using the same materials. the biggest hold-up to her work is having to wait for someone to come along and weld the uprights to the spinal rods.

Skeleton mounting 3

And here it is finished

Swan Skeleton

In all cases Chrissie starts by using a mild steel rod to bend into a ‘pattern’ for the final brass rod and, if the animal is large enough, she will re use the mild steel on decreasingly smaller animals until there isn’t a straight bit left.

Scale Model Landrover 90

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

We recently received this email from Jonathan Fewings.

land rover 1








My project is a 1/4 Scale 1984 Landrover 90 – for my Nephew to enjoy on the farm. Based roughly on a ‘Toylander‘ style design, however, only the basic Plywood shell has been used (with a multitude of alterations).

Power is provided by an Electric-Start 344cc Vertical Crank Briggs & Stratton Engine with a belt driven rear axle – incorporating a braking system. The exhaust system is made from Mild Steel Tube (Metals4U) sections (Lobster Back Style Bends) into a silencer from an Aprilia RS50 that was in the garage – and is pretty much an exact scale replica of a standard Landrover Part (who would’ve guessed?). The chassis is completely designed by myself and is made up of Rectangular Section Steel, Flat Bar and Tube purchased from Metals4U. The steering rack is borrowed from a Micro-car but heavily modified to suit its new use and the front Stub axles have been machined from EN24 – the steering system even includes Toe-in/Toe-out alignment! The body was originally going to just be painted ply, however, I chose to rivet an Aluminium sheet skin onto the ply in classic Landrover production style (originally riveted to a steel frame). The Aluminium was shaped by hand using a length of steel tube and a lump hammer……oh and a fair amount of elbow grease. Once this body had a touch of filler and a coat of paint the look was complete – especially the dipstick poking out the bonnet, or the OVH (overhead valve) sticking out the grill.

Things to complete:

  • Fit Fuel Tank
  • Fit Correct Rear Wheels
  • Paint Wheels
  • Interior
  • Lighting
  • Final Coat of Paint
  • TEST DRIVE!!!!

land rover 1


Inventing The Modern Car

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

The design and stylings of the humble car is an area which is in constant change, with innovations within the industry coming around all the time.

As science and technologies continues to advance it is inevitable that the auto-mobile will follow suit. Whether purposefully designed for use in the car, such as air-bags, or if it was an indirect inclusion after being developed for other markets, such as the stereo, the modern car has taken influence from many different sources.

The car industry is truly global with different brands of manufacturers being present in 47 countries worldwide. In the year 2013, this combined creates an industry which is worth approximately $888.5 billion.

The success of the car industry can be attributed to the innovators and creators who were pioneers in their field. With a number of projects sent in and gratefully received from customers at Metals4U who have worked with cars, we thought that we would pay homage to the industry and its innovators with a timeline of the landmark breakthroughs!

Inventing the Modern Car Infographic


Guide to UK Engineering – Hints, Tips, and Job Opportunities

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

Over the last few years there have been a number of articles that predict a shortage in the number of engineers in the UK. Speaking in the annual Engineering UK 2014 report, business secretary Vince Cable stated “The UK will need around 87,000 graduate level engineers per year over the next ten years: 2013 was 36,000 short of this”. This forecast is said to result in hindering the recovery and growth of construction, manufacturing and associated industries, as well as the wider UK economy.

Attempting to find a cause, an article written in The Engineer suggests that the shortage is caused by the previous generation of skilled workers gradually retiring, Cameron 12leaving behind a talent vacuum. There has been comment from key figures implying that the solution to this lies in the investment of time and money in the education of key engineering skills at school level.

However, a report for the Royal Academy of Engineering, ‘Thinking like an engineer: Implications for the education system’, states that the problem is not at higher education level but rather at primary and secondary education levels.

Continue reading

Scale Model Aircraft Handley Page H42 Airliner

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

Model Handley PagH42 metals4u

This project blog entry comes from Peter Bruce who has restored a twenty year old wreck of a Handley Page H42 Airliner model, to full flying condition. Mr Bruce used our aluminium flat bar to repair the struts and the undercarriage. This model is 94” and powered by four 8.72cc two stroke engines.

Mr Bruce has also provided some background information on the Handley Page H42, that inspired him to undertake the task of rebuilding the model. The Airliner was named “Hannibal” and was handed over to Imperial Airways at Croydon Airport in 1931. This aircraft was massive even by today’s standards with a wingspan of 130 foot. The H42 was the first one million mile airliner in the world and was used on the far eastern route on the first schedule airline service in the world. Below are two photographs of this impressive model on the ground and in the air. The final photograph is of the original plane.

Scale Model Handley Page H42 metals4u

H42 Handley Page metals4u

Vintage Car Restoration

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

We recently received a wonderful letter of thanks from H.Horsfield & Son in Halifax who specialise in services to the vintage and classic motoring industry.












“H.Horsfield & Son is a small firm offering services to the vintage and classic motoring industry.

Established in 1948 the firm now covers all areas of restoration from the sourcing and production of small hard to find parts to complete bespoke body design. Horsfields are very pleased to have the services of metals4u as they enable us to obtain the materials needed in affordable quantity. The web site is clear and simple to use and with their speedy delivery our work can be done with confidence.”















We are delighted to supply Aluminium Square Bar and other materials to firms like H Horsfield and Son, when they restore such incredible vehicles, as shown below.

How to drill Stainless steel

(Last modified: February 11th, 2019)

Equipment you will need; suitable drill bit, cutting fluid, eye protection, ear defenders, heavy duty tape, marker pen or 3 corner pyramid punch, sturdy clamp, and felt or plastic to protect workpiece in the clamp.

Drilling Stainless Steel

Begin by clearing your workspace to ensure there is nothing that may catch in the drill when you start working. Make sure you have everything to hand so you can concentrate on getting the job done without interruption. This is a good time to set up your drill and ensure all cables are in good condition.

The correct PPE is of paramount importance when drilling; chips and swarf are sharp and travel at speed so make sure your eyes are well protected. If you wear prescription glasses make sure you wear additional goggles designed to wear over the top as regular glasses will not provide adequate protection. Gloves are not recommended when drilling as they pose a risk to becoming entangled in the drill; the extreme forces, rotation, and speed encountered when drilling can easily break a finger or wrist. Ear defenders are recommended to protect your hearing, exposure to loud machining noise can permanently damage your hearing and contribute to developing tinnitus. You can browse our full range of PPE products here.

  • Mark the position of the hole with a marker pen, or if preferred, tap a small indent with a 3-corner pyramid punch. If you are concerned about the swarf damaging the surrounding area as it furls out of the drill bit you can use heavy-duty tape around the drill mark as protection.
  • If the metal to be drilled is less than 3mm thick it may be possible to use a single bit to achieve the desired size hole, however, if the metal is thicker it is recommended to start with a bit half the size of the desired hole diameter for an initial hole and then step up to the final size drill for a second drilling.
  • Firmly clamp the workpiece into position ensuring it is secure. If the drill bit grabs during operation, or when the drill exits on the blind side, it can spin the workpiece which can cause bad cuts, broken bones and damage to equipment.
  • If drilling with hand tools, drop a liberal amount of cutting fluid/ lubricant onto the marked metal. If you are using a coolant delivery system, set that up as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Coolant can be sprayed, dripped, or flooded, but it is important to use a liberal amount and that there is good contact between the fluid and the tool interface. Using cutting fluid will help to clear the swarf away from the drill bit to reduce the risk of becoming friction welded and reduces work hardening. We recommend the use of CT-90 metal cutting and tapping fluid which is available to buy here.
  • You are now ready to start drilling. The table below shows suggested speed and feed rates for drilling different grades of Stainless Steel.
Grade of Stainless Steel Vickers Hardness Surface Metres per Minute Feed mm per rev/ drill diameter mm
1.5mm 3mm 6mm 12mm 20mm 25mm
304, 316 277-445 20-50 0.012 0.012 0.025 0.04 0.05 0.07
303,410,416,440F 137-276 20-40 0.012 0.05 0.05 0.10 0.13 0.15
  • When drilling stainless steel, one of the best indicators of whether the speed, pressure and feed rates are correct is to watch the swarf; the swarf should cleanly exit the hole and be helical in shape and short in length. Stainless swarf should resemble the original colour of the stock metal or have a yellow tinge to it. If it is darker or not helical, back the drill out, apply more coolant and check your machine settings. Then simply try again.
  • Once the hole has been made make sure you do not touch the bit or the hole as they will be hot enough to cause a burn. Care should be taken when wiping the coolant off the metal as the swarf held in the coolant may scratch the surface.

These steps should have you drilling through stainless steel like a professional in no time, however, below is more information to give you a much deeper knowledge of ways to drill stainless steel to get the very best results every time.

Choosing the right drill bit.

There are many different types of drill bit and reamers suitable for drilling stainless steel. Choosing the correct type for a particular project is paramount to achieving the best results.

  • HSS or High-Speed-Steel bits are designed for use on stainless steel and can be used for hand and machine drilling. It is recommended to use an HSS bit that is TiN tipped as the Titanium Nitride reduces friction which in turn reduces work hardening caused by excessive heat and minimises flank and crater wear.
  • Cobalt drill bits and reamers are specifically engineered to provide heavy-duty performance on high tensile metals; these are manufactured from a steel alloy with between 5% to 8 % cobalt content. The 5% cobalt alloy is designated as M35 grade and the 8% alloy is graded as M42. Cobalt increases the strength of the parent alloy and significantly increases its heat resistant properties; these are two very strong considerations when drilling stainless steel as heat resistance to friction created during operation will reduce the work hardening rate, and the additional strength will protect against bit breakage and flank and crater wear. Flank wear is when the part of the bit in contact with the workpiece wears away, crater wear is when the metal from the drill bit becomes diffused into the swarf.

Our comprehensive range of TiN tipped and cobalt bits can be seen here.

Once the choice of material has been decided on it is important to consider the right size bit for the project. Paying attention to the geometry of the bit will greatly improve the quality of the finished hole and make the whole process much easier.

Drilling Stainless Steel - Drill geometry

Web thickness. The web thickness should preferably be a minimum of 1/8 of the drill diameter. The web is the central shaft of the bit that the flutes project from. The web supports the drill as it penetrates the metal being drilled, if this is too thin the bit may snap.

Point angle. This refers to the angle of the point at the very tip of the bit. Hard metals, such as stainless steel, require a wider point angle than a bit used on less hard metals; selecting the correct size point angle will reduce wear and travel, result in a better hole shape, and reduce machine chatter.

Lip relief angle. The lip relief angle refers to the angle at the outer corner of the lip and is responsible for supporting the cutting edge in contact with the metal. This lip relief angle is determined by the angle of the point; a smaller point angle means more web is presented to the workpiece, so the bit would need a bigger lip angle to support the cutting edge. The size of the lip angle increases as the drill diameter decreases. If the drill tip does not have an adequate lip relief angle then the cut will be poor, even if the bit is sharp, and will ultimately result in excessive wear and binding during operation.

Length. The length of the bit governs how deep the hole can be drilled, however, the longer the bit is, the more flex it will have. If the bit flexes, the hole may be inaccurate and not on the correct axis. By selecting a bit of suitable length, the likelihood of deflection and breakage during operation will be reduced. Bits are available in a variety of lengths, the most popular length for the majority of metal drilling operations are referred to as ‘jobber’. The length of the flutes on these bits are between 9 and 14 times the diameter. These are considered a good all-rounder for most projects.

Helix angle. The helix angle refers to the angle of the flutes to the face of the metal being drilled. The correct helix angle is important to ensure swarf moves from the excavated hole cleanly as the greater the helix angle, the smaller the capacity of the flute zone.

Recommended drill bit dimensions for drilling stainless steel.

Recommended range of point angle Recommended range of helix angle Recommended range of lip relief angle Drill bit diameter Optimum lip relief angle
118-135° 24-32° 7-24° 25 mm
20 mm 10°
12 mm 12°
6 mm 14°
3 mm 16°

Drilling Stainless Steel

Deep drilling

When drilling deep holes with a depth more than 3 times the bit diameter, the speed and feed rates need to be reduced to lessen work hardening, ensure swarf keeps clear, and reduce the possibility of bit breakage.

The recommended reductions are shown below.

Hole depth to diameter Speed reduction Feed reduction
3 10 % 10 %
4 20 % 10 %
5 30 % 20 %
6 35-40 % 20 %

Step drilling is often recommended for thicker profiles of stainless steel to help keep swarf clear, allow for good penetration of coolant into the hole and to reduce friction at the drill point. The full feed and speed rates must be maintained when backing out and re-entering to ensure smooth transitioning through the layer of work hardened steel that will develop as the cutting is underway.

Step drilling technique entails the first drilling depth to not exceed 3-4 times the diameter of the bit, then withdraw the drill, the second drilling cycle depth should be no more than an additional 2 times the diameter of the bit then withdraw the drill; subsequent cycles can add 1 more depth equal to the diameter of the bit.

Frequent backing out with the drill bit and minimising dwell will help to reduce hole wall roughness and drill breakage.

Reducing work hardening when drilling Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel will work harden relatively quickly, especially with the heat generated by drilling intensifying the process. Once Stainless steel becomes work hardened it becomes incredibly difficult to drill; the surface will glaze which will cause the bit to deviate and bounce resulting in blunting of the drill bit, surface damage, or even snapping the bit.

There are several ways to reduce the severity of work hardening to ensure the drill holes turn out perfect every time.

  • Keeping the drill bit cool and lubricated will drastically improve the quality and integrity of the drilling operation. Using a proprietary cutting or cutting and tapping fluid reduces the friction created during drilling processes which lessens the severity of work hardening. Keeping the cut edge and the drill bit well lubricated also reduces cutting time, improves the surface finish, and prolongs the life of the drill bit. For best results, it is recommended to provide a continuous supply of coolant/ lubricant to the bit and workpiece throughout the drilling operation; if this is not possible, stopping and manually applying the fluid to both the bit and the cut edge will also work well.
  • Work hardening can even occur when using a conical punch to mark where holes will be drilled, this will make drilling difficult in a small, localised area as the drill bit may slip against the walls of the indent. Using a 3-corner pyramid punch will reduce the risks or simply use a marker pen to reference drill placements.
  • The stainless steel can be annealed before embarking on deep drilling or very small diameter holes as this will soften it to improve the machinability, therefore, helping to reduce the risk of severe work hardening.

Whether you are an experienced fabricator or an avid hobbyist, you should now be well equipped to tackle any stainless-steel drilling job that comes your way.