Which metal’s 4 u?

(Last modified: December 18th, 2017)

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

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

Steel

Mild steel box section

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

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

Copper

Copper metal sheets

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

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

Aluminium

Aluminium corner cleat

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

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

Stainless steel

Various stainless steel tubes and blocks

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

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

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