MattBower

sheet metal sources

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I've never done any significant sheet metal work, but I think I'd like to try playing around with it a little. For example, I had the idea of trying to raise a helmet for my seven-year old for next Halloween. My first question is whether anyone has any suggestions for cheap or free sources of sheet metal to practice on. My second question is whether anyone can recommend any good books on the subject -- sinking, raising, etc., generally, or armorsmithing specifically. I've already found some good videos on YouTube.

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55 gal steel drum, water heater skin or electric appliance

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Drums are great. Make some connections with people, including auto repair shops, oil change shops, machine shops and factories because they all often have excess drums to dispose of that have been filled with clean oil. Smaller drums are equally handy as larger drums.

You can also get used food-grade drums for $25 or less from recyclers who list on Craigslist.

I am saying this for completeness -

Be very cautious of drums from chemicals, and make sure the previous contents are safe for you to handle, safe for your yard, and safe to heat BEFORE taking them. Better still leave chemical drums be and stick to food grade and machine oil drums. Fuel drums are also dangerous because cutting can ignite residues. If you don't know leave it alone.

Cut with a saw or shears, do not use torches on closed or partially closed containers as gasses and residues can pool then detonate. Grinders can ignite residues in oil or fuel drums so take the same precautions.

Sounds like you have some fun projects ahead of you Matt.

Phil

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Thanks for the tip, Fe-Wood. I signed up over there and have already gotten a line on some DVDs that look like they could be very helpful.

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Thanks, Phil. I guess I need to do more networking on the empty drums; when I've needed them I've found them on craigslist, but far from free! (Although to be fair, they're a lot cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of sheet metal new.)

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I was thinking for a halloween costume, lighter would be better. You might also contact any of the local places that repair gutters. They use aluminum to make gutters and it would be lighter for the actual costume. I remember a great halloween costume I had which was great looking snoopy costume. However the weight of it made me dislike the costume and have a miserable halloween! Just a thought.

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I was picking up a 55 gallon drum form a auto repair shop. It looked almost brand new and was clearly marked 10w30 MOTOR OIL. I noticed the drum head was a bit hooved or convexed. I loosened the bung and got a hiss of pressured air that smelled like gas. When I ask the fellow said "Oh, that was the drum we took racing fuel to the track last weekend. Don't worry about it."

ALWAYS check to be sure it is an original container that has not been refilled. Remove the bung and sample any contents BEFORE you load it up.

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However lighter sheetmetal is often harder to work when you want to try things like raising. it likes to wrinkle more and harder to work the wrinkles back into the metal. Also if you anneal it you soon run out of metal due to scaling losses.

May I commend to your attention an armour making forum like armourarchive.org or the helm raising article at anvilfire.com Eric Thing's at http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/armor/index.htm

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The skins off of water heaters, washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, car / truck bodies, 5 gallon cans, food cans, filing cabinets, desks, Freon tanks, computer cases, signs,


I have gotten over 50 55 gallon drums from work for free. They just tossed another my way last week. I am using the majority of them to build my smithy walls. There is a food company up by work that was selling them for $4 each. Those had the open tops. I got some from the Jelly Belly Candy Co when I worked there. I liked the open topped ones for moving my heavy stuff to my my new place here in NV. Sturdier than cardboard, easy to load, weather tight, and fit the trailer perfectly.

Get with your local scrap collectors, and ask them what they have, and to let you know when they find something. Locate a local sheetmetal shop, and ask for remnants. HVAC companies will have galvanized sheet, and ducting that can be useful for other projects.

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I'll speak in favor of washers and microwaves. Lots of sheet metal in both, and also smaller strips and bars of metal to use for other things. Lots of metal in big appliances.

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body and collision shops. they always have a pile of fenders and hood to get sheet steel from. some even have sheet allum.

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I'll add another for appliances. I have the shell of a trash compactor waiting for a purpose, the frame from it is my hot table.

Phil

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Thanks for all the additional ideas, folks. I haven't been around much lately, so I just discovered all the new contributions to this thread.

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I don't know if I would use old appliances, (its that enamel thing ), and fenders are all that recycled steel the U.S. buys back after sending it to some third world country for " refining ". If you look you may find new sheet is not all that expensive, plus there will be enough to make several mistakes, or additional helms, or some chasing projects. Once you see how easy the sheets move compared to 1/4" plate, you may become a tin knocker ! ( thats what started to happen to me, then I snapped out of it )

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Larry
You made me laugh when you said;
"Once you see how easy the sheets move compared to 1/4" plate, you may become a tin knocker!
(thats what started to happen to me, then I snapped out of it )". :D

Well, it happened to me when I about 64 years old when I started on my learning curve to make Repousse.
I am still on the first part of the curve, but enjoy doing it!

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@ Larry,
Most of the appliances nowadays are powder painted, so enamelling is not an issue. As to the automotive steel coming from 3rd world countries , well, have you looked at where most of the steel comes from for the past 30 years or so? I rarely see made in USA on new steel. When I had my shop back in the 80's-early 90's most of our material was coming in from Korea, Japan, and Malaysia. Now China has the dominant presence.


With any new endeavor like this , a lot of practice is needed to get it right. Free scrap is real cheap compared to new, and will go a long way to improving one's skills. If ya screw it up, who cares? The material was free, and if you have enough piled up, you can get paid for the scrap value.

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Opposite problem here I have approximately a 50 gallon drum full of sheet offcuts all sizes from strips to 12x12 squares. I need it organized is there a convenient way to keep this stuff all sorted out? 

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Do you use the material by length, width, or thickness? Sort accordingly.

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I agree with Glenn, although I would add one other question.

What is the rate that you use the material?

Material can take up valuable space in many shops, so prioritize how you use your shop space according to your needs.

Tools take priority.

I would suggest that you store 12” x 12” sheets (or smaller) on their edge (vertical)

so you can just pull the selected size strait out of a bin.

On longer sheets you may stack them, or just hang off of a chain with clamps securing the material as a means to keep it out of your way.

Calculate “how much stock that you will actually use in a day, week, month, or year.

Keep only the amount that you will “NEED” to use on hand, for quick access.

Construct the size and number of storage bins according to your needs.

Anything beyond that, just keep stacked in a dry area, or cover with a tarp.

My best to you, that you may become the very best you can be, at whatever you choose to do!

 

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Ted is making an important point about keeping only what you are actually likely to use.  It's really easy with metal-working to become a bit of a hoarder---grabbing and saving every piece of scrap iron that you might "someday" need.  The piles and bins can quickly becomes a hinderance to your work rather than a help.  Keep the best, scrap the rest.

And as a corollary to the scrap everyone tends to hoard--it's often also a negative to go the the scrap bin vs chasing the right piece of metal for the job.  Sure, going to the scrap bin is fast and cheap but that often becomes one of those "penny wise, pound foolish" things.  You can end up wasting more time and money scabbing "not quite right" scrap into a project than simply putting the time and shekels toward getting the right material and size for the job at hand.

Obviously the above are not "all or nothing"--just advice to choose wisely.  More is not always better.

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I have a great method of storing scrap that is not commonly usable in the stuff I do.  I let the scrap yard store it for me!  Of course having a scrapyard that will let you wander the piles is required...Now the stuff I can use on a regular basis comes home from the scrapyard with me...

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