You can make nearly anything from sheet metals – furniture, decorative sculpture, and functional pieces. And there are so many kinds of sheet metal commercially available now – copper, brass, Aluminium and stainless steel can all be had in different thicknesses and finishes. It’s a maker’s dream, but which do you use?
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel
If the shiny, silvery, modern look is where your heart is today, then you have a choice between Aluminium and steel.
Sheet Aluminium is an excellent choice for many different types of projects. It is lightweight and easy to work with. It resists rust and corrosion very well. It is soft (compared to other metals), making it very easy to machine. It is also available in large quantities in various thicknesses and grades. Aluminium is so easy to roll out it can be easily worked into a foil – the Aluminium foil you bake a turkey in or use to cover a plate of cookies is technically a sheet metal.
However, Steel is more expensive than Aluminium, both by volume and weight. And while it is possible to weld Aluminium very securely, it takes a great deal of skill to achieve.
Stainless steel is also very corrosion resistant – it is in the name, after all. It is one of the most durable materials and looks beautiful. However, stainless steel’s hardness makes it difficult to machine or form. It is easier to weld than Aluminium, but it can easily warp if you aren’t specially trained in welding stainless.
Copper vs Brass
If you’re looking for an old-world, antique, or even ‘steampunk’ aesthetic, you will probably be working in either brass or copper.
Copper is easy to work; it can be melted, cast, or beaten into shape. It cuts easily, and in its polished stare, it is gorgeous. It is much easier to weld than brass, as well. However, it corrodes very quickly, even indoors.
Brass is a better choice than copper for most indoor purposes. It is less expensive than copper. It is softer and, therefore, easier to machine and work. It resists corrosion better, and it is even better at resisting the flow of heat and electricity. So, what are you making, and what will you be using?