This guide is to help answer questions about the suggested uses for metals that we sell. It can help you select the appropriate metal for your specific needs.
When we say that a metal conforms to AISI standards, we’re referring to the standards set by the American Iron and Steel Institute. ASTM stands for ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials. SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers, now known as SAE International.
ALUMINUM is a light-weight, silvery-white metallic element. Alloys are created by adding small amounts of other ingredients to produce specific desired properties.
Alloy 3003 Aluminum is a general purpose alloy with good workability and moderate strength. This non-heat treatable alloy is highly corrosion-resistant. This is one of the easier to weld aluminum alloys. (Since it has a much lower melting point than steel, you need to know how to weld aluminum to be successful.) It is recommended for patching, flashings, and decorative applications.
Alloy 6061 Aluminum is a very versatile alloy. It is machinable with a range of good mechanical properties. This heat treatable alloy has excellent finishing characteristics and good formability. It’s excellent for outside applications such as scaffolding and marine equipment.
Alloy 6063 Aluminum is a very corrosion-resistant alloy. It offers a wide range of good mechanical properties, is machinable, and can be welded. (Since it has a much lower melting point than steel, you need to know how to weld aluminum to be successful.) This heat-treatable alloy, has excellent finishing characteristics. It is suitable for many outside applications, such as awning supports, architectural applications, window frames, etc.
BRASS is an alloy made from copper and zinc. Small amounts of other ingredients may also be added to achieve specific desired properties.
Alloy 260 Brass has both fabrication and electrical characteristics. This general purpose brass is formable, relatively easy to bend, and has excellent machine capabilities. This makes it a material with a diversity of uses.
Alloy 330 Brass is used in many plumbing applications. Easily soldered or brazed, it also has the capacity for being cold worked.
Alloy 360 Brass is an excellent machining common brass that is readily soldered and brazed. It’s great for light indoor ornamental applications. If you use it outside, be sure to keep it polished or cover it with a protective clear coating.
Alloy 464 Naval Brass is a non-leaded tin bearing brass that is highly corrosion resistant in salt water. This is a tough brass alloy used for fittings on boats and many other outside applications. Electrically, it’s used for contact springs, fuse clips, terminals, and connectors.
BRONZE is an alloy made from copper and tin. Small amounts of other ingredients may also be added to achieve specific desired properties.
Alloy 510 Phosphor Bronze contains 5% tin. This very popular bronze alloy is highly resistant to corrosion, wear, and fatigue. Used for springs, fuse clips, bushings, and parts used in: chemical plants, paper making plants, and sewage reclaiming plants. This bronze alloy has a copper-like color.
Alloy 544 Phosphor Bronze offers the corrosion resistance characteristics of Phosphor Bonze while providing strength and bearing properties. Used for bushings, bearings, pinions, thrust washers, shafts, valve parts, and gears. This bronze alloy has a copper-like color.
SAE 660 (CDA 932) Alloy Bronze is a high-quality bronze used for general utility bearings and bushings and various other parts. It is highly resistant to impact, wear, and corrosion.
SAE 841 Oil Impregnated Bronze is a self-lubricating alloy that can be machined to close tolerances and used as bearing and bushing stock for machine tools. Highly wear and corrosion resistant, it is made from powdered bronze with 18% oil vacuum impregnated to hydraulically cushion shock and impact.
COPPER is a metallic element noted for being malleable, ductile, and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has a wide range of uses, from electrical, to plumbing, to protecting roofs and ship hulls. In the past it was used to make cooking pots and pans, bath tubs, decorative items, and much more.
Alloy 110 Copper is more than 99.3% pure copper. It is highly conductive, with excellent ductility. Used for many electrical applications, including bus bars, contacts, terminals, and switches. It can also be used decoratively and for flint knapping. Copper is naturally corrosive resistant. If you use it outside, it will get a thin green copper oxide layer which will protect the inner metal. (For examples of this, see old copper roofs or the Statue of Liberty.)
STEEL is a compound of iron (a metallic element) and carbon (a non-metallic element). By adding small amounts of other minerals, a wide range of alloys can be achieved that have a very wide range of specific properties.
Alloy 1018 Cold Finished Steel is a low carbon cold drawn steel. Use it for parts that require a soft core and high surface hardness. The surface hardness is accomplished when you carburize the steel. It’s great for machine parts and gears when carburized. Of course, it can be left soft (as we sell it) for applications not requiring corrosion resistance or having heavy wear or heavy stressed applications. Good for jigs, fixtures, mild repairs, and miscellaneous parts. If you are going to expose it to the weather, be sure to protect it with a suitable protective coating.
4140 Alloy Steel is a commercial quality general purpose steel with good machinability, excellent wear resistance, and elevated tensile strength. It’s excellent for machine parts, gears, cams, spindles, certain molds, zinc die cast dies, and many other similar applications. THE 4140 ALLOY STEEL THAT WE SELL IS PRE-HARDENED AND HAS A LIGHTLY-SCALED ROUGH SURFACE FROM THE HEAT TREATING. It has already been hardened to approximately 26-32 RC (262-321 Brinell). This is still soft enough to be sawed, drilled, turned, milled, filed, etc. It conforms to ASTMA-193 Grade B-7 and ASTMA-322.
STAINLESS STEEL is an iron alloy class that has more than 12% chromium by weight. Some of the alloys are magnetic and some are not. All the stainless steel we sell has not been heat treated (not all types can be heat treated), so it can still be machined – sawed, drilled, milled, turned on the lathe, filed, etc.
Type 17-4PH Stainless Steel is a 17% chromium, 4% nickel, low temperature hardening stainless steel that has minimum scaling or distortion from heat treating. It is corrosion resistant and readily weldable. Used in bearing and cutlery applications. The type we sell is: Condition A, meets AMS 5643.
Type 302 and 303 Stainless Steels are basically type 304 stainless steel with sulfur added to make it easier to machine.
Type 304 Stainless Steel is a low carbon chromium nickel stainless steel that cannot be hardened by heat treating. It is tough, but machinable and easy to form, with good mechanical properties and very good weldability. Use it where you need good corrosion resistance. Meets ASTM A240-928.
Type 316 Stainless Steel is non-magnetic and cannot be hardened by heat treating. It contains Molybdenum which gives it greater resistance to corrosion at elevated temperatures. This makes it suitable for making parts that will be subjected to salts and reducing acids – also good for making cable clamps and many screw machine products. It has very good weldability. Meets ASTM A276-91A.
Type 416 Stainless Steel is used in applications where corrosion resistance is not an important factor. Its sulfur content makes it relatively easy to machine, eliminating much of the seizing and galling, common in other types of stainless steel. Heat treating creates a very hard surface. Welding is not recommended. This is widely used for many automated screw machine produced parts, bearings, and cutlery. Meets ASTM A582.
Type 440C Stainless Steel is a high carbon stainless steel that can be heat treated to a very high hardness. It has excellent wear and abrasion resistance. It is corrosion resistant only if heat treated. Used in bearing, bushing, and cutlery applications. Meets ASTM A276-91A.
TOOL STEEL (All the tool steel we sell has not been heat treated, so it can still be machined – sawed, drilled, milled, turned on the lathe, filed, etc.)
A2 Tool Steel is an air hardening, fine grain tool steel. Its chrome content gives it excellent wear and abrasion-resistance properties. It has a medium machining rating and good stability after hardening with good toughness. It’s recommended for intricate or complicated parts and is ideal for punches and dies.
D2 Tool Steel is an air hardening, fine quality tool steel. It has superior abrasion resistance and toughness. This toughness also gives it a low machining rating – it’s tough on tooling and will give normal high-speed steel tooling a hard time. Recommended for use where there’s a high wear factor. (If you are inexperienced in working with metal, you should take extra care with D2 steel. It’s a high-quality steel that yields very tough pieces after heat treatment. This toughness makes it difficult to work, even in its “soft” state. You have to use sharp tooling and don’t force it when the tooling starts to get dull – which can be soon. If you force the dull tooling, you can work-harden the area you’re machining, and make it impossible for high-speed steel tooling to work in that area. For example, if you try and force a dull drill through, it could work-harden the spot you’re trying to drill and make it as hard as if you’d already heat treated that spot. Then you’d have to either drill in a different spot or use a solid carbide drill carefully with the piece clamped securely. The key to success with D2 steel is to keep the tooling from getting too hot. That also means keeping your grinding wheels “dressed” and free from clogging.)
M2 Tool Steel is an air, oil or salt hardening tool steel. This tungsten molybdenum steel has a medium machinability rating and is highly resistant to decarburization. Used in dies and for shear blades, it is also used for making a variety of cutting tools, such as drill bits, broaches, taps and end mills.
O1 Tool Steel is an oil hardening, general purpose, fine grained tool steel. It has excellent abrasion resistance, toughness, and a high machining rating. It’s recommended for intricate work with thin sections. It’s a natural for home use because of its quality of being heat treated at fairly low temperatures, while combining deep hardening with fine grained structure. This is our best-selling steel to custom knife makers. For more information see our O1 Steel Guide.
S7 Tool Steel has the unusual combination of shock resistance and toughness while remaining easy to machine and heat treat. This is an oil hardening steel for parts with sections (thicknesses) under 2 1/2 inches and air hardening for parts with sections over 2 1/2 inches. It can be used in both cold and hot work applications (as long as the tool temperature stays under 1000 degrees F). It's toughness with moderate wear resistance is a good combination for heavy duty punches and shears.
W1 Tool Steel is a water (or brine) hardening, commercial grade carbon tool steel. It is suitable for applications that do not require close control of the depth of hardening. Because of its high-carbon content, it is used for small parts not requiring heat treatment. It also makes good chisels, shears, knives, tooling, etc. (which do require heat treatment).
TERM DEFINITIONS - to help beginner buyers.
Bar Stock: Bar stock refers to metal in the condition as it comes from the mills (using the term "mill" to denote a company that takes raw metal such as ingots and turns it into usable products such as bars, etc.). We sell rectangular, square, and hexagonal bar stock. Bar stock may have sharp corners or it may have a small radius on its edges. This can vary from supplier to supplier. All the bar stock we sell is solid (not hollow). Square and rectangular bar stock will be dimensioned as thickness by width by length. Hexagonal (six sided) bar stock will be dimensioned as a nominal size by length. The nominal size is the thickness between parallel sides (not the width of the flats and not the dimension over the points).
Flat Stock: All the flat stock we sell has been ground on a surface grinder to make it flat and parallel.
Rod: All the sized round stock we sell that is solid, is called a rod. A rod is dimensioned as a diameter by a length. The copper rods (and all the rods) we sell, are rigid rods, and are not cut from coils.
Round Stock: All the round stock we sell is solid. It is dimensioned as a diameter by a length.
Tube: Tubes are hollow rods. Tubes are dimensioned as an outside diameter (OD) by a length with a wall thickness. To find the inside diameter (ID), take the outside diameter (OD) and subtract two times the wall thickness. All the tubes we sell are straight tubes and are not cut from coils.
SURFACE PATINA – WHY PIECES OF THE SAME ALLOY CAN BE DIFFERENT COLORS. When you purchase copper, brass, and bronze, you may notice that purchases made at different times or sets made up from different sized rods or bars, may not be exactly the same color. The color change comes from surface oxidation. This forms what is known as surface patina. You can “age” or change the color of a piece on purpose by using certain chemicals and/or heat. Surface patinas occur naturally and are affected by the conditions under which the metal is stored. Moisture, salty air, certain industrial pollutants, and other things can speed up the natural process. Cleaning, scouring, or buffing will remove the patina and restore it to its consistent natural color. Polish and/or a clear paint coating will act as a barrier to protect from future oxidation (or at least slow it down). I have found diluted oxalic acid to be an amazing cleaner for these metals.
SAFETY AND MACHINING TIPS: You’ll find that working with metal presents different challenges as compared to working with wood or plastics. While much woodworking can be done “freehanded,” it’s usually better to use a vise, or to clamp down metal pieces being worked. Their toughness usually requires more force to get the job done.
For example, when drilling a thicker piece, a drill press is usually the better choice over a hand drill. If you simply hang on to the piece being drilled, it could grab and start spinning around. You could get cut, smashed, or even break some bones. Clamping the piece down or using an attached vise is much safer. The chips (spiral metal waste pieces) from drilling can cut you and they can get pretty hot sometimes. Also, remember than the “softer” metals such as brass or copper can suck a drill bit down into thicker pieces by literally screwing the drill bit into the piece. “Harder” metals, such as the various steels have more resistance and won’t usually do this.
Aluminum has a tendency to “pack in” which clogs up the spaces between the cutting edges of the tooling. It will stick between your saw teeth, between the flutes on milling cutters, and in the spiral channels of drill bits. To make it cut freely, just use cutting fluids that are rated to use with aluminum. When you use a cutting fluid, you’ll also get a nicely finished surface texture.
Remember that many operations, from cutting, to grinding or buffing, can quickly heat up the metal piece being worked. They can get hot enough to burn you. Also, watch for sharp edges to avoid getting cut.
Check out our eBay store Sheakley’s Antiques Store where we sell all of these metals in a variety of forms. Our inventory is always changing. We have rods in a wide variety of metals - pieces of tool steel - brass, copper, and aluminum bar stock - brass and aluminum hexagonal bars - brass, stainless steel, and aluminum tubes - and much more.