Welding involves base metal that comes in many shapes, sizes and tensile strengths. Entry-level welders should be familiar with the standard stock items sold by steel and pipe distributors, since this is the material they'll be welding on. MetalsDepot.com publishes a free catalog (PDF) which lists the most common stock items. Below you'll find an overview of materials used in welding and fabrication shops:
- - - - - -This solid metal bar is used for stakes, grates, frames and fencing.
An extremely common construction material, angle steel is used for fabrication where the stronger tubing isn't needed. It's also cut up to make brackets or used for framing, crossmembers and brick lintels.
As a rule, flat metal with a wide face compared to its thickness is classified as sheet or plate. (Flat bar, by contrast is long and not very wide.) If the thickness is below a quarter inch, the metal is considered sheet and measured in gauges. (A 16-gauge sheet, for example, is 1/16 inch thick.) Metals that are thicker than 1/4 inch are classified as plate and measured in fractions or millimeters. Sheet and plate are used for box construction, table tops, air ducts, vehicle and airplane bodies, and many consumer products.
As the name implies, tool steels are used to make tools - drills, taps, dies, arbors, shafts, machinery parts, pins, punches, roller bearings, etc. A much higher carbon content and density is needed, since tools may be subjected to powerful forces repeatedly (especially when cutting or drilling). When manufactured, the metal gets a special heat treatment to make it harder. The downside is that the steel may become more brittle, so you don't want to be carelessly dropping tool grades of metal, labeled in the ASTM range of "A2" to "A10", on hard surfaces.
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