Learn all about sheet metal!
Sheet metal is metal, in sheets. It’s thinner than plate metal (.25 in and thicker) but thicker than foil (.006 in and thinner). It’s most commonly available in steel and aluminum, in various gauges (thicknesses). It’s available with various coatings for corrosion resistance or surface finish. Sheet metal is made by taking a large cast ingot and rolling it into a long ribbon of the desired thickness. This long, flat piece of metal is then rolled into a coil and sent directly or cut into sheets before being sent to a machine shop. Sheet metal is one of the most versatile materials in jewelry making. Whether you’re making bangles, forming your own rings, or designing pendants, sheet metal is great for all the types of jewelry.
Let’s start simple. What sheet metal tools do you need to pick up ahead of your project?
We’ve listed all the essential pieces of equipment for working with metal sheets below:
One of the most important decisions when working with sheet metal is deciding what thickness you’ll need. Similar to the wire, sheet metal thickness is measured in gauges, with a higher number indicating a thinner sheet. To measure the thickness, you can use a sheet metal gauge, which will show you thickness in both gauge number and thousandths of an inch. One important note, however, is that ferrous and non-ferrous sheet metals of the same gauge have different thicknesses, so you’ll need one gauge for ferrous metals, and one for non-ferrous.
Bending sheet metal can be tricky, but with the right tool, it’s easy. Those who work with it regularly are likely to have a sheet metal bending brake in their workshop, but this tool can be a bit expensive for the hobbyist. Thankfully, there are a couple of wallet-friendly options that can help you get the job done.
Using the edge of your workbench, a length of wood, two clamps, and a mallet, you can fashion a rudimentary bending brake. Mark a bend line and place the sheet metal on the edge of your bench. Next place the wood parallel and slightly behind the bending line. Clamp the wood on top of the metal to the workbench. Finally, bend the sheet up by hand to the angle desired. If you want a sharp 90° bend, tap along the crease with a mallet.
To start, you’ll need to know how to cut sheet metal if you want to use it in your designs. And there are two methods – cutting with a jeweler’s saw or cutting with a Dremel tool. If you want to start by using a saw, make a mark where you want your first cut to be and map out the rest of the shape. Start slowly, and make your first cut by creating a small notch at first, and then gradually building up pressure to cut the rest of the shape. Does blade keep getting stuck? Use some lubricant to ease it up again.
Or if you’re already a pro with a jeweler’s saw, why not use your Dremel tool? It speeds up the process so you can focus on finishing your designs to the highest possible standard. Learn how to cut metal with the Dremel 300 in our blog on how to use your Dremel 3000 rotary tool.
Someone who works with sheets of metal will know that one of the best ways you can use the material is by texturing it. For a real rustic, natural look, try creating a patina with the Liver of Sulphur. Or, you can create texture by making indentations in the metal and you can do this by already using the tools in your workshop. For example, repeatedly striking the metal with the flat edge of a jeweler’s hammer creates a linear effect, perfect for more rectangular or square designs. Another popular method is using the rounded edge of a repousse hammer to create a softer, hammered effect.
If you’re looking to add a specific shape or design to your jewelry piece, there are a variety of different stamps you can use. Find stamping sets with letters, numbers, and shapes at your local or online shops ideal if you want to add a personalized touch to your work.
And there you have it! Feeling more confident about how to work with sheet metal? Whether you’ve been inspired to pick up some new sheet metal tools or try out a different technique, be sure to pick up all the jewelry tools and sheet metal you need from Cooksongold.