Help Me Buy Metal


I haven’t done metal working in 40 years. I got the Pro to mainly do metal signs and yard art. I haven’t a clue what metal to buy. There is an Alro Metal near me, but I need some help understanding what to buy.


I mainly use 16ga hot rolled steel for signs. I use all kinds of different thickness steel and other things like rebar and pipe for my yard art. GL and post those projects!


i use 14 ga. hot rolled for art stuff it has enough thickness to be strong for stuff that i sell. i have seen some that use aluminum for art work so they dont worry about rust.

ultimately it depends a lot on what kinda stuff you want to make


For signs, if it’s going to have a back plate, I use 18 gauge for the front (the “sign”) and 22 gauge for the backplate. Even if I get a little warping (rarely) of the 22ga, the 18 gauge pulls it straight when glued together and it creates a strong sign.

For single layer signs, I also use 16 gauge.


It all comes down to cost and what you’re doing with it. I do mainly multi layer signs so using 14ga would make them even heavier. It does have advantages to use 14ga. Lots of people use 18ga for signs even.

Thicker the steel the less warpage but more cost. Best thing to do is get some of each and do some cutting. Letters can be more challenging on thinner steel.


Everyone has their own preference as you’ve noticed, but they’re all great suggestions to consider.

I don’t do layered signs at all, nor do I do artsy stuff in general but when I do I use 16 gauge.

It’s thick enough to remain rigid, but cheap enough that I can stock up on it. Here, a brand new sheet of cold rolled runs $71 for a 4’ x 8’.

Whenever I’ve done vehicle-related stuff, I’ll use 3/16" hot rolled and that’ll run about $180 for a 4’ x 8’.

All the stuff in-between that I don’t do too often is in 10 gauge, 12 gauge, and 18 gauge (recently). I’ll normally buy those as remnants as sometimes a 3’ x 4’ would run me $10. Just have to be smart with your money!

If you’re keeping with metal signs and yard art, I’d probably stick to 16 gauge myself. If it’s going on the wall, 16 gauge to 18 gauge (depending on size due to weight).


@jtcweb I also use exclusively use 14ga on all my sign also.

How do you finish your signs using hot rolled? I was considering using cold roll so I don’t have to grind the scale off and then just acid etch them for powdercoating. Still spinning up the shop and doing some research

You don’t ever want to ‘grind off’ and I say this because I often see those new to metal working using flap discs or grinding wheels for such tasks.

Using any of the mentioned wheels will remove a significant amount of base metal, but if you’re really experienced with it and have learned to feather your steel well, you would be doing that yourself already :rofl:

Best bet is getting cold-rolled!

My friend does powder coating himself and he uses hot-rolled but uses the Harbor Freight refinishing tool to clean it up before coating it; think he uses the black wheel?

Never use any type of grinder on the face. I hit them with 220 sandpaper and paint. I do use grinding wheel on the backside if any dross is from cutting. I have a threaded stud welder which I use to layer my signs. The trick to layering is placing the holes in the backplate to match up with front plate. I just shoot my studs through the backplate to the face of the sign. Super easy and quick.


I do overnight vinegar soak to remove mill scale.


This is 4 layer sign a few months ago. I make my own hangers and most these studs are attached to the fronts. Some go through few layers. This is prior to sanding and preparing for paint.


You’d be shocked how fast I could make this sign. The painting is the painful part which you just need to wait a day to bolt all the layers together. I use Rustoleum paint which seems to really last even outdoors. The nice thing with powder coating is you can mess with it once it cools down. Best thing to do is start cutting 2D signs and us 3M tape or bolts if doing layered signs. Need to have a good handle on cutting and designing before making major purchases on threaded stud welder.


Thanks for all the processing information. I’m new to some of these processes as my experience is in cutting tool manufacturing (Broaches).

We ultimately decided on powdercoating for the longevity and lack of fumes (dust cleanup is easy) I got a hold of a used 48 x 30 x 18 fire safety cabinet to make the oven. My table is only the extended crossfire so 30 x 20 will be my max for now. If I can turn the hobby into something worthwhile maybe I can upgrade to a bigger one.

Will experiment with both hot and cold rolled options to see what we like better.

I love the look of the layered signs, we intended to do some of that as well, we practiced using an Xtool laser and just balsa wood for concepts.

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Good luck we love pictures of projects!

Cold rolled is nice to work with hot rolled is usually significantly cheaper. You and also look into pickled and oiled as well.


Powder coating can turn into its own business. If you need help with a sign just let me know.

Question: which threaded stud welder do you have? do ya like it? would you buy that one again? I wanna get one.

Midwest eagle
Yes I like it
I hope I never need to buy another at the cost of them…lol

Studs aren’t cheap but really nice and make multi layer signs quick and easy if you can design them.