Material Choices

I am looking to make artwork (wall hangings, christmas ornaments, signs etc). I am wondering about material choices other users make? CRS? HRS? Al? SS? When and why do you choose each one? What thicknesses would you use in a particular application? OK, GO!

And I will go first. I am thinking Hot Roll Steel, 1/8 in (11 ga) for a sign that I want to age and show rust. Am I on the right path? Is Hot roll a good choice for cutting? It is significantly less expensive than CR.

Usually, for most artistic and sign stuff the most used gauge is 14ga, going to 12 or 11 is fine too, just a heavier and more expensive sign. Using hot rolled is cheaper, but you have to deal with the mill scale that actually prevents it from rusting if you want to antique it up. You would need to dip it in muriatic acid to remove the scale or let it sit in vinegar for 24 hours to remove the mill scale for whatever treating or painting process you would want to do next. If you paint it, you can actually paint over the mill scale and it will help prevent the sign or metal from rusting, but if you want it nice and shiny that will not be an option. I use cold rolled mostly and use stainless for stuff that i want to be extra resilient, most metals are too expensive outside of HR or CR for sign making unless you have customers who like to spend money.


Excellent! Exactly the experience sharing I am looking for.

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Eventually (when I have acquired the necessary skill) I want to make some deck railing (loft) inserts for my cabin. Based on what I have read, they are typically .125 in thick and edge braced for strength. Has anyone done railing inserts?

I use a mix of HR & CR steel depending almost entirely on price :slightly_smiling_face: CR from onlinemetals (I pick it up locally) is often not much more expensive than HR so if it’s within 10% that’s what I’ll go with. But I have a blasting cabinet (Harbor Freight tricked out with some mods to the feed system and gun) that I use to get rid of the scale. Just a few minutes with glass beads (70 grit) and it’s ready for finish.

I use paint, powder coating or SteelFX patinas & dyes for the finish. Like you, 14ga is my go-to for signs.

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Is anyone cutting really thin stuff (like 25 ga) for ornaments maybe?

I just cut some 23gauge .03" worked ok but you need to keep it flat. I didnt try cutting a lot of close stuff in a confined spot

Just curious if you were using a water table?

Actually no, i should have mentioned. My water table hasn’t arrived yet so this was just dry. Also it was some galvanized stuff i had laying around

23 gauge is very thin, especially since you have’t installed the water table yet. I typically avoid material thinner than 16 gauge unless it’s something small.

My wife has asked me to create some little christmas ornament sized cuts (about 40 of them) . Thin will be important for them as they need to be light weight. I learned a long time ago to do as she says. :smile: I have a water table so I am optimistic (once I get the table fully assembled, thank you for sending the new bearing and lead screw)

I agree. It’s not something I would use it for but I wanted to try a bunch of stuff and ran my litttle test program on it. The only problem is keeping it flat. A lot of bucking can be avoided by not cutting much in one area. This Was the part

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FYI Apple Cider Vinegar works better than straight vinegar. don’t know why, but it does.

If you live in a or near a large city you may be able to get left over cut offs from metal suppliers for cheap. I live in Phoenix so we have plenty of yards and I was able to get some nice 4x3 cut offs of aluminum yesterday for $2.59/lb and SS for $1.89/lb. Might be worth a trip to a large metal supplier to grab some smaller sections from their scraps to test cut on and find your favorite materials.

We have a place here, Metals Supermarket, that sells their cutoffs per pound as well. They have some sizes that are perfect for smaller tables like the crossfire. Cold rolled sheet is $1.30 per pound. Aluminum sheet is $4.75 per pound and Stainless $4.00 at current pricing. It is a franchise store so there are many similar places throughout the country.

Online Metals here in CT. They sell cutoffs for $1/lb for everything but aluminum which is $2/lb. But they don’t weigh it. If you ask, they will give you a box to fill yourself. They just want you to take the stuff off their hands. So usually I’ll get 20 or 30lbs in a “10lb” box. Really nice folks.

@ctgolfer has a local place that sells some serious stuff for 50cents/lb. There are deals to be found out there.

Unfortunately I live a loooooong way from there

I did buy some from a local scrap yard the other day, he had some decent sheet stock for .35 a pound, he sells new full sheets of 16 ga for $71.00. another place sells 22 ga for $41.00 a full sheet. The problem with picking up cheap stuff is it turns to junk too fast. I get it cheap and cant stop cutting, before long it is all scrap even to me. Guess I have to learn fusion a little more.

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right on. I will have to try that.