Setting Up Your Shop

Creating beautiful metal art begins with setting up your shop. There are few resources for metal workers looking to start making gorgeous art in their own home. I want to help you feel empowered with everything you need to get started. Follow the instructions below to get everything you need for your metal working shop.

Safety First

Remember, some of these materials can hurt you. Be very careful and wear the correct safety equipment for the specific tasks. Safety equipment is the first thing you should get. You should always be wearing, at the very least, safety glasses. When you are welding, you will need welding gloves, welding helmets, goggles, and have all of your skin covered. Make sure your safety goggles seal to your face. They keep flying objects and dangerous gasses from coming in contact with your eyes. Most welding accidents are eye-related. They can be avoided by wearing your goggles and mask!

Tools of the Trade

  • Marking Tools: Pencils don’t make thin enough lines to help you make the precise cuts mane metal artists go for. Instead, you should use a scribe or razor blade. The tip needs to be very sharp. You may need to break off a new point in your razor blades. Scribes need to be replaced when the tip becomes dull. Always remember to close your razor knife when you finish using it. 
  • Rulers: Rulers will help you complete some measurements and marks. I like to keep them around just in case. I usually do most of my measurements with dial calipers, because they give a more accurate measurement. That helps me keep my work precise.
  • Dial Calipers: Dial Calipers come in common sizes between 4 and 12 inches. They give you the most accurate measurement between points on your work. I use my 6 inch caliper most often. Be careful to reset cheaper calipers to 0 often. Close the caliper and turn the dial until it reaches zero. Then, retake your measurement. If you don’t reset the caliper after every few measurements you can throw off your whole project.
  • Machinist’s Square: These hardened steel squares are more accurate than traditional woodworking squares. Because they are so precise, they can also break easily. If you drop your square, you should check to make sure you don’t need to replace it.
  • Center Punch: You need to have a punch with a perfectly ground tip. The end need to be very round so you get the right mark. One with an imperfect tip will cause the punch to lean in where there is more metal on the tip.
  • Optical Center Punch: This tool is useful for finding the exact spot where two scribed lines intersect. You use the magnifier on a metallic base. Use the crosshairs of the magnifier to align the base with your mark. Then, just hit the punch to mark your project.
  • Drill and Drill Press: A handheld drill can get the job done, but in many cases a drill press will be the better option. It can be difficult to drill on the center line perfectly with a handheld drill. You can find a new one for under $100! These tools will help you drill near perfect holes.
  • Drill Press Vice: Sometimes you will need to use the vice to keep project pieces sturdy while you drill them. There are many vices to choose from. Cheaper vices will need to be completely repositioned between every different use. Some vice grips are more adjustable, or even have an auto-centering feature. Choose the vice that best suits the jobs you will use it for most commonly.
  • Drill Bits: A drill won’t work at all without the proper drill bits! There are tons of bit options to choose from. I like to use split point drill bits. They have a sharper point that cuts more quickly and accurately. However, standard drill bits can make deeper holes. You can also sharpen them for a longer lifespan.
  • Thread Cutting Taps: Sometimes you will want to turn a hole you drilled into a joint where you will insert a screw. Thread cutting taps will do that for you! Gun taps are usually the easiest to work with, and hardest to break.
  • Saws: You will need a saw to cut all of your stock. Miter saws with bi-metal blades are a great option for most metal working projects. 
  • Grinders: Keep a good stock of 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. No matter what finish you are going for you will need to use a sander to get there.
  • Vacuum Cleaner: A good wet/dry shop vac to keep your workspace clean. A clean workspace is a safe one!

Top Art Museums and Why You Should Visit

There are so many reasons you should visit America’s top art museums. When most people think about fine art, they instantly think about travelling to Europe. You don’t have to go far to see great art. No matter where you travel in the United States, you are sure to find some amazing, world class art collections to fill your life with beauty and inspiration. Be sure to check one of these amazing places out on your next trip!

  1. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

This is the biggest collection of art in the country, by far. The enormous and majestic building is sure to have an exhibit you will love. It faces Central Park on Fifth Avenue. After you see the amazing works, take a walk through New York’s gorgeous Central Park to reflect. The first floor has ten wings chock full of masterpieces. This floor is home to the American Wing, Modern and Contemporary Art, Egyptian Art, Medieval Art Greek and Roman Art, Oceana and the Americas, and Arts of Africa.

The second floor is home to musical instruments, drawings and prints, photography and other art from Asia. This is also where you will find their collection of sculptures and European Paintings. They also just finished renovating their Islamic Wing, which I have yet to see. Here you will see decorative objects, tapestries, and an entire room taken straight from 18th century Damascus. There are few places with such a wide range of art.

  1. New Museum of Modern Art in New York City

This is the place to go if you are looking for the more modern, and sometimes strange art. I visited when they had an Andy Warhol photography exhibit and it was a beautiful look behind the scenes into his life, work, and relationships. They host a wide range of interactive exhibits as well. Some are so large and you can climb through and even touch the art. While you can’t touch everything, it is cool to be in a place that allows you to interact with the sculptures and structures.

It is certainly an experience like few others. I often suggest exhibits from this museum to people looking to get their teens interested in art. They often have some of the most relatable works for young, modern people, which is a good way to start thinking about how classical art shows lives of the past.

  1. Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is the second largest collection of art in the United States. They are most well-known for their extensive collection of impressionist, American, and post-impressionist art and you can see more Claude Monet than nearly anywhere else. I love the collection of 20th century furniture. It is interesting to see the shift from the intricate designs of old, to the streamlined, mass manufactured furniture of today.    

  1. Philadelphia Museum of Art

This massive art museum has over 225,000 pieces from all over the world. They are most known for their Chinese porcelains, Turkish and Persian rugs, and one of the largest Rodin (sculpture) exhibits in the world. They have some of the most important and influential modern, impressionist and post-impressionist art pieces of any museum. You are sure to get a beautiful and inspiring view of the world here.

  1. National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

This is another one of the largest art collections in the United States. They even have the only da Vinci piece on display in the Americas. They also have a huge renaissance collection, Spanish art, impressionists, and Dutch masters. The East Wing is dedicated to their vast collection of modern art. They have a total of over 115,000 pieces on display. Whether you are looking for painting, photographs, decorative objects, sculptures, or drawings, you will have a ton to look at.  

  1. The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California

This museum is a piece of modern art in and of itself. Richard Meier designed the new complex. It was built from gleaming white travertine marble. It has five pavilions all connected to the courtyard. Each building is filled with art from a specific time period. It is so interesting to see how different areas of the world created art during the same years.

I hope visiting these museums will enhance your life like it has mine. Art is something that has been around forever, and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Everyone can benefit from looking at the world through someone else’s eyes. You will learn more about yourself, and the people around you. Use this link to find a great museum near you: