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!