The Most Important Metalworking Tip | RMT

A Discussion Starter

An admin in the Metal Fabrication Tips social media group decide to post a question just to get an active discussion going. He asked, “What is the most important rule, trick, or technique you learned in metalworking?”

Along with a few wise cracks, several dozen group members shared many useful gems of wisdom, such as:

“Always keep learning.”

“The best lessons come from making mistakes.”

“Respect what the machine can do.”

“Ingenuity.”

“Think outside the box.”

“Belief, Courage, and Inquisitiveness.”

“Roll forming is fun!”

Pythagoras and his theorem.” (The formula for finding the length of the hypotenuse, or long side of a right triangle: A² + B² = C².)

Here are some of the other submissions, arranged by topic:

About Metal

“That metal is really hard.”

“Stainless sucks.”

“Shrinking and stretching sheet metal.”

“I was amazed when I learned about pounding sheet metal into any shape.”

“Work the metal, don’t let the metal work you.”

About Workmanship

“Just do quality work.”

“When in doubt, make it stout.”

“Take pride in all you do!!!”

“Make quality your commitment.”

“Whatever you do, do with finesse.”

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

“Follow the sheetie [sheet metal worker] motto: Do it once. Do it right.”

“Get your edges right first.”

“You need to understand how to say, ‘Eh, good enough.’” 

“Never be afraid to start again.”

“Never be afraid to rip it up and start all over again.”

“It’s never a f___-up till it goes out the door!”

“Build it in your head first. Take your time on prefab. Every weld should be put down as if someone’s life is depending on it.”

About Techniques

“Always debur the edges.”

“Check your kerf side.”

“Flame straightening.”

“Metal shrinkage. Multiple bends, holding tolerance within .005.”

“Use cheap, bendable cardboard to make complex templates.”

“Use a Block Scribe.”

“Turn tanks off when done.”

“Always check the hoses with soapy water when welding with oxygen acetylene.”

“Don’t weld or grind on 55-gallon barrels. Even if they had glue inside, they could explode.”

“Cutter speed times four over the diameter.”

“Lock the grain! Happy spot! Convince it to go where you want. Tell it what to do.”

About Patience

“Don’t rush!”

“Perseverance.”

“Measure twice, cut once.” (Several shared that.)

“Measure, measure, measure, cut.”

“Take your time. Measure twice, cut once. Prep your edges, build everything as if it’s going into your own personal home.”

“Another version of take your time: Find your patience!”

About Coworkers

“Watch and learn from old tradesmen.”

“Teach someone else how to do it and stand back and watch!”

“Play stupid.”

“Never let people borrow your gear.”

“If you’re tired and want to sit down, take a boot off. So, if the boss walks around the corner you can just put it back on like there was a rock in it.”

About Others

“Not to tell my competition.”

“Have great neighbors.”

“Don’t tell your wife how much you’ve spent!!!”

About Money

“Be certain your $ clears the bank.”

“Take the job that no one wants to do and charge well for it. Do it well and everyone will be willing to pay your price.”

About Safety

“Safety first!”

“If it can happen, it will happen!”

“Watch your fingers.”

“Don’t put your finger where you wouldn’t put your ____!”

“Don’t grab the hot end.”

“Don’t wear gloves with moving machinery.”

“Eye and ear protection. Also, if a tool spins, don’t wear gloves.”

“Always wear safety goggles. Bet your life you’ll always get something in your _____ eye.”

“Be careful not to let your blouse catch on fire.”

“Cutting and grinding—clamp every job down firmly. A face mask is better than goggles and wear a welder’s apron. (PS, No thongs.)”

“This is the first thing I tell everybody doing ductwork: If it’s silver and falling you let it hit the ground!!!”

“Never try to catch falling material. It’s probably too heavy/hot/sharp/long/running/on fire to catch without hurting yourself. Seen way too many people lose body parts doing dumb ____.”

“Treat ‘Everything’ as if it were HOT, HEAVY, and SHARP (my wife included) and know where you are going to put it before you pick it up. These go together to be the first rule I teach anyone in the business.”

Make Your Own List

While there is no single tip in metalworking that is important to the exclusion of everything else, certain areas like safety do tend to rank higher for most people. Every metalworker should come up with their own list of tips that they follow and share, covering such areas as safety practices, protective clothing, handling metal and other materials, staying organized, equipment maintenance, and techniques to improve productivity.

A search of the Internet will unearth plenty of suggestions that metalworkers can personally adopt, and it is filled with video tutorials on just about any aspect of machining, welding, or metal fabrication for those who want to see how things are done.

No matter how much information you acquire, there will always be many more things that can benefit you in your craft. As the participant in the social media group commented, “Always keep learning.”



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