A guide to aluminium tubing

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Aluminium is world’s most plentiful metal, making up 8% of the earth’s crust. It’s soft, won’t rust, non-toxic and easy to recycle.

It’s also light and extremely versatile. Which explains why, after steel, it’s the most widely used metal today. 

Aluminium is a fantastic conductor of heat and electricity. For that reason it’s commonly used in power lines. Otherwise, you’ll find aluminium tubes used in everything from shop fronts to roofing to furniture.

They’re used in all kinds of industries, from construction and agriculture to car manufacturing.
Aluminium tubes are used all over the house – they’re used to build kitchen islands and cabinets, as well as in light fittings and TV stands.  

In the bathroom, you’ll see aluminium tubes everywhere – they make everything from radiators to loo-roll holders. They also make great shower-curtain or towel rods. And because aluminium looks good, too, many architects even make a design feature of it, using it for window frames and doorways.

 

Growing your own? In which case, you can use aluminium tubing to build vegetable cages. These are great for protecting your strawberries and lettuces from the unwanted attentions of birds and slugs. In this case you’ll simply need the tubes, along with some extensions, and joiners or build-a-ball connecters to connect the tubes. Lastly, you’ll need some anchors to keep it steady. Sling a net over the cages, and your plants will be safe.
 
You can also use bamboo canes for this, but aluminium tubing is stronger and more durable.
 
Aluminium tubes are often used to make handrails on front paths or driveways. They’re easy to hold onto, which makes them a godsend for anyone with limited mobility. They’re particularly helpful if you’ve got steep stairs leading up to the house. You can also use aluminium tubes to make your own bistro-style garden chairs and tables.

 

Round aluminium pipes are like tubes, only tougher and more rigid.
They’re also easier to bend than tubes, as they’re less likely to collapse.
Being light and strong, they make perfect bicycle frames. You can also use them to make car racks and railings, among other things.

 

Aluminium tubes come in virtually all shapes and sizes. Round tubes are by far the most popular, but you’ll also see square and hexagonal tubes. These work well for shower-curtain rods and towel bars. Rectangular tubes, meanwhile, are used for door and window frames, as well as furniture and architectural trim.
 
Depending on how you’re using your tubing, you might not need pure aluminium. You can also buy aluminium alloys, which are mixed with other materials like copper and manganese.

This changes the properties of the tube, making it stronger, or easier to weld. Other aluminium alloys have a much smoother finish, which is useful if they’re going to be on show. 

Obviously, this depends on what you’re using it for. Either way, you’ll need to do some careful measuring. This is also where those old maths lessons will come in handy, as you might need to convert decimals to fractions.

Aluminium tubing is generally measured in outside diameter and metal thickness.
 
One of aluminium’s other benefits is that it’s relatively inexpensive. So if you’re not sure how much you need, you can always buy a bit extra and then resell the excess.
 
Many manufacturers offer a free cutting service, so you can get the exact size you’re after.

 

One of the reasons aluminium tubing is so popular is that it’s easy to cut and drill. And if you’ve got the right gear, welding it is straightforward. So you might find you need extra gear, like a proper hacksaw or jigsaw. You’ll also need a tape measure to make sure you end up with the right length.
 
If your aluminium is going to be on display, you can buy a metal-polishing kit to make sure you end up with the best possible finish. These are affordable and easy to use.
 
You can also buy tube inserts. These offer protection from the sharp tube edges, and give you a more professional finish. They come in plastic, which is fine if no one’s going to see them. But if they’re on display – on a shower rail, for instance – then go for chrome.
 
If you’re using your tubes to make a handrail, you’ll also need tube clamps to connect them. These are great for the amateur, requiring no DIY skills at all. There’s no welding or threading involved – you’ll just need an Allen key to tighten the set screws.
 
Meanwhile, if you’re using your tubes to make a bike or scooter frame, you’ll need a pair of handle grips. These are made to fit the exact size of the tube, making for a snug and comfortable fit.
 
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