How to Buy Metalworking Supplies on eBay

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How to Buy Metalworking Supplies on eBay

Simply typing "metalworking supplies" into the search box on eBay brings tens of thousands of results. However, these are easily narrowed down to allow the buyer to choose the right supplies for the right job. Knowing the correct supplies for the task enables the eBay user to quickly and easily find the perfect materials or tools for the job at hand.

Metalworking supplies fall into the material to be used and the form it should take. The main materials for metalworking are steel, iron, copper, silver, zinc, and bronze, among others. Their form includes sheets, bars, tubing, or rods. Aside from raw materials, there is also a wide variety of fastenings available on eBay. These include nuts and bolts, tap and die sets for the user to make his or her own fittings, self-tapping screws, and pop rivets, among others.

Then there are the tools required for metalworking. These range from hand tools to powered models, with a huge range of fittings available for these. A little time spent browsing the vast number of products available on eBay will prove to be time well spent.

Metalworking Materials

Metalworking materials can be further split into the categories of ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous materials include iron or steel, while non-ferrous metals are those that do not have iron or any appreciable derivative of iron, in them. Most ferrous metals, with the exception of cobalt, are magnetic.

Ferrous Metals

Ferrous, or metals made with roughly more than 50 per cent iron content, are among the most popular of materials for hobbyists or amateurs to work with. Steel in particular is very much used, and this can be broken down into non-stainless steel or stainless steel.

Non-Stainless Steel

Non-stainless, or regular steel, is the metal most commonly found on eBay. It is available in bar, sheet, tube, or rod form. It is sold in either imperial or metric units. Steel bars, tubes, and rods are generally sold in smaller lengths suitable for posting, while steel plates are generally shipped via specialist couriers.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is sold in the same units and lengths as regular steel. It is worth noting that generally, tools used to work on regular steel may not be used on stainless steel. If files or drills are used on stainless steel that have previously been used on regular or 'mild' steel, this causes the stainless to oxidise. Separate tools should always be used, and steel stock should be kept separate in the workshop. Stainless steel is considered a less popular material to work with, as generally it is not as malleable and workable as regular steel.

Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals include bronze, silver, copper, and brass. These are generally much easier to work with as non-ferrous metals tend to be softer and more malleable than their steel counterparts. Non-ferrous metals are also popular with jewelry makers, and there are many items available for this activity.

Metalwork Fixings

The fixing of metalwork, either to other pieces of itself, or to entirely different material can be an issue, but with a little thought, and if need be, a little learning about the subject can prove very fruitful. Fixings range from nuts and bolts (both imperial and metric), self-tapping screws, and rivets to more exotic fittings, such as threaded fittings for bolt placement.

Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and bolts remain one of the most popular ways of fixing metals together, and eBay offers a vast selection from which to choose. Bolt heads are flat-bladed screwdriver fixings, or they are cross-point, hex head, or even Allen key fittings. Nuts are in imperial measurements or metric.

Nyloc nuts are particularly useful if there is a danger of vibration causing a nut and bolt to become loose or even falling apart. The alternative is liquid threadlocker, but this can prove messy, and if the nut and bolt ever do need to come apart, it can prove difficult to remove.

Self-Tapping Screws

These are invaluable for joining thin plates together, such as making a metal box, for example. Self-tapping screws are available in a wide variety of finishes and sizes, and are slotted or cross-point headed. The heads of self-tapping screws may also be countersunk to enable a flush fixing of the materials.

As a note of caution, the metalworker should not use stainless steel screws with a ferrous plate material or vice-versa, otherwise corrosion may occur. Likewise, when fixing stainless steel screws, the metalworker should have tools that are used for stainless steel only, and never mix up the two sets of tools.

Pop Rivets

Pop rivets have proved to be a popular and quick way of joining two sheet materials together, and with care, these look as good as any professionally put together piece of kit. Pop rivet tools are essential for using pop rivets, and while a decent pop riveting tool may seem expensive at first, the buyer should look on it as an investment for future jobs where it may prove invaluable.

Metalwork Cutting Tools

Cutting the material is an integral part of metalworking, and eBay has an extensive selection of tools specifically for this job. Cutting tools range from simple hacksaws and files, right up to air-powered cutters for the larger job, or to be used in an industrial setting.

Hacksaw Blades

Hacksaw blades are generally available in two sizes, that of full sized and junior sized. Because new hacksaw blades are so inexpensive, many engineers use a fresh set of blades for each job they start. This eliminates any possible cross-contamination issues, but also ensures that at the start of a job, the cutting equipment is at least in a 'new' condition.

Hand Files

When working with metal, one tool that should always be available is a hand file. Hand files are indispensable for smoothing any rough edges or surfaces when finishing a job. As with other tools, hand files used for stainless steel should not be used for ferrous steel, to avoid cross contamination and possible oxidation issues. The user should also be aware of mixing files between filing steels and soft aluminium. Under extreme conditions, it is theoretically possible for the user to inadvertently make thermite. While there are many less expensive, throw-away files available on eBay, if the files are for regular use, the buyer should consider more expensive models, which tend to stay sharper for longer.

Air Cutter Tools

Air cutter tools are generally used in high-volume work settings where there is a compressor on site with adequate lines so different tools can all be connected simultaneously. Air cutter tools include sheet metal cutters, but also air-driven tools, such as angle grinders and hammer chisels for removing spot welds. Plasma cutters are also classed as air tools, but these work on an entirely different principle; that of cutting through the metal using a plasma arc in a similar manner to arc welding.

Drilling Metalwork

Virtually every job in metalworking involves the drilling of holes, usually for attaching other pieces of metal, or to attach other essential parts to the job. eBay offers a full range of metal cutting drill bits, from low-speed bits, suitable for pillar drills, to high-speed bits suitable for powered hand drills.

Drill Sizes for Tapping Threads

If the user needs to drill a hole through metal to cut a thread to allow a screw or bolt to fix to it, there are several sizes of drill bits suitable for cutting the thread into. While these sizes may appear odd at first glance, these are standard sizes supplied by all drill bit vendors.

Metric Thread Size

Cut-Out Hole Diameter (in millimetres)

M2

1.60

M2.5

2.05

M3

2.50

M3.5

2.90

M4

3.30

M5

4.20

M6

5.00

M8

7.00

M10

8.50

Many companies that supply full tap and die sets also sell individual ones as replacements for worn or broken taps from sets. Taps are normally supplied as sets of three for a given size of hole to be tapped. These are meant to be used in strict order, starting with the most gentle, right up to the finishing tap. Whilst three taps are not normally necessary for putting threads into soft metals, such as aluminium, they are invaluable when cutting harder metals such as steel or iron. When cutting threads, the user is advised to use plenty of lubricating oil, and above all, not be in a rush to get the job done. If the tool jams, or becomes very stiff to turn, the user is advised to back up the cutter, clean off any cutting debris, and try again.

How to Buy Metalworking Supplies on eBay

Buying metalworking supplies on eBay should be quick and easy. When you know exactly what it is you want, simply use eBay's search facility, then you can narrow down your search by the various categories listed; each has its own heading. It is important to take your time, and if you are unsure on any feature of a product you are searching for, the seller is usually more than happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

Before buying, it is also worth checking out the vendor's ratings and exactly what has been said about the particular seller. If you are trying to choose between two seemingly identical vendors with identical prices, it is often worth your while to see what their past customers have said about them.

It might also be worth checking the seller's delivery options; whether they use standard mail or use a carrier for the items. Also check just what standard mail or carrier costs in addition to your purchase. If the delivery price seems excessive, it may be worth your while to choose a supplier who is within driving distance, so you can pick up the goods in person. Alternatively, many suppliers of small parts, such as nuts and bolts or washers often advertise free postage. These are worth considering, particularly if you do not need the supplies in a hurry.

Conclusion

Metalworking supplies cover a huge range of availabilty from eBay, so the buyer should first know at least roughly what is needed, then use the search facility and various category subheadings to narrow down the search from there. When buying fixings, such as nuts and bolts or washers, the buyer should be aware as to whether these fittings are metric or imperial, and choose accordingly. Also to note is that many suppliers offer quite considerable discounts if the purchaser is prepared to buy in bulk. If the buyer has the storage space required, and has to otherwise order the same part repeatedly, it is worth considering buying in bulk to get a better price.

While purchasing metalworking supplies may at first seem daunting, with the sheer number of results that come up in a search enquiry, careful use of the various subcategories ensures the buyer can quickly and accurately find the perfect part for the job. The old engineers' saying, "Measure twice, cut once" also applies to purchasing. The potential buyer should also check that he or she is getting exactly what is needed, and if in any doubt, should be prepared to ask the seller questions.

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