Metal working is the process of forming, cutting, and joining metals in various capacities. Metal working is an ancient discipline with modern applications ranging from shipbuilding to jewelry-making. Much like work with any other material, metal working requires a set of skills and tools specific to its medium. Metal working tools can be complex and industrial, or simple, hand-held, and user-friendly, depending on the needs of the worker. They can be very expensive, but they can also be obtained at moderate cost and sometimes as discount tools. It all depends on the tool in question and the desires of the worker.
Before metal can be cut or joined, if often must be measured or marked. This is a simple and inexpensive process. Measuring can be done with a tape measure, or more precisely with a caliper, which can measure digitally and to within a thousandth of an inch. Marking can be accomplished with a variety of tools, most commonly with carbide-tipped scribers, or for drilling, with a punch. A good air punch can be purchased as a discount metal working tool, and used to create a dimple in metal which will keep the drill in place and prevent it from spinning away when the metal is cut.
Metal cutting processes are wide-ranging, and many different metal working tools are used to accomplish them. Some of the most common are drilling, milling, turning, grinding, and filing. Drilling is a simple, chip-producing process that creates a hole in the metal. Coolant is used to decrease friction and to protect the tool and the surface of the metal being worked. Milling is a more complex process, using a machine to remove extraneous material and achieve the desired final shape. Unlike sedentary drilling, in the milling process the workpiece itself is also moved, against the rotating cutter. Milling machines can be operated manually, or digitally through the use of computer numerical control.
Turning is accomplished with a lathe or a mini-lathe. The turning process spins the metal being worked, resulting in objects with rotational symmetry, such as baseball bats or candlestick holders. Metal working tools called chucks secure the metal into the lathe. The workpiece is rotated and cutting tools are applied. Lathes and mini-lathes can be purchased by individual consumers.
Joining metal, often accomplished through the application of heat energy, is a different process, requring different tools. Many metal working tools can be used in this process, ranging from oxy-fuel flames and propane torches to lasers. These tools need not be very expensive, and can be purchased as discount tools. While welding joins materials through heat-produced coalescence, other processes such as brazing and soldering join tools through forming joints in the metal through filler materials and capillaries created in the metal, requiring smaller and finer metal working tools.