Magnesium AZ31B

My wife (correctly) thinks I’m a little crazy to be so excited about
a pile of metal scraps. Crazy like a fox, I think to myself, after
scoring two buckets of remnants and a large chunk of 1" thick
Magnesium plate for the grand total of $56, or exactly a buck a
pound. It was last week when I was selling copper scrap, when that
little voice inside tells me “go have a look around the yard, they
might have something interesting today”, which they did. I had just
ordered online two short, thick pieces of round aluminum bar for
about $50, and in a cruel twist of fate (just the opposite, in fact)
I asked the boss if he had any scraps of thick aluminum bar. He took
me over to the back lot and showed me a pile of “titanium and
magnesium” that turned out to only be the latter, and I thought
“well, this is curious ; I guess I should take a few chunks home and
see what it’s like”. So, for about three bucks I got some pieces of
2.25" round stock, the same size and amount of aluminum I had just
ordered for $25. Cruel, a little bit, in a humorous way, but mostly
an excellent score.

I use thick pieces of metal (brass or aluminum so far) for the tips
and= hubs of my large geometric wire sculptures, soft metals for ease
of cutting, sanding, and drilling. Thick metal does not come cheaply
new, and after I took home the big score today I did a little price
comparison. One plate I got is about 1" thick by 12" by 18", and
weighs maybe 20 pounds, so 20 bucks is what I paid. One online price
was $211 for a 12" by 12". It’s so light too, I get even more volume
per pound than aluminum. The other thing is that it’s very easy to
work with. I understand that the chips and dust can be flamamble. I
got hold of some magnesium powder whan I was a kid making fireworks,
so I know what happens when it burns. I have experimented on this
alloy with a chop saw, angle grinder, bandsaw, and rubber drum
sander, and didn’t get a hint of any sparks or fire, but I suspect
that dust collecting in my drum sander will be dangerous when I come
along next and grind steel, which makes lots of sparks.

I did some brief reading about Aluminum Zinc Magnesium, AZ31B alloy,
and found one interesting application called ‘superforming’. This is
done (in one example) in forming car door parts, as in whole
internal door panels with their complicated, multi-level shapes.
Steel molds are made to the desired shape, the magnesium sheets are
heated to 500 C and then air pressure is used to force the sheet
against the die, conforming it exactly into it’s permanent shape. I
found reference to, but didn’t follow up on, use of Magnesium for
jewelry. I also found a forum for finishing that some folks here
might find useful at some point

Now, I do need to poke around for info on it’s toxicity…

Dar Shelton

Dar- From the sounds of this post it seems that you would have loved
the late lamented Boeing Surplus Store in Kent Wash. It’s gone the
way of Ebay now.

it was a wonderful place. You could buy a jet engine, a sonic
cleaner big enough to put a human body in, a yard full of all kinds
of exotic metals, work benches, fancy bench lamps,(for 15 bucks with
the bulbs in them), more stuff than you could imagine, and best of

The temple of tools. It was a big room in the middle with all of the
machinist tools. I still have a few steel bench blocks made from
giant metal lathe cutting tools. Best steel ever. Still beautiful.

Actually maybe it’s good that it’s gone now. Tim and I have a “Tool
Acquisition Disorder”.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Hi Dar,

I used to do a fair bit of grinding on magnesium casting masters. The
dust always made my nose run, so it was clearly doing something. Be
careful with it, and use a respirator.

You do know the dust is incredibly flammable, right? (Ever seen what
happens when one of the old VW Bugs with the magnesium engine blocks
overheats?. Be careful.)


Gosh I miss the old Boeing Surplus store. A number of years ago, I
and two of my friends were on our way back to Oregon from Canada. We
pulled off the freeway and visited it. To the chagrin of my friends I
bought a huge roll of copper-around 18 gauge. Very heavy but we all
managed to get it into my station wagon by lowering one of the back
seats to make a flat place for it to lie. What a buy. They dumped it
at a fraction of its worth asit was scratched.

Locally, we have, or used to have the Textonics surplus store which
was open to the public.

Again, I made some marvelous purchases. Oh, those were the days.