Make: Asks is a new weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column will spark interesting conversation and that we’ll get to know more about each other.
This week’s question: What is your favorite building material, and why?
Post your responses in the comments section.
20 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Your Favorite Building Material”
PVC. Many sizes and connector types. It is strong, relatively UV resistant. Depending on the strength, you can use anything from 1/2 to 2 inch. All hardware stores have supplies. Plus the parts exist to connect to iron or copper pipe. You can cover with many materials creating a shelter or divider.
Cardboard. Easy and cheap to find in huge quantities, easy to shape with basic hand tools, paintable (sort of), and remarkably durable (especially if you laminate multiple layers). And when you’re done with it, you can recycle it all. About the only thing it doesn’t do well is water (well, and load-bearing), and even then some plastic sheeting and some duct tape can work wonders.
Can you tell I mostly work with kids?
Steel. Its tough to shape, but predictable, and a whole lot easier to weld than aluminum. If you tend to get it “post consumer recycled” (aka scrap) its even pretty cheap. Cast iron can give you a great finish, but the chips are grubby, and welding it takes real care.
The only real problem is that scrapyards are getting thin on the ground around here, I have to go a good ways out in the boonies to find one. The land just got too valuable, at a time when steel prices were down, so the owners just sold the land, rather than the business when it came time to retire.
I do work with a lot of aluminum, as a local supplier sells their drops cheaply. (its even indoors, as anyone that has visited a normal scrapyard in January can appreciate)
Wood is just too variable for my taste. Copper is too “gummy” as anyone who has tried to tap it will attest. Brass is nice to turn, but you have to keep a specially ground set of drills.(and all of them are pricey)
My personal favorite is wood. I started using it to make things at the age of 7 and have been going at it ever since. It does take some time to get the hang of how it moves, but once you get past that point it can do amazing and beautiful things.
Terrific electrical conductivity.
Terrific heat conductivity and transfer. (Low specific heat).
Malleable to a thin foil.
Anti-microbial properties, great for sinks and baths.
Essential to our health, as a trace element.
Stunningly beautiful. In pure form, can attain just about any color in the visible spectrum – black, gold, red, green, blue, violet, brown, …
Concrete – I love the solidity of the stuff and the endless ways you find to use it.
It can be rough, smooth, polished, etched, reinforced, stained, it can be insulating, conductive… I love the stuff
Plywood. I once built a 16′ foot sailboat mostly out of the stuff.
I’ve done some work in just about every medium – steel, copper, brass, bronze, nickle, silver, gold, aluminum, wood, plastics, composite, ceramics and others. What I like best depends on the process I’m using. When I’m doing fabrication I like natural solid wood the best because I like to work with edged tools like chisels, planes, and scrapers. When I’m forging I like copper because it’s so malleable and can be forged cold. For casting I like polymers or plaster because they can be done cold. For making repairs or making something weird I like composites like fiber glass or carbon fiber, they’re very expressive and can be made into some very unlikely shapes, although the mess and the smell are a down side.
I love the soft nonferrous metals (mostly aluminum and brass). They’re soft enough to be almost as easy to work as wood, but completely predictable (negligible grain and very uniform), and at the same time, really very strong and beautiful in the finished product.
Anton, Plastic Wood is my favorite. It looks like wood with the random grain pattern. It beats the New England winter better than anything. No rot, peeling, insect damage, its great for cellar window sashes, outdoor decking & stairs. You give yourself more than a full year of life not repairing non durable wood in using plastic wood substitute. The more who use it the greater demand will lower the price. It cuts great and no splinters or knots while cutting less than 10% of the cleanup with wood.
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