Winter Uses for Steel

With colder weather beginning to sweep across the country, winter sports and activities are starting to make their appearance. Activities like sledding and ice skating are some of the common winter past times.

But did you know, many of your favorite cold weather activities include steel? Let’s take a look at some of the winter uses for steel.

Hockey and ice skating

While hockey and ice skating are different sports, both take place on an ice rink. They also both take place on skates.

The design of the ice skates depends on their purpose. Figure skates, hockey skates, and speed skates are some of the more common types of ice skates in the U.S. One thing these skates all have in common is their steel blade. The steel used for the specific skate can range from aluminum, to stainless steel, and even chrome-plated carbon steel.

You can also expect to find steel used in other hockey equipment including: goalie masks, hockey sticks, and goals.


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Sledding is also a common place to find steel. Your traditional sled typically has steel skis that navigate the snow. But traditional sleds aren’t the only sled to contain steel.

Luge sleds use steel on the sled runners, more commonly (and appropriately) called steels. This is the only part of the sled that contacts the ice and helps to control the speed and accuracy of the sled.

Skeleton sleds also have metal construction. In 2010, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) restricted the materials in which a skeleton sled could be made. The sled frames are now strictly made using a steel design.

Snow Removal

Although it may not be a favorite part of winter, another place you can find steel during the snowy months is on your snow shovel. While many snow shovels are made using plastic and wood, some are constructed with aluminum. Steel snow shovels are more durable and are able to get closer to the surface to pick up snow and ice more efficiently.

If you have a longer driveway it is likely you are using a snow blower instead of a shovel to remove snow build-up. Snow blowers are also constructed using steel.

Our Processes: Stainless Steel Polishing

It is time to delve into another one of our processes, stainless steel polishing. We offer in-house stainless steel polishing out of our New Jersey facility. The process of polishing enhances the overall surface finish of stainless steel as well as increases the sanitary benefits of the material.

So, what does the process entail? Let’s find out.

Stainless Steel Polishing

O'Neal Flat Rolled Metals polishingThe process of polishing consists of smoothing the metal’s surface using abrasives. At OFR Metals, our polishing lines use abrasives that are attached to a flexible backing to provide a high-quality surface finish.

Our coil-to-coil polishing technology allows for various size coils to be processed. We offer different polished finishes, including No. 3, No. 4, No. 4 Fine, and No. 6 finishes. Custom-matched finishes are also available upon request.

The Metalwest New Jersey facility can process 18-60” wide and 0.016-0.120 thick coils on their two coil-to-coil polishers. The lines also provide two-sided PVC to protect the high-quality surface finish.

Polished Coil Uses

stainless steel polishing adds sanitary benefits to foodservice equipmentPolished stainless steel provides sanitary benefits which make it ideal for the food service and pharmaceutical industries.

You can expect to see polished stainless steel in kitchen equipment, including prep tables, warewashing equipment, sinks, refrigerators, ventilation systems, etc. It is also commonly used for pharmaceutical equipment such as lab carts and tables, as well as processing equipment and storage tanks.

For more uses on stainless steel check out our blog post “Stainless Steel: What it is Used For.” To learn more about our polishing processing and stocking capabilities contact your local sales representative.

Stainless Steel 304 and 316: What’s the difference?

Stainless steel 304 and 316 are the most widely used types of stainless steel. It can be difficult to visually, and sometimes characteristically, tell the difference between the two types of steel. So, what is the difference?

The biggest difference in the types of steel is the presence of molybdenum in stainless 316. Molybdenum is a metallic element that resembles chromium and tungsten in most characteristics. It is especially used for the strengthening and hardening of steel. The most common make up of stainless 316 is 16% chromium, 10% nickel, and 2% molybdenum – whereas stainless 304 is typically 18% chromium and 8% nickel. The molybdenum is added to stainless 316 to help resist corrosion to chlorides.

Stainless 304 has excellent resistance to corrosion and rust, but may be susceptible to corrosion from chloride solutions. Stainless 316, however, is ideal for applications that will be exposed to marine, pharmaceutical, and chemical elements.

The infographic below explores more of the differences, and similarities, between the two types of stainless steel.

For more information on which type of stainless steel you should choose for your next project or application contact your local sales representative. You can also find more information on how stainless steel is made here.

Stainless Steel 304 and 316: What’s the Difference?

Stainless Infographic


Chill Your Drinks with Stainless

Halloween is the unofficial mark to the holidays being “just around the corner.” The gathering together for parties, gifts, drinks, and food turns into a weekly affair during the holiday season.

However, with the parties comes constantly-need-to-be-filled ice buckets, watered-down drinks, and the possibility of a splattered beverage on a new white blouse.

So what do party mishaps have to do with steel, you may ask. Well, dear Buzz Readers, with this fun use for steel these party mishaps will be a thing of the past.

stainless steel ice cubes from BrookstoneStainless steel is known for its sanitary benefits which makes it an ideal candidate for an ice cube replacement. These little steel cubes are a modern day solution to your “on the rocks” drinks.

Stainless steel ice cubes prevent your aged scotch, fine whiskey, or sweet Irish cream from becoming diluted by melting ice. They also provide a longer lasting chill because each cube is filled with a non-toxic gel that holds the coolness in.

The prolonged chill prevents a host(ess) from having to refill ice buckets and guests from having to constantly plop more ice cubes in their drinks. This essentially helps to prevent the disaster of a beverage splattering onto a new shirt, tie, dress, or blouse because of a rouge ice cube.

The cubes are also reusable. After a wash, the cubes can be placed back into the freezer until ready for use.

So tell me, what will you be serving at your next party?

Photo courtesy of Brookstone.

Our Processes: Precision Blanking

Part three of our processes series delves into the precision blanking process.

Precision blanking can be looked at as a step beyond the tradition cut-to-length and slitting processes. It is a method for sheet metal, including slit coil, to be cut to a smaller size and prepared for further fabrication by our customers.

OK, so what does that mean?

Well, let’s take a look.

Precision Blanking Process

precision blanking lineThe precision blanking process allows slit or smaller coils to be leveled and cut-to-length in narrower widths and closer tolerances than compared to shearing or the standard cut-to-length line. It basically makes the material easier and more efficient for our customers to use.

A blanking line functions similarly to a cut-to-length/leveling line. The slit, or narrow, coil is sent through a leveler to straighten the bend in the coil that occurs from it being coiled. It is then sent through a set of shears to cut the material. Blanking lines have side trim capabilities and can maintain specific cut-to-length accuracies.

The blanking technology used at Metalwest produces tight tolerances regardless of material length and speed. We can also process various thicknesses and grades as well as surface-critical material. For a complete list of our blanking services check out our capabilities page.

Precision Blanks

precision blanking line 2After a coil is sent through a blanking process it is now called a blank. Precision blanks are flat metal pieces that are ready to be fabricated. Further fabrication processes may include stamping, roll forming, punching, bending, etc.

We have the capability to produce custom blanks in a variety of aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel material. If the material you need is surface-critical, we can also provide protective packaging to ensure you receive a high-quality material. Just tell your local sales representative you want it!

Look for the next part of our processes series, where we will focus on polishing, in the coming months.

10 Service Center and Manufacturing Safety Tips

The safety of employees is often the top priority for many service centers, and most companies doing business today. Many organizations have in place procedures and programs to ensure every employee goes home every day.

While there are many ways to ensure employee safety in manufacturing, here are 10 service center and manufacturing safety tips.

Policies, Procedures, and Preparedness

Safety policies can cover broad topics from employee responsibility to hazard assessment and corrective action. They are used as reference guidelines for employees upon hire. Policies help to show employees what is valued and expected of them and the organization.

Safety procedures cover specific activities. Some may be specific to a certain job and/or task, while others cover how to implement a policy. Safety procedures can cover, but are not limited to:

  • Basic safety rules for the company
  • Hazard reporting and assessment
  • Steps to safely complete a task
  • Protective gear/equipment
  • Chemical use
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Equipment use/safe operation

Having policies and procedures help to ensure a company, and its employees, are prepared in the event any emergency or incident were to occur. They also help to prepare employees to prevent accidents from happening.

Employee Training

The next step along the line to service center safety is employee training. After you have written policies and procedures in place, you need to train employees on how to implement them.

At Metalwest, we use an advanced safety awareness training called SafeStart as part of the companywide safety program. SafeStart helps teach employees that many incidents occur because of one’s own actions. The simple techniques used in the course help employees minimize risk of an accident.

Hands-on training is essential to ensure safe equipment use and operation. While an office employee may not need much hands-on training, an employee hired to work a forklift, overhead crane, or cut-to-length line needs a more kinesthetic learning style approach.

Take Safety Seriously

It might seem like a “duh” statement to take safety seriously, but it is true. Safety is important to ensure employees go home to their families every day.

As an organization and an employee it is important to develop good work habits so every task done is done safely. At Metalwest, safety is something our company values. It is at the core of everything we do.

In our safety handbook it says:

 Why take safety seriously?
Do it for your family. They expect you to come home in the same condition you left in.
Do it for yourself. Give yourself the satisfaction of a job well done.
Do it for your coworkers. If you’re injured and can’t be at work, an important part of the team is missing.

One’s Own Actions

While there are other uncontrollable factors that can result in an emergency or accident, employee error causes an even greater number of incidents.

Many accidents are caused when an employee becomes complacent with their job and assigned tasks. A person’s habitual and unintentional behavior, along with four key mental states (below), are almost always directly involved in workplace injuries.

  • Rushing – when you exceed the pace at which you normally perform a task.
  • Frustration – caused by personal influences, equipment problems, inadequate tools, excessive pressure, etc.
  • Fatigue – too tired to do the job safely, either physically or mentally, may cause slower reaction times or may make it difficult to concentrate.
  • Complacency – when you are familiar enough with the hazards and become less concerned about them you may ignore the consequences they present.

It is important to learn how to recognize each state and determine what can be done to minimize their impact.

Protective Gear

Proper safety gear is worn to protect you from physical hazards associated with a job or task. And although sticking to procedures and best practices is the best way to avoid hazards, proper gear can minimize the effect of accidental exposure.

Protective gear for service centers may include, but are not limited to:

  • Steel toed boots
  • Appropriate clothing
    • Supplied uniform
    • Proper fitting clothing that will not get caught
    • Flame-resistant clothing for jobs with exposure to open flames or welding
  • Cut-resistant gloves
  • Protective arm guards
  • Hearing protection
  • Safety eyewear
  • Long hair must be pulled back


Maintaining a clean and organized work area help keep the facility free from hazards. It is the responsibility of each employee to ensure the work area is tidy.

Tasks that can assist employees in maintaining a clean work environment can be anything from emptying garbage cans on a regular basis to keeping aisles, walkways, paths, stairs, etc., clear of obstructions. It can also include keeping the floors dry, rags in appropriate receptacles, tools and equipment stored properly, and forklifts and trucks free of trash.

Good housekeeping is an important factor in helping to prevent accidents. It also shows that employees take pride in where they work.

Machine & Material Safety

Machine safety can vary depending on service center (or fabrication) capabilities.

Machine guards are designed to protect the body from pinch points, flying debris, and cutting operations. All types of tools and equipment require proper guarding. Power tools, belts, shafts, cranks, and gears must have their guards properly attached.

To help ensure employee safety from machine accidents, operators should inspect equipment and tools before beginning a new shift or job.

While machine accidents can happen they are not the only aspect of processing that can be a hazard. Material processing has its own dangers.

Metal coils can weight up to 45,000 lbs., and individual skids of sheet or plate can weigh up to 15,000 lbs. Machines are designed to safely handle these heavy loads, but employees need to be mindful of the material as it is being processed. While processing any size load, keeping it under control and persons out of the line-of-fire should be a top priority.

Steel also has very sharp edges. Exposed edges can easily cut an employee who is not wearing the appropriate protective gear or someone who has become complacent.

Material Transportation

Transporting material can be done by forklifts, cranes, and trucks. It also includes the way the material is stored.

Forklifts should only be operated by employees who have been properly trained on safe operating procedures. Drives should be mindful of their speed, keeping loads low (no more than 6-8” off the ground) while traveling, parking vehicles with forks in lowered position, keeping eyes out for others, and not traveling with loads weighing over capacity.

Chains, slings, and straps play an integral role in everyday operation. These items may be used for lifting material, or keeping it on a truck. Careful inspection, proper use, and determining the correct device for the job will help keep employees safe from dangers associated with chains, slings, and straps.

Cranes are necessary when it comes to moving heavy material. A high percentage of hazards associated with crane-related material handling can be reduced by responsible use, inspection practices, and careful maintenance.

The stacking and storage of material can be extremely hazardous if not done properly. Material should be stored in designated areas while not obstructing visibility or access to a fire extinguisher or exit. When stacking, material should always be stacked in a uniform manner with larger, heavier bundles at the bottom. Make sure all material is stored on a solid foundation.

Visitors and Guests

Anyone who enters the warehouse must wear approved eye protection and footwear. Visitors and guests should be prepared with proper clothing. At Metalwest, we also recommend anyone entering the warehouse while machines are running should wear hearing protection.

All visitors must keep in mind that safety is our (and many other service centers’) first priority. We want our visitors and guests to be as safe as possible.

Accident Investigations

In the event that a workplace accident happens, regardless of the severity, it must be reported. The reasoning behind this is so that the cause can be addressed and corrective measures can be put in place to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Safety is incredibly important to all of us at Metalwest. Taking the above safety steps helps to minimize risk of an accident.

Our Processes: Slitting

packaged slit coil at OFR MetalsIn part two of our processes series, we will discuss slitting. Slit coil is used for a variety of end products. Some of the more common include: HVAC duct, lighting fixtures, architectural trim, roof drain pipes, and many more.

So what does the slitting process entail? Well, the simplest definition is… slitting is a process where steel coils are fed through a slitting machine and cut into narrower widths.

But there is more to it than just making smaller coils.

Slitter Machines

slitting machine at work at OFR MetalsMachines used to create slit coil typically consist of stations for uncoiling, slitting, and recoiling. The thicknesses and widths that a coil can be cut to depend on the machine. Here is a list of our branch capabilities.

Machines used for the slitting process can run both ferrous and non-ferrous material and depending on the machine, may be used for sheet metal or rolled coils. At Metalwest, our machines process steel coils.

Blades used for slit coil vary depending on the job requirements. Different blades are used based on the gauge and type of material as well as the tolerances specified by the customer.

The Slitting Process

Quality check by our slitting team at OFR MetalsCoil slitting, or roll slitting, is the process in which a large master coil is uncoiled and sent through a set of two circular wheels, or shears. These shears are set at a predetermined width and cut the coil into a series of narrower rolls. The narrow rolls, now called strands, are then hand-measured by the teams on our slitter machines to ensure the customer specifications are met and tight tolerances are held.

After the quality check by our team, the strands are recoiled and packaged to produce customer-specific slit coils.

At Metalwest we can process slit material in a variety of gauges and widths to meet the demands of our customers. To find out which of our locations slit material and what the different tolerances are, contact your sales representative.

Check back to discover more about our processing capabilities.

3 Ways to Prevent Corrosion

What is Corrosion?

Corrosion is the gradual destruction and wasting away of metal. It is a natural process which is caused by a chemical reaction from the surrounding environment; the most common is oxidization.

Oxidization (a chemical reaction between iron and oxygen) results in rusting on the surface of the metal. But oxidization is just one example of corrosion. Other reasons metal corrodes include exposure to moisture, wind, and electrical currents.

OK. So now that we have covered the basic definition of corrosion, how do we prevent it from happening?

There are many ways to prevent corrosion, but in this post we are going to focus on three of the more common methods.

3 Ways to Prevent Corrosion

Environmental Impact

Corrosion is caused by chemical reactions between metal and environmental elements. By changing the environment the steel is exposed to, metal deterioration can be decreased.

This can include limiting the contact of the material to moister, wind, or outside air.

Choosing the Right Metal

The type of corrosion is only half the story. It also depends on the steel you choose for a particular application.

Aluminum, for example, is a corrosion resistant material. This makes it ideal for applications that will be exposed to the elements.

In stainless steel, the corrosion resistance depends on the different types of metals used to create it. The most commonly used types of stainless, 304 and 316, are both corrosion resistant.

Carbon steel, however, is iron based and susceptible to corrosion. Adding a protective layer like a zinc coating or paint, helps to make it more corrosion resistant.

Surface Treatments


Coatings include painting and plating. They are used to protect metals from environmental elements. They work by providing a protective layer of corrosion-resistant material between the steel and the damaging environment.


Aluminum alloys are often anodized. Anodizing makes a material more resistant to weathering and corrosion and is commonly used on metal applications where the surface will be in constant contact with the elements.


Galvanized metal is coated with a thin layer of zinc to protect it against corrosion. The zinc oxidizes when it is exposed to air creating a protective coating on the metal surface.

For more tips on preventing corrosion or to find a metal that is the best fit for your application contact your local sales representative.

Aluminum Alloys 3003 and 5052: What’s the Difference?

Aluminum 3003 and aluminum 5052 are some of the most commonly used aluminum alloys. But it isn’t always easy to differentiate the two. So, what is the difference?

Aluminum 3003

Aluminum 3003 is the cheaper of the two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t up to par for certain applications. It has moderate strength and good formability and workability. It is also corrosion resistant making it ideal for applications such as heat exchangers and roofing and siding. Its major alloying element is manganese which allows for the formation of grains that absorb impurities and prevent corrosion.

Aluminum 5052

If that also sounds like aluminum 5052 that is because both alloys obtain similar characteristics. However, the 5052 alloy has a higher strength and greater corrosion resistance (including to salt water). Its major alloying element is magnesium. Magnesium overcomes the corrosive effects of the iron present in the alloy. It also has better finishing characteristics than the 3003 alloy. These attributes make aluminum 5052 a great fit for food processing equipment and truck trailers as well as marine and aquatic features.

Because the difference isn’t always obvious with these two mill finish aluminum alloys, we have provided an infographic for easy reference.

If you have more questions about the difference in these two aluminum alloys contact your local sales representative. For more information on how aluminum is made read our blog post on the process: “Aluminum: How it is Made.”

Aluminum Alloys 3003 and Aluminum 5052: What’s the difference?


3003 v 5052 infographic

Q&A with Jeff Simons, President and CEO, Metalwest

Jeff Simons, Presiden & CEO OFR MetalsWe have spent a lot of time introducing you to our general managers, but what about our head honcho? Introducing Jeff Simons, Metalwest’s President and CEO. Jeff began his role with us in February 2014, previously working for O’Neal Industries, previous parent company to Metalwest.

Being CEO of a company is a large job. So, what is it like being in that position? Well, we decided to find out through a Q&A session.

You have been working in various positions for the O’Neal family of companies for a while now. What is your favorite part about working with the organization?

Jeff Simons (JS): Our companies are family-oriented, which creates a level of loyalty and commitment to the organization that is rare in today’s business world. That dedication from our employees has been and will continue to be a critical key to our success.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from working in the steel industry?

JS: There are thousands of companies in our industry, and I’ve always been amazed how small it seems in terms of the people in our business. Although people change companies from time to time, they tend to stay in the business. To have a successful career, you must have a foundation of honesty and integrity and never compromise ethical behavior. This is a lot simpler at the O’Neal Industries family of companies since those are our core values.

How would you describe your leadership style?

JS: My leadership style is best characterized as transformational. Our industry seems to be in a constant state of change and, to succeed, I believe that it’s important that leadership commitment is felt throughout the organization. I strive for our team to be excited and motivated to achieve success that they didn’t think was possible. In simple terms, it’s all about commitment, not compliance.

We aren’t under the impression that being CEO is all sunshine and roses. So, what has been your biggest obstacle during your role as CEO at Metalwest?

JS: As I mentioned before, we seem to be in a constant state of change. The biggest challenge has been leading our company through change while navigating the headwinds of the current market.

At Metalwest we believe in being a company that employees will want to work for. So, what is your favorite part of working for Metalwest?

JS: Our employees have an unbelievable team spirit. I’ve seen acts of kindness and support across the entire Metalwest team that are truly inspirational. A company is defined by the people. It’s our team members who make our company a special place to work.

Did you have any role models (famous or not) that had an influence on where you are today? Who are they and how did they help you get here?

JS: My dad is my biggest role model. He worked in sales for one of the largest pharmaceutical corporations in the world and I saw him build relationships that supported him in consistently winning national sales achievement awards over a 40 year career that separated him from others.

In the workplace, Dave Simpson, a retired Regional VP for O’Neal Steel was a key role model as my career developed from sales into management and further into leadership roles. I worked for him directly for 18 of the 28 years that I’ve been with our company and his influence was a huge part in my career development. He mentored my career as I became an effective manager and leader.

The bottom line to what Metalwest values and believes is our customers and their success. In your opinion how does doing business with Metalwest help our customers succeed?

JS: The bottom line is that our customer’s success is our success. A key differentiator for Metalwest in our industry is our customer-focused orientation. We take a long term view and we’re committed to developing partnerships that are built on trust and lasting over time. Our focus on and commitment to providing our customers the highest quality products at competitive prices, in addition to the capability of developing complex supply solutions where appropriate, are all keys to helping our customers succeed.