A workman is able to select the right metals because he knows that each has some peculiar property which is best adapted for his particular use. These with their meaning will now be explained.


This exists in metals in three distinct ways: First, in the form of traction. Hang a weight on a wire and it will stretch a certain amount. When the weight is removed the wire shrinks back to its original length.

Second: If the weight on the wire is rotated, so as to twist it, and the hand is taken from the weight, it will untwist itself, and go back to its original position. This is called torsion.

Third: A piece of metal may be coiled up like a watch spring, or bent like a carriage spring, and it will yield when pressure is applied. This is called flexure.

Certain kinds of steel have these qualities in a high degree.


This is a term used to express the resistance which the body opposes to the separation of its parts. It is determined by forming the metal into a wire, and hanging on weights, to find how much will be required to break it. If we have two wires, the first with a transverse area only one-quarter that of the second, and the first breaks at 25 pounds, while the second breaks at 50 pounds, the tenacity of the first is twice as great as that of the second.

To the boy who understands simple ratio in mathematics, the problem would be like this:

25 × 4 : 50 × 1, or as 2 : 1.

The Most Tenacious Metal

Steel has the greatest tenacity of all metals, and lead the least. In proportion to weight, however, there are many substances which have this property in a higher degree. Cotton fibers will support millions of times their own weight.

There is one peculiar thing, that tenacity varies with the form of the body. A solid cylindrical body has a greater strength than a square one of the same size; and a hollow cylinder more tenacity than a solid one. This principle is well known in the bones of animals, in the feathers of birds, and in the stems of many plants.

In almost every metal tenacity diminishes as the temperature increases.


This is a property whereby a metal may be drawn out to form a wire. Some metals, like cast iron, have absolutely no ductility. The metal which possesses this property to the highest degree, is platinum. Wires of this metal have been drawn out so fine that over 30,000 of them laid side by side would measure only one inch across, and a mile of such wire would weigh only a grain, or one seven-thousandth of a pound.


This is considered a modification of ductility. Any metal which can be beaten out, as with a hammer, or flattened into sheets with rollers, is considered malleable. Gold possesses this property to the highest degree. It has been beaten into leaves one three-hundred-thousandth of an inch thick.


This is the resistance which bodies offer to being scratched by others. As an example, the diamond has the capacity to scratch all, but cannot be scratched by any other.


Alloys, that is a combination of two or more metals, are harder than the pure metals, and for this reason jewelry, and coins, are usually alloyed.

The resistance of a body to compression does not depend upon its hardness. Strike a diamond with a hammer and it flies to pieces, but wood does not. One is brittle and the other is tough.

The machinist can utilize this property by understanding that velocity enables a soft material to cut a harder one. Thus, a wrought iron disc rotating rapidly, will cut such hard substances as agate or quartz.


All metals offer more or less resistance to the flow of an electric current. Silver offers the least resistance, and German silver the greatest. Temperature also affects the flow. It passes more easily over a cold than a warm conductor.


All metals on receiving heat, will retain it for a certain length of time, and will finally cool down to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. Some, like aluminum, retain it for a long time; others, as iron, will give it off quickly.


All metals will conduct heat and cold, as well as electricity. If one end of a metal bar is heated, the heat creeps along to the other end until it has the same temperature throughout. This is called equalization.

If a heated bar is placed in contact with another, the effect is to increase the temperature of the cold bar and lower that of the warm bar. This is called reciprocity.

Molecular Forces

Molecular attraction is a force which acts in such a way as to bring all the particles of a body together. It acts in three ways, dependent on the particular conditions which exist.

First: Cohesion. This exists between molecules which are of the same kind, as for instance, iron. Cohesion of the particles is very strong in solids, much weaker in liquids, and scarcely exists at all between the particles in gases.

Second: Adhesion is that property which exists between the surfaces of bodies in contact. If two flat surfaces are pressed together, as for instance, two perfectly smooth and flat pieces of lead, they will adhere. If, for instance, oil should be put on the surfaces, before putting them together, they would adhere so firmly that it would be difficult to pull them apart.

Third: Affinity. This is another peculiarity about materials. Thus, while cohesion binds together the molecules of water, it is chemical affinity which unites two elements, like hydrogen and oxygen, of which water is composed.


All matter has little hollows or spaces between the molecules. You know what this is in the case of a sponge, or pumice stone. Certain metals have the pores so small that it is difficult to see them except with a very powerful glass. Under great pressure water can be forced through the pores of metals, as has been done in the case of gold. Water also is porous, but the spaces between the molecules are very small.