Like woods each metal has its especial uses and it will depend largely on what you are going to make as to the kind of metal you should make it of.
There are five chief metals and a couple of alloys, which are formed by melting and mixing two or more metals together, which you will find the most useful and I shall describe these for you in detail.
Iron. - This is the most useful metal we have. When it is pure it has a silvery color, is very tenacious, which means that it is tough; it is malleable, that is it can be hammered without cracking, and it is ductile in that it can be drawn out into wire without breaking.
It is hard to get pure iron for nearly all of it contains a small percent of carbon, silica, phosphorus, sulphur or other elements. These substances in iron give it different properties. For instance cast-iron has a large amount of carbon in it; this kind of iron is good to cast into molds but it cannot be hammered or drawn without danger of cracking or breaking.
Wrought iron has very little carbon or other substances in it and this makes it easy to work because it can be hammered or drawn. Steel contains more carbon than wrought iron but it has less carbon than cast iron; steel can be cast, forged, tempered and hardened by heating it red hot and then suddenly cooling it.
Tin. - This is a white metal that looks very much like silver, and it is so malleable that it can be hammered out into very thin sheets and which you know so well as tin-foil.
It is not found in very many places but the ancients called Britain the Tin Islands because they got it chiefly from there. What we ordinarily call tin is really tin plate, that is thin sheet iron coated with tin, and it is used as a covering for other metals because it does not rust or oxidize in air.
Tin is largely used in making alloys such as soft solder, type-metal, pewter, etc. It has a very low melting point.
Zinc. - This is a bluish white metal and though it is sometimes found in a pure state it is usually found in combination with other elements.
When it is heated to different temperatures it behaves in various ways; for instance when it is cold it is quite brittle, but at 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit,17 it can be easily rolled into sheets and rods; curiously though when it is heated to 200 degrees or over it gets brittle again.
Zinc is easy to cut and when mixed with copper it forms the alloy we know as brass.
Lead. - This is the softest metal known and it has a bluish-gray color. It is very heavy and melts at a low temperature.
17 The Fahrenheit thermometer scale is the one generally used in this country. Fahrenheit was a German scientist who lived 200 years ago, and he invented the mercurial thermometer.
Lead was one of the earliest metals known and if you will read the Book of Job you will find it mentioned there. It has been used from time immemorial in making water-pipes, utensils, etc., and the ancient Romans made weights of it. Since it is so soft it can be easily hammered into any shape or it can be rolled or drawn.
It is also largely used in forming alloys with other metals, thus solder is made of 50 parts of lead and 50 parts of tin; type-metal is made of 80 parts of lead and 20 parts of antimony; and pewter is made of 25 parts of lead and 75 parts of tin.