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How to Tell Stainless Steel from Aluminum

It's fairly common to use kitchenware and related items as mold material, but sometimes the metals aren't clearly marked.  Without the markings, it's not always easy to tell if a particular bowl or other shape is made of stainless steel or aluminum.  Since aluminum melts at around 1200F/650C, while stainless steel makes excellent molds for slumping, it's important to determine which metal makes up the potential mold material you have in mind.

One tip that won't work is to use a magnet.  Unlike regular steel, stainless steel is not necessarily magnetic.

Another possibility is to rap your knuckle on the edge of the metal.  Aluminum will sound duller and has less of a ring than stainless steel.  Aluminum also feels slightly warmer at room temperature.

A dishwasher can also help tell if the piece is aluminum or stainless steel.  Aluminum will tend to dull slightly after washing, while stainless steel will usually remain bright when it emerges from the dishwasher.

And yet another technique is to use a brass house key or similar item.  Because aluminum is softer than stainless steel, the key will scratch aluminum, but it won't scratch the steel.

If none of these tips help, then there's always the scientific method.  It's a bit more complicated but it's 100% effective.  And best of all, it can be done with simple household items.

Click here to learn more about the scientific way to tell aluminum from stainless steel.

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Copyright 2005 Brad Walker.  All rights reserved.

Tips on this topic adapted from Warm Glass bulletin board posts by Tony Smith, Jim Richards, and others.

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