Stainless Steel for Sculptures – How To Guide – Must Read for Sculptors

stainless steel sculpture

Wavy Column
Stainless Steel Sculpture

Which Stainless Steel to Choose?

  • I prefer 304, a low-carbon, austentic stainless steel for stainless steel sculptures. 304 is the primary stainless steel used for sculptures, architecture, manufacturing, etc. 304’s composition provides a better structural advantage and durability over 316, in most cases, as well as being less expensive.
  • I am usually planning to weld the stainless steel and choose 304L, the low carbon version of 304. 304 and 304L are both 18-8, i. e. 18% chromium and 8% nickel. 304L has a lower carbon content (.03% maximum) than 304 which minimizes carbide precipitation occuring when welding. Consequently, 304L can be used ‘as welded’ in severe corrosion environments and eliminates the need for annealing the metal
  • I usually choose the 2B finish. The 2B finish is a mill finish, which is smooth and not the brushed finish commonly seen on kitchen appliances. I do a lot of shaping, hammering and welding of the metal, which mean I have to repair the surface and create my own finish.
  • 316 looks exactly like 304 but has 2-3% molybdenum added for even greater resistance to oxidation and corrosion. 316 is the preferred metal for food preparation, breweries, pharmaceuticals, laboratory use, etc. and any containers or objects that require resistance to extreme environmental conditions such as salt water, halides and acids.
  • Occasionally I will use the 201 alloy of stainless steel for non-fountain, indoor sculptures. 201 is 4.5% nickel, 7% manganese and 16.3% chromium – it looks the same as 304 but is less expensive. It has a lower level of chromium and nickel than 304 but more manganese. It’s about 30 percent stronger than 304 but has less corrosion resistant and is more difficult to form and weld than 304.