Week 5: Materials and Fasteners


In this class we will discuss a variety of commonly used fasteners and material options.

“Screws not Glues”

But if you must use glues – Adhesive Chart and this to that.

Various screws and bolts

Show and Tell

We’ll review and discuss last week’s assignment.  What processes/techniques/tools did we use?  Any tips?  What would we change if we could do it all over again?

Tool(s) of the Week

Thread measuring gauge

Thread measuring gauge, should be in every shop. The fastest way to identify what the proper thread size of a fastener is.

Tap and die set

Tap and Die set, cuts screw threads into metal, plastic, and wood.

US Tap and Drill Bit Size Table

List of Drill and Tap Sizes (wikipedia)

Rivet gun and pop rivets

Rivet Gun, installs semi-permanent rivet fasteners in sheet material.

Pop rivet diagram

Rivet How To

Tip of the Week

What’s the name of that thing that does that thing?

It’s hard to Google something when you don’t know what it’s called.  Look through physical paper catalogs of parts and tool suppliers to find parts you don’t know the names of.  See McMaster Carr, Rockler, Woodcraft.


There are so many different types out there, we could honestly spend 7 weeks covering nothing but fasteners.  It would be boring, but we could do it.  We will stick to the basics.



Finishing nails, roofing nails, cut nails, tacks, penny nails, brads, hammered antique decorative nails.  Nails come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They also aren’t often used here at ITP.  Nails are typically used for attaching wood to wood and require a hammer.  The trick is to use the correct nail for the job.


All screws require a tool to fasten them.  Typically, a screwdriver (usually a flat head or Phillips) or Allen wrench is required.

Flat head screwdriver
Flat head screw icon
Short Philips screwdriver
Phillips Screwdriver
Philips screwdriver icon
Allen wrenches
Allen wrench icons
Driver set
Driver Set

Wood Screws

Countersink wood screws
Pan head wood screws

Typically, wood screws come in counter sink (remember the counter sink drill bit from Week 1?) or pan head styles.  They are generally used to attach wood to wood.

Sheet Metal Screws

Sheet mtal screw

Sheet metal screws have a course thread and are ideal for attaching sheet metal to sheet metal.

Machine Screws

Machine screws

Machine screws have a variety of head types and have fine threading.  They are typically used to fasten enclosures, mechanical parts, and precision devices.

Set Screws

Set screws
Shaft collar with set screw

Set Screws are headless and typically require an allen wrench.  They are often small and used to secure collars on shafts and axles.

Explaining Set Screws

Pocket Screws

Pocket screws and wood

Pocket Screws require a Pocket Screw Jig to be used correctly (remember from Week 2).  Typically, used to make quick, strong joints with wood.


Popo rivets
How pop rivets work

Rivets require a rivet gun and are a somewhat more permanent fastener.  Commonly used to attach sheet material to sheet material.  The rivet is placed in a hole and the gun is used to squash it in place.

Dowel Pins

Dowel pins and wood

When used with a doweling jig (remember week 2) and wood glue dowel pins make great connectors for wood to wood joints.

Threaded Inserts

Threaded insert and screw

Threaded Inserts are inserted into material and have internal threads to accept screws.  They easy, fast, and reliable.  And like the image says, they can be used in metal, plastic, and wood.

Zip ties

Zip ties

In a pinch, zip ties can make great fasteners.


Velcro with adhesive back

Velcro is great for mounting batteries/battery packs and hold paper/cardboard enclosures together.

Washers, nuts, etc.

Nut and washers

Don’t forget that you will often need washers and nuts when using screws.  And just like fasteners, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Various types of nuts
Various types of washers

Decorative Hardware

Construct Me! Hardware Collection

Large headed screws

“Our screws, hinges, nuts, nails, brackets and other hardware add value, character and a richer narrative. In our created collection, you will find nails that reduce the risk of hitting your finger, two way tie wraps, fancy hinges and screws that smile at you.”

Emoji screws
emjoi screws

Stainless Steel Cap Cover Decorative Mirror Screws

Screws with decorative caps

Knurled Thumb Screws

Knurled brass screw

Titanium Fastners

Various titanium bolts

Silver Cone Spikes Screwback Studs

Spikes with screw backs
Spikes attached o sneakers

Bronze Bullet Rivet /Cone Rivet / Spike/Screw Studs

Bronze spikes with screw backs


Acrylic and plywood are very popular materials at ITP, due to the fact that they are reliable when laser cut or CNC’d.  But there is a world of other materials out there.  The following is just a small sampling.

Sheet Metal

Various types of sheet metal

Aluminum, copper, brass, steel, etc.  Comes in all sizes and materials.

Natural Wood

Various wood types

Wood comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and species.


Pieces of cardboard



Cheap and easy to cut by hand with a blade.  Great for models and quick mockups.  You can cut halfway through to create angles and hinges.

Aluminum Stock

Various pieces of aluminum

Blocks, rods, tubes, strips, and channels.  Aluminum is a soft easy to machine metal.

Machinable Plastic

Various pieces of machinable plastic

Typically, works like wood (watch out for melting though).  Comes in an array of colors and sizes.


Various sheets of Delrin

Also known as acetal, delrin can be cut in the laser, similar settings to acrylic.  It is very stiff and has low friction, great for mechanisms.

High Density Foam

Sheets of machinable foam


Blocks of cork

Wood Veneer

Sheet of wood veneer

Thin sheets of wood.  Lighter species are actually translucent.  Easy to tear and subject to warping.  Laser cut very well.


Corian tiles

Machines very well, comes in an array of colors, and Corian can be glues to itself without leaving a visible seam.  It is an expensive material.

Two Material Projects

Below are a few examples of projects using primarily two different materials.

Wood and rope swing

Hex Tree Swing

Walnut and aluminum bowl

Connected Change Dish

Ceramic and brass bowl

Selma Durand’s Piggy Bank

Cement and wood toy truck

Petite Rouleau Compresseur

Wood and metal mail organizer

Alps Organiser

Corian and plyboo vase

Corian and Bamboo Test Tube Vase

Cork and steel stools

Tables BASIL

Cork and wood toys

Animal Box – Jungle

Wood and plastic objects

Paperfoxtrot Buoys

Paper and brass light

Perch Light

In Class Demo

Demo of metal cutting miter saw and scroll saw.


Fabricate something using primarily two different materials.  Let’s say the project is roughly 40% one material, 40% the other.  The materials cannot be acrylic or plywood (unless you are gluing up your own plywood).  The work should be held together using fasteners of your choosing.

What you Should Try

Try experimenting and working with a material(s) that is new to you.  Pop rivets into sheet metal, tap threads into plastic, or machine and shape aluminum.

What You Should Buy

Buy extra material and fasteners.  If you fabricate, you will always need more down the line.

Related Reading/Viewing

Materials ConneXion (NYU Policy)

Inventables Material List

Retro Racer, Sheet Metal and Pop Rivets

Turning Plastic Bottles into String

Waves of Grain (amazing)

Love Letter to Plywood by Tom Sachs

Electroetching Metal(s)

What is Sugru

POLIGON Sheet Metal Sculptures

How Stuff Works: Screws

Frozen Solid

Refresh Boring Old Furniture With Smiling Screws And Glow-In-The-Dark Nails

Glue Reference Chart

Users Guide to Adhesives

Cardboard Fundamentals