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The wonders of aluminium shower fittings
When it comes to our shower product range, you will see a wide array of fixtures and fittings, both of glass and metal. The latter can range from handles to door knobs, towel bars to hinges and u-channels to thresholds.
All this may at first seem quite prosaic and not of great interest. After all, when you buy a shower unit for your bathroom the primary concerns will be having a facility that works efficiently, provides an enjoyable experience, gets you feeling clean and fresh and does all this with comfort and convenience.
Beyond this, the aesthetics of your bathroom may be a significant consideration, either to convey a sense of warmth on cold winter days or to allow the brighter natural light of summer to flood in through the window and gleam resplendently on all the surfaces and glass panels, creating that lovely sense of warmth and wellbeing that only summer days can do.
Achieving that depends a lot on the use of glass to reflect and to allow light to reach every possible corner of the room, but beyond this is, almost literally, about the nuts and bolts of making all this possible - or if not nuts and bolts, then certainly hinges and u-channels.
The latter is unlikely to be the first thing you look for, but they are vital components, in much the way you wouldn’t pay immediate attention to the spark plugs when buying a car. However, it is important to consider the fixtures and fittings for the same reason; because the beautiful product you have can suddenly stop working well if a small component does.
This is why the humble aluminium u-channel is something that might be worth a bit more attention than you think. U-channels can be used for lots of purposes, but in a shower they are often used to enable sliding doors. This is, of course, one of the most basic and important functions of a shower unit and one that you don’t want to stop working - especially if you are on the inside!
Alternatively, these fixtures can be used simply to hold glass firmly in place, gripping it from both sides and ensuring it is stable and sturdy.
This is all standard, of course, but what matters is that these products are made to last. This is why using aluminium as the material of choice can be so effective.
So ubiquitous is aluminium these days that it may seem odd that not so long ago little or nothing was known about it. While people passed through the bronze and iron ages millennia ago, made jewellery of silver and gold, harnessed copper and then learned to manufacture steel, aluminium was unknown.
The reason is not rarity but the opposite. It is the third most common element in the world but it does not naturally exist in pure form. That means that it was discovered in 1824 through electrolysis - passing electrical currents through aluminium-containing rocks - and it is still extracted by the same method today.
The reason this has been done so readily over the last 200 years is the outstanding combination of useful properties this metal has. It is non-magnetic, which is handy if you have other metals around your shower, non-conductive, yet also very light while being extremely strong and durable.
Best of all is how aluminium reacts to water. While some metals will rust, aluminium does not, which makes it perfect for showers as it will last for years and years. Moreover, not only is it non toxic unlike plastic, but in another form (aluminium sulphates) it is actually used to clean water.
So, when you are looking for parts for a shower such as u-channels, it is worth reflecting on just what a spectacular and useful array of properties aluminium has.
Of course, it is not the only material you could choose; the development of stainless steel as another corrosion-resistant metal means you have alternative options. But it is fascinating to think just how and why a metal unknown to science until the 1820s and not something anyone had found a way to extract on an industrial scale for another 50 years is now so ubiquitous.
The brief history of aluminium - and in the grand scale of metallurgical history it is brief - may not be the first thing on your mind when you step into the shower. But it means you can have simple products that ensure everything else goes smoothly and enables you to enjoy the experience of getting clean and fresh with no unwanted dramas.