• Sheet Metal Cutting Tips and Tricks

    Working in sheet metal can be fun, and it can be frustrating, but if you like old cars eventually there will come a time when you will need to cut, and eventually even weld sheet metal. At first glance it seems as if it would be like working with paper or cardboard, just a little tougher, but paper products don’t stretch and deform like metal does when you try to bend, shape or cut it. Here are a few simple rules to make metal work easier.

    When working with sheet metal, always wear long, thick, leather gloves because it only takes a small slip to be cut to the bone with the sharp edge of a metal piece you are working on. Long welding sleeves are not a bad idea either, because sheet metal can cut deep, and accidentally slashing your wrists can be a very serious injury. Eye and face protection is a good idea as well.



    Tin snips or Aviation snips, are just like scissors for metal, and are great for smaller cuts or lighter gauge sheet metal.

    3 pane  

    Snips come in left, right and straight versions, color coded in a nautical fashion:

    Left = Red

    Right = Green

    Straight = Yellow

    Cutting with snips can be time consuming and physically taxing on your hands and arms, but great for cutting complicated, small shapes. Snips also leave an edge that is often a bit ragged and curved from the cutting.


    For longer cuts, or just getting the job done faster and neater, there is the Electric Metal Sheer. An electric motor moves a small block up and down, pinching the metal between it and a fixed block on the other side.  The uniformity of the cut is much better with the electric sheer, and the quality of the edge it leaves is better too. Plus it takes no effort and a lot less time to use.



    The small cutting blocks, compared to the size of the jaws on the snips, make it easier to use the sheer to cut out tighter curved lines in metal parts. Most electrical powered sheers have no problem cutting though up to 16 gauge steel, which can be nearly impossible with a pair of manual snips.



    Clamp your sheet metal securely to the table or bench so you have both hands free to maneuver the sheers around. This will make things much easier.  Straight lines and even fairly tight curves are much easier to make with the electric sheers.  To smooth out the slight curve the sheers sometimes leave, if you have an English wheel, you can just use the flattest bottom anvil, and roll the edge through with minimal pressure.


    Just like any cutting tool, electric sheers will eventually become dull over time.  We sell replacement jaw sets for our electric sheer but don't worry, you wont need a new set for a long time.

    So these are some basic tips that should help you to cut and shape metal pieces for your next project quicker and easier. With a little practice you’ll be able to cut metal as if you were a school kid making paper snowflakes.

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  • How to Fix Rust Pits In Body Work

    If you are lucky, your project car is straight with no big holes rusted in in behind the wheels in the fenders and quarter panels. But even if there is no rust through there, you may find that rock nicks and chips have allowed salt and moisture to eat little pits in the metal.  Click Here To Read Full Post...
  • 1K VS. 2K Coatings

    There is often confusion and misuse of terms when it comes to describing automotive coatings. Not only do some people not know the difference between 1K and 2K paints, but some people confuse single stage paints and two stage paints with 1K and 2K. Here are some brief definitions that we hope will dispel the confusion.  Click Here To Read Full Post...
  • How to Fit a Duraflex Body Kit

    With the wide range of exterior modifications that can added to cars, Body kits have taken over the import market by force.  That being said, tons of companies have jumped on board and have been producing fiberglass body pieces for many cars.

    Celica After

    The problem with these body kits is they aren't made very well.  The web is full of blogs, forums, and videos of the horror stories when car guys receive their parts in the mail.

    When fitting the side skirts on to this 2001 Celica GTS we ran into numerous problems with the fitment and quality of the parts.  It's sad to say but problems such as these are expected with these types of parts.  Here you'll see the problems we encountered and the steps we took to fix them.


    Damage During Shipping


    This is one of the biggest problems encountered when buying fiberglass body pieces.  Because of their nature, fiberglass parts are hard to ship. They are fragile, large, and almost always come from over seas.  If these parts aren't packaged super carefully, cracks are almost inevitable.


    Cracks like these can be easily fixed with a fiberglass repair kit that can be found at your local auto parts or hardware store. Make sure you add a few extra layers of fiberglass matting around the crack because that area will be more prone to cracking again.

    General Fitment Size

    Since these are mass produced sometimes the overall fitment can be slightly off.  We ran into this same problem on the celica because the overall length of the side skirts was too l short.  These were meant to slip over the outside of the front and rear wheel openings but in our case they were slightly too short.  If at first it does not seem to easily fit on the car DO NOT force it, you will risk the piece cracking.


    I was able to solve this by removing a small amount of material from the inside of the side skirt where it contacted the wheel opening with an air die grinder and a burr.   Be careful using this method because it is easy to remove too much material.  If this happens you will have to apply more fiberglass to give the piece more strength.  


    Mounting Body Parts

    Usually when these pieces arrive in the mail they will not have predrilled mounting holes or included mounting hardware.  In order to get the fitment correct you will have to mark and drill the fiberglass, which can be tricky if you are by yourself.

    Re-use as many original mounting locations as possible, these are by far the best option because the factory got it right when deciding where to mount them.  This will take care of some guess work to ensure each piece is properly supported.  If possible make use of original mounting hardware as well, as long as they didn't break while you were disassembling them.  Even so, a small box of mounting hardware can be purchased at your local auto parts store for only a few dollars.



    First line up your piece in the correct location.  This may take a few tries if trimming is needed to get the correct fitment.



    With the wheel well liner pushed out of the way, use a marker to trace the factory mounting hole onto the side skirt.  Remove from the car and drill, this takes care of the front mounting location.



    The rear did not match up with any of the factory so new holes had to be drilled through the side skirt and the inner fender.  When drilling like this make sure there is enough material on either side so it will not crack or split later on.



    To deal with further fitment issues you will most likely need to buy automotive double sided tape that will be used along the outer edge of all of the panels.  This step must wait until after the parts are painted, so make note of where you want to apply the tape.  If done properly it will create a seamless fit that will look factory original.  DO NOT buy automotive double sided tape from your local parts store.  While yes it is labeled as "automotive grade" the adhesive is much weaker than the professional grade tape.  You want "Automotive Acrylic Plus Attachment Tape" this can be purchased online, it provides superior performance compared to any of the off the shelf products.

    With the fitment done it is ready for body and paint work, look for a future article where we will show you how to properly prep and paint this body kit.

    Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more How-To's, Tips and Tricks to help you with all your automotive projects.  If you have a recommendation for future articles or have a project you want explained don't hesitate to leave a comment.

    - James R/EW

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