Metal working is definitely an art that takes a lot of practice to master. In the grand scheme of things I am definitely wet behind the ears when it comes to metal working. It seems each time I tackle a new project, I learn a little more. A common misconception when someone thinks about metal working is that you need a huge shop full of industrial sized machines to successfully shape and form metal. It's easy to see why people come to this conclusion; watch just about any Hot Rod, Chopper, or custom car TV show, and you see them using all of these giant industrial sized machines that cost a fortune. Those tools are great,and amazing to use if you have access to them. But you can build a lot in a home shop with an arsenal of a few essential tools. Some of these you can even make yourself!
Bending radiuses in metal is one of the more difficult tasks you may come across when honing your metal working skills. This is something that was often a mystery to me, and a task I thought required an english wheel. Once I started doing some poking around on a few popular metal working forums, I noticed that many of the seasoned veterans were using homemade tools to form curves and even recreate original embossed shapes in panels. They are using everything from logs and tree trunks to metal pipes and pieces of scrap metal to build some pretty beautiful things.
This got me thinking, with a few simple Eastwood tools, and a couple of items you could find laying around your home, you could really build some neat stuff! I decided to show how we recreated the curve in the driver's door of Project Pile House using a stainless pipe, a vice, and a couple of our Metal Forming Mallets.
The picture below shows the condition of the door when we started. Not only was it rotted out, it also had a bad dent repair done many years ago. Because of this we decided to replace the door skin just above the damage.
Once we cut off the outer door skin I took the picture below to show the slight radius the panel had to it originally. This is what we wanted to recreate.
After putting a flange on the new door skin, we cut a slit in the top of the flange to allow us to form the radius in the panel we need to recreate. We grabbed a piece of stainless pipe we had that is about 3", and clamped it in the vice. We then took out our Metal Forming Mallet Set and began slowly beating the edge of the panel over the pipe to get a radius started.
After some hammering and test fitting, we finally got the radius very close. We then used the backing strips in our Panel Install Kit to to get the new skin attached.
Once that piece was tack welded into place, we test fit and continue welding like we've already shown you in previous tech entries (you're on the home stretch!).
Once you get over the idea that you always need to use special tools to form metal, you will find yourself looking at things differently when working in the garage. I know I've got the word out to some neighbors about getting one of those big old stumps they have laying around. I plan on making it into a metal working "station"! Give us a shout if you have a cool idea for a metal working tool, we'd love to hear your ideas!
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