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sheet metal project without any sheet metal machines

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  • sheet metal project without any sheet metal machines

    I occasionally want to make something out of sheet metal. Usually it's something pretty small for my shop. I have owned two box and pan brakes, two corner notchers, and two slip rolls in the past but don't own any of those right now. I just don't have room to stay tooled up for sheet metal. I know this isn't a novel concept but I thought it might be of general interest to a lot of guys here, particularly guys like me with home small shops who aren't professional metalworkers.

    The project I just completed is for our overland vehicle. It's a van with a bed in the back built up so it has 24" below for storage. I decided to buy 3 industrial stacking bins to keep my clothes and other stuff in. We did our first big trip this last winter, and it proved to be a PITA to get stuff out of the lower bins. So I decided to build a little set of shelves just to put my 3 bins on, so I can get at any of them without having to move the others.

    I had some sheet metal on hand, so that is what I designed it to be made out of. Most of it is 15 gauge but the back panel is 16 gauge. It was scrounged from an old Linde welder. It happened to have a door in it, but I don't care so I just removed the door and left a hole in the back.

    I made all my cuts using a lowly angle grinder with cutoff disk. To make straight cuts, I clamped a 3/8" bar to the sheet metal and used it as a fence to guide the cutoff wheel. It's loud, mesay and very slow compared to having a shear, but I don't have one so this is what I did. Before I made the final cut on each piece I carefully checked it corner to corner and if it didn't match closely I found the out-of-square edge and clamped the bar to it so just the little extra offending bit stuck out, and sanded down to the bar with a flap wheel.

    To make all the bends, I again used a bar as a fence, and used it to score the bend line. Then I cut right through in several spots, leaving just a few tabs connecting the part to be bent. With most of the metal gone from the bend area and the rest scored, it was easy to grab the edge with two adjustable wrenches and do the bends by hand. I fine tuned the bend angle with a hammer and then put solid tack welds in the center of each cut along the bend line. I could have welded it up solid, but I don't think it's going to be needed so I just went with heavy tack welds.

    I was able to make nice square panels with neat folded tabs bent up for riveting to the other panels.

    My wife came along partway through and told me to build it without the bottom. She is worried the shelf unit will slide around. So I left it off but may add it in the future. That's why I didn't paint the shelf.

    I fastened all six panels together with 1/8" pop rivets with closing range 1/8-3/16". I drilled all the holes with a 1/8" drill bit in an air drill, and used 1/8" Cleco clamps. After fastening a pop rivet, I like to go to the back side and hammer the rivet flatter. It makes it look much neater and I believe rivets with their back side flattened will hold better.

    Enough yacking. Let's see!






  • #2
    Looks great!
    I need to do some sheet metal projects this week, custom radiator installation, mounts and supports.
    Thanks for the ideas and inspiration.
    Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
    Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

    Location: British Columbia

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    • #3
      Originally posted by metalmagpie View Post
      I occasionally want to make something out of sheet metal. Usually it's something pretty small for my shop. I have owned two box and pan brakes, two corner notchers, and two slip rolls in the past but don't own any of those right now. I just don't have room to stay tooled up for sheet metal. I know this isn't a novel concept but I thought it might be of general interest to a lot of guys here, particularly guys like me with home small shops who aren't professional metalworkers.
      Outstanding!! Thanks for showing the project. I also used to be a sheet metal "mechanic". I worked in a factory making laboratory equipment so I learned a lil when working there. Then I needed to do sheet metal work for myself. Owned some tennsmith equipment for years then downsized my shop area and it all went away.

      I had to learn how to do the jobs with what was on hand, smaller tools. You show some great examples of what can be done when the tools are limited. And done very nicely IMO.. Thanks. JR

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      • #4
        Every time I add a machine to the shop, I end up wondering how I did without it. I can't imagine how it would be to send one or more of them away. Good for you guys to be able to do that and still carry on. For me it would be like giving up a child or something.

        But I did do without sheet metal machines at one time, and still made steel and aluminum cabinets for projects. I used to drill a series of holes along a bend line to both ease the bend and to define the location. I used the vise a lot on those days, and also used the weight of a vehicle and some creative rigging so I could drive up onto it to force a bend. Judging from the bends I've put in bumpers over the years, I could have used other rig-ups as well- in this case slamming up against an immovable object with my project in between. These days that would probably mean the vehicle is a write-off since they are nothing but sheet metal now. Why did I ever sell the Land Cruiser-

        I have a small shop also. 4 of my bending machines are close together in a pattern that is awkward, but allows each to work around the others. The worst offender is the 3 in 1, which besides taking up space is the least used these days. It takes up as much space as the other 4 combined. My press also fits within the floor space used by the 4 machines, as does the shear and the anvil. That was my solution- get creative and compact as much as possible. It did take me a while to find the right position for everything so it would work.
        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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        • #5
          I don't need no stinking shear or brake. I do it the old fashioned way.

          I have done it both ways and both do work.

          Your rack looks great. I hope it works out OK. Good job!

          PS: If you do put a bottom on it, the foam shelf liner material makes a great under-layment to stop sliding.
          Last edited by Paul Alciatore; 05-22-2022, 06:58 PM.
          Paul A.
          SE Texas

          And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
          You will find that it has discrete steps.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by darryl View Post
            Every time I add a machine to the shop, I end up wondering how I did without it. I can't imagine how it would be to send one or more of them away. Good for you guys to be able to do that and still carry on. For me it would be like giving up a child or something.

            But I did do without sheet metal machines at one time, and still made steel and aluminum cabinets for projects. I used to drill a series of holes along a bend line to both ease the bend and to define the location. I used the vise a lot on those days, and also used the weight of a vehicle and some creative rigging so I could drive up onto it to force a bend. Judging from the bends I've put in bumpers over the years, I could have used other rig-ups as well- in this case slamming up against an immovable object with my project in between. These days that would probably mean the vehicle is a write-off since they are nothing but sheet metal now. Why did I ever sell the Land Cruiser-

            I have a small shop also. 4 of my bending machines are close together in a pattern that is awkward, but allows each to work around the others. The worst offender is the 3 in 1, which besides taking up space is the least used these days. It takes up as much space as the other 4 combined. My press also fits within the floor space used by the 4 machines, as does the shear and the anvil. That was my solution- get creative and compact as much as possible. It did take me a while to find the right position for everything so it would work.
            Well, I do have a Hossfeld bender which you can use on sheet metal but certainly not on 24x24" sheets.
            My rule is simple, and you've heard it many times. Use it or lose it.

            metalmagpie

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            • #7
              looks good to me! I've often used two pieces of wood or metal clamped together with c clamps to bend sheet metal. For the thicker stuff I groove the inside of the bend with a dremel or angle grinder like you did, which works well and allows for a tighter bend. And pop rivets are the bees knees for sheet metal work. I went through about 150 making my metal chicken last December

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              • #8
                No Sheet metal tools or rollers, at that time , but I have a small electric Die lift (2,000 #)
                I needed to bend some aluminum sheet 30 inches long and along it's length with a 3/4 "radius bends at 90 degrees
                So I set a 3 foot length of 4 inch C Channel on the floor under the forks and placed a 1/2" wide strip of metal across the channel and laid a 1-1/4" pipe about 3 feet long on top
                and came down with the forks and it bent the strip---maybe 30 degrees.
                Then added wood strips inside the side of the channel ( to make it a narrower channel) until the pipe made it a 90 degree radius bend with a 3/4 radius ~
                Once I had the amount of wood needed to do the bend, I placed the sheet on the channel with the pipe and put maybe 1,000 pounds on the folks and lowered them .
                Because the wood determines the bend AND the springback . I got a perfect bend ..several times and the channel bottom prevents overbending

                Rich
                Green Bay, WI

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                • #9
                  Very nice! Good to know I'm not the only one who saves old equipment enclosures for the metal. I only recently discovered that I could make some pretty nice cuts with a .075 x 9" abrasive blade on my radial arm saw.
                  It's all mind over matter.
                  If you don't mind, it don't matter.

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                  • #10
                    Some time ago I realized that shop space is at a premium. Any machine I add might be better suited if it's tall vs wide and/or deep. The 'store bought' 3 in 1 machine is wide, requires much room fore and aft, and the operating handle needs a wide radius if set to its maximum length. Two of my benders are hydraulic, which eases the space requirement quite a bit. Now the gears in my head are turning- it would be quite possible to build a bending machine as an upright. Taking advantage of height, you could easily design one to give a full say 50 inches of capacity and still take up only a couple sq ft of floor space. HMM-
                    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                    • #11
                      Great Job,you mentioned Clecos those are handy tools for doing those jobs.

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                      • #12
                        Just to follow up, here is the stand installed in the van holding my packed bins. We leave in the morning heading east.



                        metalmagpie

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                        • #13
                          Let me guess. The van is a Promaster if you are in the US
                          Helder Ferreira
                          Setubal, Portugal

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Noitoen View Post
                            Let me guess. The van is a Promaster if you are in the US
                            Yup. '21 Promaster 2500 136" wheelbase and tall roof. The exterior is plain white to allow us to blend in when we sleep in public areas in small towns.

                            metalmagpie

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                            • #15
                              When you said winter trip in first post, was it snow winter or Arizona winter?

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