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Sheet metal machines & tools

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  • Sheet metal machines & tools

    I'm looking to add a bit of sheet metal capability to my home workshop and am considering one of the 3-in-1 machines such as sold by Grizzly or Jet. This is all new to me. Have any of you had experience with these machines, and, if so, can you offer any thoughts or suggestions?

    Also (I feel like Lt. Columbo here), can you suggest a good supplier for tools? I've been looking for Home Shop Machinist locally, figuring there would be tons of ads, but haven't found it yet.

    Thanks, and best regards,


  • #2
    I've had a couple of the machines and have friends who have bought 3 of them. The quality seems to vary from unit to unit, but generally speaking, you would want to do a tear-down, clean/lube, and replace the bolts with higher quality hardware. They are a lot of capability for a modest price. Think of them more as a complete "kit" rather than a complete, ready-to-work device. Remember to respect their gage capacity and you will find them to be satisfactory. Suppliers use Grizzly, J&L Industrial supply, MSC Industrial supply, and even Harbor Freight (if used judiciously). All have online catalogs and websites for ordering.


    • #3
      Thanks, Jim. That's good advice -- replace bolts w/ better hardware right up front. Regards.


      • #4
        Check your local Borders or WaldenBooks for both mags. Better yet,I think a subscription is well worth the money spent. As it is only 9 weeks to Christmas, it can be a stocking stuffer to yourself from yourself or in the name of another. All in all you won't have to hunt for them in a store.


        • #5
          I noticed that HF has a fairly large brake-shear-sliproll for $269 on sale. It looked pretty well made in the store but YMMV.


          • #6
            I like mine fine for the occasional use I give it. I still plan on adding one of the pan brakes to my collection at some point. The main modification I made right away, was to make a larger bearing surface for the blade. The little washers the factory used were woefully inadequate. It was an easy fix and worked great. I also made a guide out of some scrap and angle iron for aligning the work square to the shear table, and one for the press brake. A worthwhile improvement, and also easy. Oh yeah, as it weighs 300 pounds, I put it on some large tires so it is easy to move. I could take some pictures and email them to you if it would be helpful.
            Location: North Central Texas


            • #7
              What kind of sheetmetal work do you plan to do? Going out and buying equipment without having the need must be nice. If all you're going to be doing is making small tool boxes, mail boxes or cookie sheets, then the 3in1 might be worth a look.

              If you plan on making panels for cars or equipment, save your money. Invest in an E-Wheel and a Bead Roller. A stand alone Brake is nice but not necessary. The equipment should be rated at least 16ga.

              Rolls are easy to make for the occasional need or can be done with an e-wheel just as fast. Brakes get used less than you think. (Unless you make boxes) A Beader or the corner of a bench works good. If you make a lot of stuff, a shear less than 50" won't get used much unless you pay someone to cut your sheets down for you.

              The 3in1's are nice to show off to your friends but not very useful in real life. And for most "real work", 20ga. capacity is like a 1/4" hand drill in a machine shop.


              • #8
                I bought a 3 in 1 machine roll, brake and shear with 40 inch capacity from Harbor Freight to help me with the remaining duct work on my new furnace installation and then add this machine to my workshop for small projects later. So far, my experience is that this machine is a two person operation on all except the smallest of projects (to operate both handles) and only brakes (bends) a 90 deg. angle. The shear is ok and haven't really used the roll yet. It is limited to a maximum of 18 ga. mild steel. I guess after using it to make return air plenums, I am wondering just what I AM going to use it on in my workshop!


                • #9
                  Thanks, guys, I wasn't expecting so many responses in one afternoon! I espcially like the idea of giving myself an Xmas present, since I haven't found it at either Borders or B&N, and the local library system seems to be metalworking-challenged. :-)

                  I'm still doing some research on the 3-in-1's; no decisions yet, but I do appreciate your thoughts.


                  • #10
                    Barnes and Noble has both HSM and MW here. I bet they would get it for you, or you can order individual back issues from Village Press.


                    • #11
                      I've had my Harbor Freight 40in. roll, break and shear combo machine long enough now to form an opinion on it's use in my own workshop. It wasn't put together very well. Paint and primer cover mating machined surfaces on the upper part of the brake fingers which makes me wonder if the fingers are going to line back up again after I scrape them clean. The brake is a major pain in the butt to get lined up to make accurate bends (on the line) and I have to balance the sheet metal on the lower die when bending which is a real hassle requiring another person to rotate the handle while I hold the sheet to be bent. It will only bend a 90 deg. angle and with a resulting lip or box side of maximum 1 in high. The bolts holding the bending fingers in place are all "wobbled" and bent with a wornspot in the middle (brand new machine) where the threads are worn off. The shear works fine, straight and clean, but, requires 2 people to rotate the handle to even out stresses on the shear. After making 2 return air plenums with this machine and taking forever just to get them finished I now know that a regular pan/box brake is a hundred times faster to set up and my new portable air shear (using a guide) is more convenient, fast and just as accurate as the stationary unit. In all, even with the reduced price of this 3 in 1 unit as compared to 3 individual machines, I can't see (in my shop) what in the world I'm ever going to use this machine for. #1, Can't use thick enough sheet stock to make many worthwile projects; #2, Very inconvenient to set up and mostly requiring 2 people to operate; #3 I can only produce a box up to 1 in. deep. I realize that for some, this may be an ok machine. For me, it is not.



                      • #12
                        Thanks for your comments. Although I was thinking of a narrower machine (from another source) and making smaller stuff than ductwork, I can almost visualize what you're going thru. Yech! Your point about only being able to make a 1" deep box is good too, as this would present a problem for me. I think I may need to go back to that catalog...