Did you know that for very little money, you can shape metal and the sky is the limit.
Basics – a vice
Get a metalworkers vice – see the heavy duty jaws. Bigger but not thick jaws are for wood. Get the biggest that you can find, car boot sales / second hand shows are often a good place. It should be bolted to a strong surface and will hold metal safely.
Intermediate – a metal folder
To bend metal accurately, you will ultimately need to get a metal folder. It does what it says on the tin and folds the metal along a line. These start around the £50 / $70 area and go up to more than $10,000 each. If you are folding body panel thickness, a “poor man’s metal folder” is less money! Find your local metal working place that sells metal and buy 2 lengths of 25mm (1 inch) angle iron that is 3mm thick (1/8 inch).
Sit both pieces of angle iron in your vice upside down compared to the above picture. Then place your metal to be folded into the newly created wide jaws of your “metal folder”. Now clamp it all together – this takes a little practice to get the metal to the right position without something slipping. Measure twice, cut once as they say – keep moving it slightly until you get it perfectly aligned.
Once in there, push the metal in the direction of the required fold. If you do not need 90 degrees, add something as a guide.
Assistance – a hammer
A little pin hammer / tack hammer / small hammer will cost a few dollars / pounds. Its flat nose means less damage to the metal compared to a normal hammer that has a rounded end. Use the other end and experiment. Remember that you are not looking to shape the metal with a single hit! Slow and steady wins the race.
Once the metal has been folded mainly to shape, finish with the hammer until you get it how you need it.
First clever trick – a roll
If you need a small roll in your metal, open the jaws of your vice to reveal the part that needs to bend / roll. Now take that sharp (ish) edge of the above hammer and tap the metal between the vice jaws. Remember to clamp the metal first!
Tapping it with a hammer will allow you to shape by hand, nice and slowly / carefully. Sometimes that is not smooth enough.
Advanced – a socket
If you need a fold in the metal that is part of a circle, find a socket the size of the fold required. Keep the jaws open to the width required, clamp one side of the metal to one of the jaws. Place the socket on the metal between the jaws and allow the metal to shape itself around the socket with a hammer. Please do not use your best socket and any damage to your equipment is down to you!
My first example
I needed a piece to join the bottom of the wall behind the sliding door on my Bay window, down to the floor. I folded the 90 degree in my metal folder. I sliced a little way along that fold then used my hammer to tap the curved section (no socket used this time) before welding it up. Then I added the end triangle as it was going to be tricky to add later and welded it in.
I was rather pleased with that.
Once in, I was even happier.
I am now a fabricator, you can be one too. The paint was a short term measure to keep the rust at bay and yes, the bottom of the C post still needs work!
My second attempt
From the first picture, you can see that the bottom of the rear wheel arch is missing a common section where it has rusted, been patched badly and is in need of attention. Again, I took some cardboard, made a template, used some Zintec lightly galvanized steel and using just a 4 inch vice, a hammer and a little time, I came up with this:
And here it is zipped in:
Yes, I will sort out the ugly weld in the corner before I top coat the inside!