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Five Minute Sheet Metal Brake

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It irks me when someone uses the excuse of not having a metal brake. I make long bend like this regularly while my 48”x16ga.metal brake sets unused in a remote corner of my shop. I use a technique somewhat similar to the one shown here however I use hammer blows rather than lever force to do the bend.


I clamp the sheet metal between a fabricating table and a flat bar in a similar way shown in the picture above. I leave the shortest leg of the bend hanging out over the edge of the table. I then use a block of hardwood (Corking Tool) and hammer to move the metal. My fabricating table is an 1800 lb. tooling plate I bought from the scrap yard. This large mass helps to transmit the energy from hammer blows into the workpiece much like a large anvil in a blacksmiths shop.


This technique requires some experimentation and skill. Different size hammers and different width corking tool will give different results. With a bit of practice bends can easily be made that are as good as those made with a brake.


Additional advantage is the variety of bend radii that can be made. By rounding over one corner of a flat bar and using it under the sheet metal, a larger radius bend can be made than that of a sharp corner. Even larger radii can be made by tack welding a piece of round bar to the edge of a flat bar. For example: a 1” round bar welded to a 1” flat bar. With this, a bend with a bend radius of 1/2” can be made. 

For occasional bending I found a heavy steel table much more practical in the shop. They are more versatile than a brake and won’t take up more precious space than a table that one would already have.

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