Instructables
Introduction
Have you ever needed to bend some sheet metal in a straight line?  Wanted to make some folds in sheet metal?  Want to make a channel in sheet metal?  Do you need a Sheet Metal Brake Bender?  Most of the time you do not.  You can use common everyday tools from around your work bench to simulate a Sheet Metal Brake Bender.

The Story
For a project I am working on, perhaps a future instructable.  I needed to have a sturdy piece of thin metal.  I had some sheet metal kicking around, but it was flimsy.  Not strong enough to carry the weight for the task.  I thought if I could fold the edges over that would give me the strength I needed and look good too.  But I did not have a Sheet Metal Brake Bender on hand.  This would be a good time to have one.  I know how one works, could I duplicate the process with tools I already had on hand?  I thought for a moment and a resounding "Yes", was the answer.  Read on for my Impromptu Sheet Metal Brake Bender.

Objective
The intent of this instructable is to
1)  provide an alternative to the costly purchase of a Sheet Metal Brake Bender tool,
2)  provide a readily available and easy to assemble alternative,
3)  give you the knowledge to use what is around you to overcome an obstacle like this,
4)  encourage you to engage in a Do It Yourself franchise and community.
 
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Step 2: Line the Rafter's Square on the Edge of the Table over the Sheet Metal

Picture of Line the Rafter's Square on the Edge of the Table over the Sheet Metal
The edge to be bent should hang over the edge of the table.

Step 3: Line the Level underneath the Edge to be Bent

Picture of Line the Level underneath the Edge to be Bent
Put the level against the table.

Step 4: Push the Level up until Sheet Metal Bends 90 Degrees

Picture of Push the Level up until Sheet Metal Bends 90 Degrees
Hold the Rafter's Square down while you push up on the Level.

Step 5: 1st Bend Made

Picture of 1st Bend Made
Almost done

Step 6: Push the Edge over with your Fingers

Picture of Push the Edge over with your Fingers

Step 7: Push the Level down on the Edge you just made

Picture of Push the Level down on the Edge you just made
Until it is flat.

Step 8: 1st Edge Completed

Picture of 1st Edge Completed
Nice Straight edge.

Step 9: Line the Rafter's Square on the Edge of the Table over the Sheet Metal for the 2nd Bend

Picture of Line the Rafter's Square on the Edge of the Table over the Sheet Metal for the 2nd Bend
The edge to be bent should hang over the edge of the table.

Step 10: Line the Level underneath the Edge for the 2nd Bend and Push up until you reach 90 Degrees

Picture of Line the Level underneath the Edge for the 2nd Bend and Push up until you reach 90 Degrees
Hold the Rafter's Square down while you push up on the Level.

Step 11: 2nd Bend Made

Picture of 2nd Bend Made
Almost done

Step 12: Push the Edge over with your Fingers

Picture of Push the Edge over with your Fingers

Step 13: Push the Level down on the 2nd Edge you just made

Picture of Push the Level down on the 2nd Edge you just made
Until it is flat

Step 14: 2nd Edge Completed

Picture of 2nd Edge Completed
2 straight edges
gomer3944 months ago
Shouldn't you call this how to bend sheet metal WITHOUT a bender?? I'm trying to learn how to build a sheet metal break.
ezman (author)  gomer3944 months ago

Thank you for reviewing and commenting. How is your search going? Have you found anything that is helpful? What do you need to bend - tin, steel, aluminum?

gomer394 ezman4 months ago
Looking to bend sheet steel, I've found a couple plans but I'll probably end up buying one from harbor freight.
RangerJ1 year ago
Actually pretty clever, and most likely would be large enough for the vast majority of things I would be making.
ezman (author)  RangerJ1 year ago
Thank you for your comments.  Most of the time I just need a tool for a 1-off, occasionally more than once.  But, for me that does not justify buying a tool especially when I can borrow or simulate a tool's action with other tools.  Best success with your projects.
Looks good! Next would be an impromptu shear (cause it seriously looks like you need it) haha.
That's awesome! Thanks for the share. How much thicker of material do you think could be fed through?

Thanks
ezman (author)  audreyobscura1 year ago
Thank you for your review, comment and question.  I did not consider how much thicker a piece of metal that could be bent.  I do not know.

This technique, as described, is good for light metal - about the equivalent thickness of a tin can.  Keep in mind you are dividing your strength while you are pushing up and pushing down as the same time.  But here are some things to consider if you want to bend a thicker piece of metal.
1) If You clamp down the sheet metal and rafter's square to the table. You can apply more force to push up on a thicker piece of metal.
2) If you extend more metal over the edge of the table, you will need to apply less force to bend a thicker piece of metal, then with less metal extending over the edge of the table. Example: The 2nd bend was easier because there was more metal extending over the edge of the table. 3) If you clamp down and extend the metal over the edge, you will gain the most in the attempt to bend a thicker piece of metal.
4) You could score a line where you want to make a bend.  This will reduce the resistance needed to bend a thicker piece of metal.

There are some variables to think about to determine how thick a piece of metal you want to or can bend with this technique.  The bottom line is how much force can you apply to bend the thicker piece of metal?   We can see these mechanics when we look at a simple lever.  The Resistance is the thickness of the metal.  The Fulcrum is at the Rafter's Square and how much Effort (applied force) is the length of metal that extends over the table.

I see that my response may have become a little verbose.  But I want to give you the tools (knowledge) to accomplish your task.  Best success with what ever you do.