Sheet Metal Brake

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Introduction: Sheet Metal Brake

This is a simple sheet metal brake that I designed. It's relatively inexpensive at a total cost of $49, it's easy to build, and it works really well. After looking at the other designs on instructables and youtube, they seemed to be either too complex or too weak. I think that this design is a happy medium in ease to build, quality, and cost since you can make it out of scrap material.

This was my second attempt, so I was able to improve the design and eliminate all of the weak spots from my first design. I found that the metal brakes tend to flex when using normal door hinges and at the bottom bar. To prevent this, I used a much more robust style of hinge, thicker metal, and I also boxed in the bottom bar to give it more strength.

The tools that I used are a bandsaw, drill press, angle grinder, and TIG welder. The metal was different sizes/thicknesses of 90 degree bar and a small piece of flat plate.

*** I updated the design after testing, so some of the photos from the first few steps will be different from the final design at the end. Mainly I improved the hardware used and the clamping bar. ***

Supplies

Hinges (2): $16

Metal: $25 of scrap at local metal supplier ($.90/pound)

Stainless Steel Hardware: $8

Step 1: Notch Bars for Hinges

The hinge needs to be positioned right in the center of the two bars. It's really important that it's positioned as accurately as possible, so take your time. Use a caliper to measure the outside diameter of your hinge. Divide that diameter in half, then mark it on your bar material. After marking with a sharpie, I used blue painter's tape to give me a more accurate line for cutting. I placed the bar flat against the bandsaw table, then made the cuts. I used a Dremel to notch the back of the bar, then use a hammer and punch to break it off.

Step 2: Weld Hinges

If your measurements and cuts were accurate, then the hinge should be centered. I just eyeballed it and it looked pretty good, so I went with it. The good thing about the hinges is that there's almost no play with them, so you can get it lined up as best you can without worrying about the hinge moving around.

I took an old package (similar thickness to a heavy business card) and placed it between the two bars before clamping them into place. I just wanted to give a little space to ensure that the hinge wouldn't bind if they weren't lined up exact. I'm not sure if this is necessary, but it worked out for me.

Step 3: Fabricate Clamping Bar

I measured in 1" from the end of the clamping bar and drilled a 1/2" hole. I started with a small drill bit to start, then finished it off with the larger bit. Once you have both ends drilled, then debur them and make sure that the bolts fit through easily without catching, but also snug enough so that there's no play.

I positioned the clamping bar against edge/groove of the metal brake. then swung the metal brake upwards to the farthest that I thought I would bend metal. This pushes back the clamping bar into position so that it's parallel to the bending bar and also spaces it back so that it doesn't bind in use. After that, be careful not to bump anything and tack weld the bolt into place.

Step 4: Box in Bending Bar

Next I cut a piece of scrap sheet metal that I had and used it to box in the bending bar. Make sure that your hinges are fully welded in because these will block access to the hinges once they're tacked in. Also, make sure that you leave spaces so that you can mount your handles. Lastly, just do small cold tack welds because you don't want to warp the bending bar.

Step 5: End & Notes

That's pretty much it! You can view the video to see how it works.

I did have some issues when building this.

  • The bolts stripped. I purchased stainless steel bolts from West Marine and they both stripped. I did some research and found a better solution. See the update in the next step.
  • The clamping bar had issues. I originally tack welded a single plate/strip down the center of the clamping bar to reinforce it, however it warped the bar pretty badly, so I had to remake another. For the second try I just used a clamping bar without any reinforcement, but I noticed that it would flex a lot when trying to bend thicker material. So I reinforced it a different way and you can see the update in the last step.

More notes:

  • I use C clamps to mount the sheet metal brake onto my welding table. It works out well for me since I won't be using this very often. So I can mount it when I have a project, then easily put it away and it doesn't take up much space at all.
  • I use adjustable wrenches as the handles. They work well and it makes things simple so that I don't need to store anymore parts and keeps the sheet metal brake small and easy to store.

Step 6: Update: Clamping Bolts

I did a little research and apparently stainless steel was a poor choice for the hardware. Stainless has the tendency to gall, where the two surfaces can seize together. So I switched to normal zinc plated hardware and revised the design.

Instead of welding a bolt, I decided it would be best to weld a nut. This way if the threads on on the bolt stripped, I could simply unscrew the bolt and replace it with a new one. I also included a locking collar, which is just used as a thick washer, which won't deform like a thinner washer (the set screw is not used at all).

Here's a breakdown of the hardware and cost.

  • Zinc Plated Full Thread Bolt (1/2-13 x 2-1/12" Long): $1.40/pc
  • Nuts (1/2-13): $0.45/pc
  • Shaft Collar (1/2" ID x 1" OD x 7/16" Thick): $2.99/pc

Step 7: Update Clamping Bar

I ended up needing to reinforce the clamping bar so that it wouldn't flex when trying to bend thicker materials. I wanted to make sure that it was as rigid as possible without warping the material at all. So I started with the piece of 90 bar, then welded the flat piece at the top to help prevent it from warping inwards once I welded in the plates on the underside. Next I tack welded the plates in and it was still flat once I finished. Tested it and it works really well.

Step 8: Final Timelapse

Here's a timelapse of the sheet metal brake in action and some pics of the first project that I made using it.

Metalworking Contest

Runner Up in the
Metalworking Contest

1 Person Made This Project!

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13 Comments

0
pharcydeabc
pharcydeabc

1 year ago

Just updated the instructable with some revisions that I made. Also added a timelapse so that you can see it in action.

0
mdes737
mdes737

Tip 1 year ago on Step 5

Stainless bolts won't rust but grade 8 are stronger and less likely to strip

0
pharcydeabc
pharcydeabc

Reply 1 year ago

Yeah, I did a quick Google search yesterday and learned that stainless bolts have a tendency for galling, where the bolt and nut seize together. I originally chose stainless since they're un-coated and cleaner to weld, but it was obviously not the ideal material. Anyways, not a bad experience, since I learned something new. I made a trip to my local hardware store and came up with a better solution and I've updated the last step in this indstructable with the new design.

0
mdes737
mdes737

Reply 1 year ago

If you ever need to use stainless hardware and want to torque it pretty tight it's a good idea to use an assembly paste like antiseeze to prevent galling. I learned the hard way over the years.

I like your brake.

0
pemazzei
pemazzei

1 year ago

Very good for the costruction of metal Electronics enclosures! Paulo, Brazil

0
pharcydeabc
pharcydeabc

Reply 1 year ago

Yeah, it would work out well for that, especially since the metal you'd use is thin and easy to bend! Hope you and your family are staying safe!

0
seamster
seamster

1 year ago

This is excellent! I've been saving up for a nice tig machine, and a brake was on my list of first-things to make. I love your design, thank you for sharing it.

0
pharcydeabc
pharcydeabc

Reply 1 year ago

Yeah, you should definitely get one. TIG is a lot of fun and great if you're the OCD type. I just do it as a hobby to work on car stuff and have done a few projects for friends.

0
starguywisc
starguywisc

1 year ago

Nice brake. What do you call this style of hinge so I can search for them? I haven't seen these before.

0
pharcydeabc
pharcydeabc

Reply 1 year ago

I guess this has been answered by others here. I had no idea what they were called. I picked them up from my local Airgas store and they were unmarked.

0
tdragoone
tdragoone

Reply 1 year ago

Weldable barrel or bullet hinge.

0
treehouse3911
treehouse3911

Reply 1 year ago

They are listed on Amazon if you search for "Bullet Hinge".

0
Polyhistor
Polyhistor

Reply 1 year ago

Looks to be a bullet hinge.