This is a simple, low-cost (almost free) craft brake i built for small metal craft projects and whenever i need to modify parts of other projects. I used it to recreate the copper lantern shown in the intro picture. It can handle up to 22 gauge galvanized steel and still make a clean brake.
It was almost free. The vise grips cost me a couple bucks at a garage sale...maybe $5. I've had them for a few years. The rest is dumpster metal from a job site I was at. I asked permission before i removed it though. Unfortunately this was an "after the fact" instructable so I don't have pictures of the process.
Similarly sized brakes can per purchased for around $50 from places like Harbor Freight so I could have just bought one, but I was bored...
Approximately 6 feet of 1 1/2" steel angle
3" of 1/2" steel square rod
2" of 1/2" steel round rod
2" x 2" of 3/16" steel plate
2 c-clamp vise grips
1/2" drill bit
Step 1: Basic Assembly (bendy Part)
Disclaimer: I'm sure there are fancy names for all of the components of a brake but I will not be using them, nor will I bother learning them at this point. I've gotten this far in my career as a sheet metal worker without learning them so i'll be damned if i'm going to learn them now.
I first cut three identical pieces of angle at 18" long and two pieces at 12" long for the base. Next I cut a roughly 2" x 2" steel plate and put a 1/2" hole 3/4" in and 3/4" down. Next I cut two 1" long sections of 1/2" round rod. The plate and the rods would act as the pivot point.
The rod is welded to the bottom front piece of angle with the center of the rod exactly at the outer corner of the angle. This ensures that the rotation point is at close to the desired break point as possible.
Once the rod was welded in place on both ends I clamped the two bottom angles together and slipped the steel plates over the rods on either end and welded them to the bottom rear piece of angle.
Step 2: Basic Assembly (clampy Part)
The top angle has a 45 degree beveled edge so that you can bend metal at greater than 90 degrees. To attach this part I used my two c-clamp vise grips to clamp the top angle to the bottom angle with the edge of the bevel set back about 1/32" from the brake point. This gap allows for the thickness of the metal that is going to be broken. I then welded the vise grip pinchy parts to the top and bottom angle permanently affixing them.
Lastly I used another set of vise grips to clamp the 12" anlge to the lower stationary arms of the two vise grips and tack welded them together to form the base. I also added a short piece of 1/2" square rod to the piece of angle that does the bending to allow for more leverage while bending.
Step 3: Test Brake
The pictures show a piece of 24 gauge galvanized steel. The brake is clean and as sharp as any other hand break could make. Making smaller hems is a little difficult with galvanized steel but they come out good with copper. The vise grips are only 15" apart so if you are going to brake something that is long like the steel in the pictures it can't be more than 15" wide. Shorter pieces can be up to 18" wide.
While recreating the copper lantern shown I had to make two of the brakes on a larger hand brake in a shop, but the rest of the brakes were made at home with this.
I rather enjoy being able to make a tool that can be used to make other things. It adds another layer to "homemade" when I use it to make other things...like homemade level 2!