View Full Version : working with sheet metal

Slug Toy
03-24-2006, 07:25 PM
welcome to the sheet metal thread. im going to be sharing every aspect of my sheet metal knowledge here.

i spent about a year learning and working with sheet metal in high school, and i got to use everything. my expertise is in steel, aluminum, copper, and silver (yes silver, because i also did jewelry). not to brag or anything, but in case you're wondering about my skill level, my jewelry teacher said my work was either as good as, or better than some professionals hes seen. so i shouldnt lead you down the wrong path due to lack of skill or knowledge, if its any comfort.

now, to start today, im going to list out some tools you will probably find useful if you decide to take a shot at pounding the crap out of some metal. ill also try to get in some descriptions of some basic bends that anyone should be able to do.

so, without further ado, heres a list of useful tools:

hammer- its a no-brainer. you need a hammer for bending sheet metal unless you have a jig set up or you like to take "hand made" to a whole new context and level. heres a big thing to remember: DONT use a regular hammer! a regular hammer is made of metal and will scratch your sheet metal really bad. you want a hammer that is made of either wood, rubber, or rawhide. rubber hammers have a lot of weight behind them, so i would particularly suggest them.

clamps- you'll be needing a few clamps of various sizes. mainly large ones, but small ones will come in handy for holding metal at strategic points when doing complex work. i wont suggest any particular type of clamp because different tasks require different tools. sometimes C-clamps will do, and other times they wont. the best thing to do is look at what you want to do, and make a decision based off that. all i will suggest is that you have some clamps handy, it makes life much easier.

various flat and curved surfaces- these will serve as your "anvils" so to speak. you cant make a curved piece of metal without a curved surface to work on. you cant flatten a piece of metal without a flat surface to work on. some of these surfaces you can find anywhere (the corner of a table). some of these surfaces you may have to make (perhaps cut a piece of wood to act as a template). some of these surfaces you can buy (pipes for small curves). again, the best thing to do here is to look at what you want to do, and then be resourceful and find a surface to work on that matches.

a torch- this is optional, but it can help. if you're wondering why, the answer is called annealing. annealing is basically a heat treatment done to metals in order to make them softer. for steel, this is done by heating the metal to about 500 C and slowly cooling. for non ferrous metals (anything other than steel), you anneal by heating to about 500 C again, but then you quench with water. annealing is particularly useful for the non ferrous metals because they have an interesting property to them, called work hardening. this means that as you work with non ferrous metals, the get stiffer and harder to work with, and eventually if you keep bending and hammering, the metal may shatter or snap. so, a torch is a good idea to have, and annealing non ferrous metals is something i would really recommend when doing some major metal work.

patience- this is a very good tool to have, because you WILL screw up. its practically innevitable unless you have reached the level of master fabricator. mistakes go hand in hand with learning to work with sheet metal. dont be surprised if, when you are doing a complex bend, that one wrong hit with a hammer will fold the whole piece in half. even if you dont screw up, patience is still a key word because metal working is usually a slow process. for some of my more complex projects, i wouldnt be surprised if i put upwards of 30 hours into a single piece of metal. its just the way it goes.

ok, im actually going to stop here. i know theres a 10000 character limit on posts, and i regularly exceed that and have to edit my posts. i think its safer to put the next segment in another post. so next up will be a couple basic bends.

03-24-2006, 07:34 PM
Looks good, waiting for the next part :D


Slug Toy
03-24-2006, 08:02 PM
heres my second segment. basic bends. ill focus on the kind of bends that you would make to create edges of a case with. so lets jump on it:

90 degree bends- these will be the most common bends a computer case will need. there are two sub-categories ill split this into:

-squared bends- these are pretty simple. all you really need to do is clamp your metal to something like a table that has nice sharp square edges on it and then start bending. there are two things you should make sure to do though. one thing to do is draw a line on your metal where you want your bend to start, and then clamp with that line right on the edge of your table or whatever you have found. the second thing to do is to hammer close to the clamps and work your way out. this will let you get a nice clean start to the bend and it will help keep irregularities to a minimum. if you keep those two points in mind, your bends should turn out accurately and cleanly. is cleanly even a word?

-rounded bends- very similar in method to the squared bends, except you need to find a curved surface to use instead of a nice square edge. im going to steal a piece of tribaloverkill's blackout worklog here (hopefully he doesnt mind).


on this page you'll see how he went about bending some aluminum using some clamps and two pipes. the bends turned out very good. i really cant say enough to match up to what his pictures tell you. they say a picture is worth 1000 words, but in this case a picture is probably worth more than the 10000 character limit per post will allow. now, the way he did that isnt the way i learned, but its probably the best method ive seen outside of proper industrial methods, and truthfully, the way he did it is probably more along the lines of what most people have the means to do. the only thing i would add is that you should again keep in mind the two things i mentioned for the squared bends.

non 90 degree bends- these bends are similar to the 90 degree bends, but they dont allow you to just use a table edge or any old thing. ill break these down into two groups again.

-squared non-90 bends- in this case, the best thing you could do is cut two pieces of wood and stick them together at the angle you want to bend the metal. then you can clamp the metal down and follow the same procedure that i laid out for the 90 degree squared bends, and again keeping those two special things in mind.

-rounded non-90 bends- fortunately, tribal's method will allow for bends that arent 90 degrees, you just need to use a protractor and pay attention to your bends. i really dont need to say much more. just refer back to what i said about the rounded 90 degree bends, and apply that method while keeping track of what angle you want. and again, i cant stress enough, keep those two special things in mind.

so thats really all there is for basic bends. anything beyond those is getting more complex, and ill cover those in a day or two. also, in a day or two ill see if i can dig up some sort of table for the types of sheet metal, unless someone wants to beat me to it. i have plenty more to write about.

one last thing i want to say is, pitch in here. if you have a different method than what ive said, or if you think im wrong, say so, because im not in this to prove that im right. im looking to help people. by all means, make me look like an idiot if it will save someone from doing what you think will be the wrong thing. like i said, ill have more stuff in a day or two, so you have some time to make corrections/additions to this first batch of info ive posted.

have at it.

03-24-2006, 08:42 PM
nice man, i can use thatr, means i won't have to send off my sheets to get bent.

Slug Toy
03-26-2006, 12:36 AM
ok, heres my contribution for today. we have a nice web page dedicated to literally thousands of materials, and any type of metal alloy you could think of.


heres a little something to aid in your searches. steel is under the ferrous metals category, and everything else is under non ferrous.

i took a quick look through some of the aluminum alloy composition specs, and they look accurate. i doubt you'll need to worry about cross checking.

honestly, i dont really know if anybody needs this much info to sift through. i guess it will help if you hear a certain alloy number and you want to check it out. perhaps if you have plenty of free time, you could try to memorize all the alloys. at any rate, its there in case you need it.

im done. im keeping this post nice and short. up next is a small tools update, and some more advanced techniques for taking out your agression on unsuspecting metal. thats for tomorrow though.

Slug Toy
03-26-2006, 10:30 PM
its time for the fourth installation of my many part series, "better know a method for working with sheet metal." today we examine a couple more tools for more advanced work, and ill talk about some complex curves.

so first ill add to my list of tools. in this case, these couple arent completely necessary unless you intend on actually trying out some of these complex bends.

soft hammering surface- this can be many things. i like to use a few folded towels. there are products you can buy that are basically a stuffed leather pad to do the same thing. the reason you would want something like this is so that the surface you work on has some give to it so you can start making bends. this is especially handy for the bends im going to talk about in a bit.

wooden negatives- this is another way to accomplish complex bends. what you do is carve the shape you want into a piece of wood. that way you can just pound the metal into the wooden shape, and its reasonably done.

english wheel- this is a nice piece of equipment to have, but its expensive and really big in most cases. unless you work with metal as an occupation, you probably dont want this piece. the reason its handy is it will smooth out lumps much faster than you could by hand. it also helps bend metal slowly. you can probably do without this tool, but youd be much better off if you could get your hands on one or something similar. if you could even make one, it would help.

power hammer- this is another piece of equipment which would be nice to have, but is expensive and large. its basically a bit of metal that hammers down onto another bit of metal at amazing speeds. i wouldnt be surprised if it could make upwards of ten hits per second. this tool is very good for shrinking metal if you have large lumps or folds along edges. it also smooths a bit too, but it doesnt really help with shaping.

one last thing to keep in mind is that the hammer you choose should again NOT be a regular old hammer that is made of metal. it should be wood, rubber, or rawhide. enough with the tools, and on to the bending.

im going to keep the complex curves all as one topic because you can make them all the same way pretty much. just to make sure you know what complex curves are, ill list some.

-convex/concave shapes (convex is like a magnifying glass, concave is opposite)
-curves too large to bend around a pipe or jig (i would say anything that is larger than 8 inches in length)
-intersecting curves (like a 3D heart shape)
-curves inside of other curves (like ripples created when a stone is dropped in a pond)

so, it doesnt really matter what kind of shape you want to make. you can make them all using the same methods. the first thing you want to do is either make a wooden negative, or you can do it by hand with whatever soft surface you choose. just hammer the metal until it either fills the negative, or takes on a shape you like. at that point, you will probably have something that is kind of lumpy. if you are lucky enough to have access to an english wheel, you can use this to smooth the metal. if you dont have an english wheel, well you'll have to fine tune the metal with a hammer. once you have something fairly smooth, i would suggest test fittign the piece to see if any adjustments need to be made. you'll probably have to adjust and fiddle quite a bit before you get everything to sit right. if you cant get your metal perfectly smooth, dont worry, because you'll probably want to use some bondo or epoxy to get a nice smooth finish that can be easily painted anyways.

all this sounds simple enough, but remember that we're talking about sheet metal. i mentioned in an earlier post that you shouldnt be surprised if one wrong move will fold your sheet in half, and this is the kind of circumstance in which that could happen. take your time, keep your cool, and learn to improvise. you will most likely find that not too much works like it should should, so improvisation will become a key component of metal work.

you cant really learn to work with metal by reading something, so experience is the key. you need to get in there and do it. ive given you the base steps that can be followed, but beyond that, it will boil down to personal preference and developed technique to really get the job done. if you dont believe me now, you'll eventually figure that out on your own, and you'll probably end up using your own ways too.

so thats it for this segment. i think tomorrow ill cover beading. until then, id encourage anyone with how-to questions or extra info to start posting. im only one person and im sure i havent thought of everything to cover yet. i will await your questions and start amassing info.

03-26-2006, 11:16 PM
Hey slug, great guide! I am putting together a collection of awesome modding guides on my website so everyone can just get them from one conveniant place, and I would love to add yours to it! Do I have your permission to use it? If so, I would like to be able to edit it very slightly (pretty much only for grammar and what-not) and perhaps add pictures to it so people can gain a better understanding of the tools and bends.


Slug Toy
03-27-2006, 12:14 AM
be my guest, you really dont need my permission for much... ive accepted the fact that my work is stolen all the time, online and in the real world. i dont care anymore. this is for the people, so i officially declare this un-copyrighted and so on and so forth.

03-27-2006, 09:52 AM
lol....bad buzz :( good job though....you right went to town on this eh. :D

03-27-2006, 04:21 PM
Thanks! I'll get to work on it, fixing it up and publishing it! Gotta love the modding spirit... "I don't care who did it! The world should be free!"

03-27-2006, 05:30 PM
Great guide, Slug. It's great to see these how-to guides starting to pop up. I'll make sure to include this one in the Features.

I've been working on a painting guide for a few months, but lack of space to properly paint and low temperatures have kept me from finishing it for the time being. Hopefully I'll have a chance to get it up soon, but it doesn't look like I'll get a chance until the end of summer. *shrug*

03-27-2006, 10:10 PM
Lol Rankenphile, I would love to publish it once done! I am currently fixing up a few of these guides as well as writing some on polycarbonate, acrylics, airbrushing, and routing. Once done, the collection will be great.

Slug Toy
03-28-2006, 11:48 PM
beading is the name of today's game. im going to talk about it, and a few tools that would come in handy for it.

first off, the tools that you may want to use:

bead roller- this is a specialized tool that is made specifically to put beads in metal. its basically two rollers that you crank to roll a bead, simple as that. i dont really have a lot of experience with bead rollers because i like doing beads by hand, and when i was learning, everyone else was being pansies and sticking to easy non power tool stuff (bead rolling is slightly easier than most things and less stressful too). so if you have a bead roller, use it. if not, dont worry.

regular old hammer- yes, you can actually use a regular old hammer for beading, but you wont be hitting the metal with it, because that would be stupid.

"chisel"- i say chisel but what i mean is anything with a wedge shape. it could be a piece of hardwood or a cold chisel, or plastic. dont actually use a wood chisel because you'll ruin it.

so lets get to how you bead things.

if you use a bead roller, you can probably figure most of it out on your own. i would assume that if you actually own a bead roller that you have already figured it out. in case you have no clue though, its not too hard. just sketch out a line that you would like to have raised or indented into the metal, clamp down the rollers along the line (you can pick reference points for yourself because this isnt as exacting as other things ive talked about), and then you just need to take your time and roll along the metal and keep everything lined up properly. pretty soon, you'll have a bead no problem.

if you like to do things by hand, get out your hammer and "chisel", and bring out your soft hammering surface again. once again, you'll want to draw lines where you want the bead to go, but from that point, similarities to the bead roller method end. now what you want to do is line up your chisel so its on the line you drew out, and pound the metal down to a point where you think it looks good. just go along your line in that fashion until you get to the end. it really shouldnt be too hard, and the only hassle you may have is that it may turn out a bit lumpy, but it can be fixed with a few extra (careful) taps with the chisel, and it can be avoided altogether once you've had enough practice at it.

so thats beading in a nutshell. simple enough, right?

in other news, i think ill announce here that ive managed to get a hold of some sheet aluminum. 1mm thick, 50" long and about 30" wide, and it was only $18 canadian. so i start work on my zanzibar mod tomorrow, and my worklog should be opening up in a few days. ill be showing off some metalwork because im making my own case-shaped skeleton to start with. a more visual way for some of you to learn. ill also provide ample explanation with the pictures.

thats what's happening in the near future. ill also do a speel about cutting sheet metal either tomorrow night or the night after. keep your eyes peeled for my worklog, ill make it interesting.

03-29-2006, 12:58 AM
Another trick to doing beads is to bend the metal at a 90 degree angle and then place a piece of wire in the angle and pound the metal around it. Its best to use a cross pien or a tack hammer.

Roper & whitney (http://roperwhitney.com/index.cfm) is a good company to get some of these tools from. I have a couple of punches from them.
Centaur Forge (http://www.centaurforge.com/) has good supplies for black smithing and
Rio Grande (http://www.riogrande.com/) is an excellent supplier for smaller metal working tools and supplies.

I spent 3 years in college doing hollow ware and spent a year apprenticing with 2 armorers who build working copies of medieval armor (one of them became an armorer for Colonial Williamsburg (http://www.history.org/). I've also Forge welded a couple of damascus knife blades.

Metal smithing is a huge field and for most modders the requirements are pretty small. They need a things to cut (straight and curved), things to bend (sharp and soft angles) and things to fasten (rivets, bolts, solder, weld) These skills all fall under the heading of "Metal Fabrication" like air duct work. Most modders don't have a lot of money or room so comming up with inexpensive solutions is desirable. For instance you can make a nice bending brake from some angle irons, hinges and a couple clamps. Its cheap and doesn't take up a lot of room.

I think the English Wheel and the Power Hammer are serious overkill for case modding. Considering that a Kuhn Air hammer (http://www.centaurforge.com/prodinfo.asp?number=40KCF22) runs from $9,000 - $20,000 US and is really designed for hot forging barstock. While a Fournier English Wheel (http://www.fournierenterprises.com/Engwhl.htm?gclid=CJ3Y4rSog4QCFQQdSAodJU2bfQ) can cost $5,800 US and weights nearly a ton. These tools along with the molds, stakes and anvils are more for forging and free form work which requires a lot more skill, money and room to do properly.

Lets not scare off the would-be metal workers before they've begun.

03-30-2006, 02:48 AM
Here's a question for those of us who may not know some of the terminology - what exactly is a bead, and in what applications would we want to put one in a piece of sheet metal?

03-30-2006, 03:52 AM
A bead is a rolled edge. Similar to the rim of a can lid. it adds stifness to a flat sheet and can help give the illusion that the metal is much thicker.

I have a raidmax 268FS open in front of me right now.
Its similar to This 268WSP (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811156019) If you look carefully at the drive racks (http://www.newegg.com/Product/ShowImage.asp?image=11-156-019-32.jpg,11-156-019-34.jpg,11-156-019-35.jpg,11-156-019-36.jpg,11-156-019-37.jpg,11-156-019-38.jpg,11-156-019-41.jpg,11-156-019-39.jpg,11-156-019-42.jpg,11-156-019-43.jpg,11-156-019-44.jpg,11-156-019-45.jpg,11-156-019-46.jpg,11-156-019-33.jpg,11-156-019-23.jpg&CurImage=11-156-019-42.jpg&Description=RAIDMAX%20Astro%20ATX-268WSP%20Silver%200.7mm%20Japanese%20SECC%20ATX%20 Mid%20Tower%20Computer%20Case%20-%20Retail) you will see what looks like a thick steel rod on edges of the vertical plate. Those are actually hollow rolled edges of the plate to stiffen up the rack - this is a type of bead. The same thing can be acomplished by making a right angle using a bending brake - it just won't look as finished. A bead can also be a corrugation in the middle of a panel (like the "X" that was stamped on old Jerry gas cans (http://www.e-gunparts.com/DisplayAd.asp?chrProductSKU=596080&chrSuperSKU=&MC=))

03-30-2006, 12:23 PM
Excellent explanation. Thank you. :D

Slug Toy
03-31-2006, 06:02 PM
ok its time for another addition. but frist i want to say its good to see the thread finally coming to life with some other peoples' ideas and questions. keep it rolling.

i said that i would have a segment about cutting up either yesterday or the day before, so im a bit late. i hurt my back at work on wednesday so bear with me here, i was bed ridden yesterday. needless to say, my worklog is postponed a bit. but on to cutting.

more tool ideas:

dremel- you've all probably heard of this one. it is to us what a hammer is to a carpenter, or what scissors are to a barber. its a must-have tool for cutting and many other tasks. as a side note that is related, you should have the proper ends for the dremel. you need cutting wheels to cut things (they look kind of like sandpaper disks) and a carbide bit of any sort is handy to have too.

angle grinder- this is usually seen in automotive shops, and is used to sand metal most of the time. it will also cut metal perfectly fine.

jigsaw- you see this more in woodwork, but it can cut metal too. you just need the right kind of blades (metal blades).

band saw- if you're lucky enough to have one of these in your shop, it will cut non ferrous metals no problem. it too was originally meant for woodwork though.

table saw- same deal with this as the band saw. if you have one, you're lucky. its meant for woodwork, but you can cut metal. two warnings though. do NOT cut thin metal on this. do NOT cut anything other than aluminum. you should only use it to cut 1/4" thick (or thicker) aluminum. if you cut thin sheet metal, the saw will grab it and shoot it back at you and cause all kinds of hell. if you use anything other than aluminum, there is a good chance it will be too dense and will gum everything up and maybe cause the blade to shatter from heat. generally i would not suggest using this tool unless you have been using it for years.

now, in terms of actual methods for cutting, i actually havent come up with explanations that suit. these tools (except the table saw) are the types of things that you really dont need training for. i figured out how to use them by trial and error and error and error... and then a success. im hoping that many of you either know how to use the tools i mentioned, or are smart enough to improvise. if this isnt the case though, or if you are prone to accidents, you may want to sit it out before you hurt yourself.

one thing i will say about cutting is that it wont be pretty when you're just starting out. you will have jagged edges and you'll probably slip a few times. practice makes perfect. dont worry about ugly things though, they can be fixed with your carbide dremel bit. you can try to avoid screwing up your good metal by cutting outside the lines a bit, so you will screwed up metal that you wont be needing. other than that, i dont really know what to say about cutting. oh ya, take your time as always.

thats it, im out of things to say right now. the next segment is fastening (cevinzol reminded me). until then, dont hurt your back.

03-31-2006, 06:41 PM
Sorry to hear about you back Slug. I now how it feels. I strained my lower back years ago and couldn't move for days. When your back is injured you hurt from head to toe.

maybe cause the blade to shatter from heat
An important thing to remember about metal cutting is that it can really heat up the cutting tool. Steel blades and bits are tempered (Rockwell Scale). That means they are heated till red hot then quickly cooled (quenched) to harden them. Hardend steel is very brittle but good for holding a cutting edge like blades, drill bits and files. To remove the brittleness the steel is then tempered. That is it is heated to a specific temperature and then allowed to cool. In the old days the color that the steel reached as it was heating determined the temper. Now days its all temperature controlled.

The thing is if you heat up a tool (through friction) you can remove the tools temper and it wont cut as well. If you see the tip of you brill bit start to turn straw colored, then blueish or start to smoke then you're taking the temper out and might as well get a new bit.

A good thing to have on hand is a lubricant. Jewlers use stuff called "bur life" on their flex shaft bits, which is mostly wax. This stuff also helps keep aluminum from gumming up the bits. For saw blades and brill bits you can use a little oil.

Slug Toy
04-04-2006, 04:16 AM
ok, its time to FASTEN your seatbelts, or armchairbelts, or couchbelts. whatever you're sitting on, just strap yourself in. its time to talk about more sheet metal crap.

fastening is a mildly interesting aspect of sheet metal work that i honestly dont have 100% experience in. i say this because i dont have access to a welder. i stick with rivets and folds to keep my metal together. no soldering though, thats just a pain.

so ill first cover new tools as i always do.

drill/drillpress- i never mentioned this lowly tool yet, but it really is a lifesaver sometimes. this will be for the purpose of drilling holes so they can be tapped for screws or bolts, or so that rivets can be put in place.

tapper thing-a-majig- i really dont remember what its called, maybe someone can help me out here. its a little tool that you twist in after you drill a hole, and it makes threads so you can then put in screws or bolts.

pop rivetter- very handy for putting rivets in sheet metal. a handheld tool that you squeeze to rivet things together. not much else to it.

so now ill cover rivetting, and screwing/bolting.

riveting is probably the easier of the two. all you need to do is line up the pieces of metal you want to fasten and drill a hole where you want to fasten them. then once you've drilled the hole, you can pop rivet it together there isnt too much to figure out, and not much can go wrong either.

now, putting in screws and bolts is a little more involved. once again, you line up the pieces and drill the holes, but this time you might want to clamp the pieces together so you can tap them easier. once the holes are drilled, get out your tapping thing-a-majig and something to lubricate. soap or cooking oil will work, but there are special oils for tapping that probably work better. so now you've got your tapping thing, your drilled and clamped metal, and your lube. put some lube on the tapping thing, and on the hole, and then start twisting the tapping thing into the hole. it should bite in and start working with a little fiddling and a few tries (this kind of stuff likes to go crooked a lot). it will probably be tough because you're trying to twist something into a hole that is too big to fit. its always tough when i do it. so then once you've tapped your metal, clean everything off and you're done! just screw or bolt it together.

im not going to cover welding mostly because ive forgotten a lot of it since i havent welded for about a year. also, its one of those things where if you have a welder, you'll know how to do it, and if you dont have a welder, you might as well forget about it and just rivet your metal or have it welded by someone else. dont go out and buy a welder for the sake of a computer case. it takes a while to learn that stuff, and in my experience it involves a few electrocutions and burns that really arent worth it. at the same rate, if you DO have a welder to fool around with, and you know what you're doing, go for it.

perhaps someone else can add a bit about welding in here if they have the time and knowledge. it might not be necessary for the reasons i just put forth though. up to you guys.

so im running out of things to talk about here. my back is getting to the point where i can resume work on my case (and worklog, hooray) so ill probably have my mind on other things as well. if you guys can think of anything else, put it in here, or ask me to think about it. other than that, im going to slowly muddle around with my mod and random metal work ideas to be posted.

04-04-2006, 06:40 AM
tapper thing-a-majig-

It's simply called a tap or a tap set.

04-07-2006, 05:45 PM
In the few mods that I've done I've had access to a metal worker's shop and as someone who is still a novice, I can't stress how much a good file set has helped .
It's slow and takes some practice and effort, but learning to use metal files is vital in finish work. Dremel's aren't always as practical as a good file.

Also, for anyone out there that wants to try their hand at soldering, get some copper plumbing pipe and solder. Use a propane torch. It shows you how to use it at higher levels and can teach you how to work with heatpipes.

Just my 2 cents.

04-15-2006, 03:14 PM

05-28-2006, 03:53 AM
Alright, i feel like i should have something to contribute.

MIG, TIG, stick, and Brazing

It doesnt matter what you call it, it is still just putting metal together, or building it up for strength. for the sake of modding purposes, i will stick (heh small pun) to welding sheet metal. i will briefly cover the type of joints commonly used.

Butt joint:
The butt joint is when two peices of metal come together on the same plane. for thick stuff, you usually want to leave 3/4 the thickness metal gap between the two peices. even thicker require the edge to be beveled. Sheet metal, however, is usually placed so it is touching.

Lap joint:
The lap joint is where one of the peices is laid directly over the top of another, overlapping it by however much the welder shooses. i keep it to between 1/2 in to 1 in overlap. then a bead is laid on the edges of the metal.

Corner joint:
you take both peices of metal and put them at any angle you want, like but butt joint, but just not straight. tack and weld it up from there.

Because the sheer fact that sheet metal can easily be blown through by welding, special caution is needed so there is no blow-through. you can stop this by...

Mig: mig likes to blow holes through sheet metal. often the easiest for a beginner to use, the wire is automatically fed through a gun with a trigger setup. My advice is, if you are a beginner, which you should be otherwise you wouldnt be reading this, tack (basically just weld a dot) the peices together. instead of welding them, with a conventional bead, tack the metal as if you were laying coins on the material one by one so they overlap.

A special mig kit is needed to weld aluminum, and it does not work wll at all.

TIG: if you have acess to one of there beauties, your in great luck. Practice using both hands and foot. remember, anybody can weld mig, but not as many can weld TIG. The secret here is to push the bead along. the arc is plenty hot enough to melt your wire. get the stuff in the arc, smuch it where you want it, and use your arc to move it around. dont get too close otherwise the metal will seemingly leap onto your electrode. this will happen but remember this.


i cannot stress this point enough. the circle pattern from grinding makes the arc jump and bounce all over the place while the vertical grooves make it focused.

what you need to do for stick is learn how to strike an arc. some tap it, but i find that difficult. i find if you keep the stick at about 30 degrees off vertical and drag it you can get a very nice strike.

another thing, if you want to weld sheet metal, you will need a fast-freeze electrode. it does nothing other than cool down-realy fast. which helps so you dont blow through.

as far as i know i do not believe you can weld aluminum with a stick machine.

Brazing is a lot like tig in the sense that you ave two hands working at the same time. get good at setting the torch. you need to set the level of acetylene so that smoke stops pouring out of the flames, it you want to be precise i suggest a very soft flame.

if you have ever soldered on a large scale, this would be it. instead of just laying a layer of metal on top, like soldering, this actually bonds with the metal. any time i have ever dont this it was with sheet metal, i have never burned through, and it leaves a cool gold like finish when done.

3:00 AM Peace out

06-19-2006, 02:45 AM
Great work Slug and Maz for the last bit. Very well explained.

I'm realy never one for safty first and all that but a quick nightclass in welding is realy a good idea. Needless to say that sh*t melts skin alot faster than metal!

Last thing you guys need is some kid with no face and a rather ticked off mother at your door =S

*Take note this is proberly the closest I'll get to being a responsible adult!*

7 something am.....realy should hit the hay!

06-20-2006, 01:13 PM
this is a rule of thumb when welding, when the metal is red, its still hot. when its not red anymore, its still hot. ten minutes later, still hot. guys make sure you have a bucket of water around to quench the metal so it cools faster.

if you chew, lick, pick up, or stick the welded material in your pants, i am not at fault for describing how to weld. what may follow from your own stupidity is your own fault and please treat it as such.

06-20-2006, 07:45 PM
Aluminum can be stick welded It takes a DC welder and special Rods but it can be done. Aluminum can also be soldered (real close to brazing but not as strong), you have to have Aluminum solder (some times called aluminum brazing rod) Belive it or not Lowes carries this, granted it's in short little 12" stick and it costs an arm and a half but it's there. The DOwn side to aluminum soldering is that it's not very strong, it will hold decrotive peice to gether well, may even work ok for a case that doesn't move allot. But If it's going to move (or have allot of weight or vibration on it) have it welded, cause you'll not like the out come if you don't.

Side saftey note, Allways wear the correct welding maks for the type of welding that your doing.... (arc welding takes a much darker filter then welding (or brazing) with a tourch). Many of these type of welding use High presure gases, make sure the tanks are properly secure from falling (Ie. Chaied to a bottle stand or wall etc) and that you check your hoses for leaks before use. All welding produces toxic gases make sure you work in a well ventalated area. Allways wear long sleeves (Cotton!!!) and thick gloves that metal gets hot and stays hot for a long time!!

Good luck!!!


07-11-2006, 01:06 AM
thanks for all the tips my next mod is going to have a bit of sheet metal so this a a huge help!

11-16-2006, 09:27 PM
can anyone recomend a place i can purchase a bench rolling machine?

Slug Toy
11-17-2006, 12:52 AM
well i suppose that depends on where you live. if i know that, i can have a look around. i dont know what ill find though. if all else fails, you can just ask at a home improvement store and maybe they can set you in the right direction.

11-17-2006, 01:42 AM
i live in the u.s. ny. i don't need a super big one i need something that can roll sheet metal up to 12'' - 16" wide.

02-05-2007, 12:20 PM
Slip rollers are not cheap, the cheapest one is about $200
HarborFreight 12" Slip Roller (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=36698) and only does up to 12" wide 20 gauge metal.

The next one does 30" wide 20 Gauge, but also has a Shear and Press Brake built in, it's about $400
HarborFreight 30" Sear, Press Break, and slip roll (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=5907)

Now these Prices are with out shipping (these things are heavy up to 300+ lbs)
and might now be the best quality, But they give you options!


02-05-2007, 09:05 PM
hey fellow ny'er :D -naspc

12-23-2010, 09:04 PM
Nice basic start you have going here. I have a couple of things I'd like to add.

Drilling ,
Lube: As someone already stated most high speed tools are head treated. Cutting friction will cause these tools to heat up and fail. This is just as true of your run of the mill drill bit (in fact more) as it is for a carbide end mill. Machine shops use oil and other lubricant baths to keep the tooling cool and cutting properly. When we drill holes use machine oil or in worst case some 30wt motor oil to bathe the bit and hole preventing overheat. This will give you a cleaner faster cut and your bits will last longer.

Backing: Another item when drilling holes, especially into sheet metal is to have a backing to drill into. I personally use scrap wood as I have a lot of it, but acrylic, acetel or any other soft solid surface will work. You’re going to cut into the backing so make sure it’s something you’re willing to have random holes cut into. Basically what you are doing is preventing the thin metal edges from pushing out as the drill goes through your workspace. This will keep the exit hole clean and in the case of thin sheet prevent tares.

Center Punch: A good center punch can make the difference between a perfect hole and a total disaster. If you are using a drill or drill press this is a MUST have item. Harbor freight has a nice spring loaded punch for something like 5 dollars, so there is no excuse to not have one of these tools. This tool simply makes a small dent where you want to drill. This dent holds the drill bit in place and will prevent it from "walking" away from where you want to drill the hole.

Drill Speed: The specific math for this can be found here (http://its.fvtc.edu/MachShop3/speedCalc/SpeedRPM.htm) for those who are cutting bigger things. From a modders perspective however we just want to know that the bigger the bit the slower you want to run it. Additionally you can drill aluminum parts faster as the materiel is softer and carries heat better than steel.

12-23-2010, 11:31 PM
First off having been a Specialty Metals Welder\Fabricator I'll say there is alot more art and science to welding than I would even consider going into in a thread like this. If your serious about learning the basics hit up your local comunity college and take a class or two. Alot of times after you have the basics down the instructors will allow you to bring in your own project work and you can get grades for doing your mods :glasses:

I will put a couple of tips here for the folks who have some experience operating the gear and may want to do some sheet welding for a mod.

Prepwork: Prep is 75% of a clean weld in steel and 85-90% with aluminum. If you just slap to peices of metal together and go to town you are not only going to have something that looks like ass but it also more than likely wont fit where you wanted it to go. Take the time to test fit everything, pick the apropriate joint for the weld you want to make and thouroghly prep your weld surface. Remember that butt and angle joints requrie space between them depending on the thickness of the materiel. Also practice on scrap and fine tune your settings.

Know what you are welding and pick the filler and process acordingly. Mild steels are very forgiving on filler materiel, however Stainless and Aluminum are not. If you have questions about this your weld supplier will be able to sugest appropriate materiels to use with your particular project.

Don't forget to clean your optics. When you are welding you get smoke etc in your face and it covers your lense. The problem is that with a 10 or 12 tint lense you dont notice this dirt build up and the next thing you know your welding your pliers to the table.

Warpage: When it comes to sheet welding this will be one of your biggest enemies, even in the small scale of a PC mod. There are two things that can significantly help you with this. 1)Weld Hot and fast. Your heatscource will be at any given point for a shorter time and there will be less bleedthrough to the rest of the weldment. 2)Dont weld the whole thing in one go. Start from the inside and weld out.. go 4 inches then skip 4 etc.. then fill in the blank spots.

Aluminum: Al is an interesting beast to weld. One of Aluminum's defining charitcteristics is that it forms an oxide skin on contact with air. The problem with this is that the oxide skin has a very high melting point and the aluminum has a very low melting point, if you dont clean your weld joint properly you will blow holes and make a huge ugly mess. Obviously tig is the 1st choice for welding this but a properly setup mig setup will do a nice job as well, even without a spool gun. The particulars of that are beyond the scope of this post, I may dedicate a thread to it later on or your more than welcome to hit me a PM if you have questions. End all be all, rememver clean.. very clean use a stainless brush to brush off the oxide at the minimum.

After The weld: In the case of something as clean as what we want our mods to be you need to follow up and clean your welds. Even with an Inert gas process there will be contaminents left at the surface of your weld, if you paint over these they will cause corosion flaky paint etc.

Additionaly resist the urge of quenching your weldment in water unless you have a specific metalurgical reason to do so. Quenching will change the properties of your weld, in the case of mild steel quenching typcialy hardens the weld causing it to be brittle and snap under stress. In most cases its best to just wait and let it air cool.

12-24-2010, 08:46 AM
It's never too late for great advice. +rep MrGoat