How to bend sheet metal without a brake

Written by nathaniel miller
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How to bend sheet metal without a brake
A homemade metal brake will allow you to build all kinds of metalworking projects. (

Working with sheet metal can be a rewarding, albeit sometimes frustrating, experience. Sheet metal is used for car autobodies, building truck beds, and other odds and ends around the house/yard. If you are a part time or "recreational" metal worker, you may not have access to all of the workings of a metal shop. When working with sheet metal one particularly useful piece of equipment is the brake. A brake is a device that allows you to bend a piece of sheet metal at a particular angle. Metal shops have brakes mounted at different angles with automated braking arms, however it is possible to bend sheet metal at home without the use of a brake.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Butane torch
  • Bench mounted vice
  • Set of large pipe pliers
  • Clear protractor
  • Angle Iron

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  1. 1

    Determine the angle at which you want to brake the metal and mark it on the protractor. You will use the protractor to gauge the brake as you bend the metal little by little. Cut the section of metal out or otherwise prepare the metal to be bent by removing any burrs or sharp edges.

  2. 2

    Slide the angle iron into the jaws of the vice so that it lays flat the length of the piece of metal you are going to bend.

  3. 3

    Sandwich the sheet metal into the jaws of the vice as well. As you bend it the metal will be heading towards you.

  4. 4

    Light the butane torch and use it to warm the metal along the section where you visualise the bend to take place. Get the metal glowing red to orange, but not white.

  5. 5

    Grab the top of the metal with the pliers as the section you heated cools off and pull towards you gently at first. The metal should bend, but only bend it as far as it goes without forcing it. If you need to, reheat the metal and redo the bend.

Tips and warnings

  • Perform the bends slowly in order to ensure even, decent-looking corners. If you work too quickly you run the risk of denting or bending the metal.
  • Do not heat the metal too hot as you could melt right through the sheet metal and create a hole.

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