How to Use an English Wheel

Written by jorina fontelera
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How to Use an English Wheel
Ron Fournier, a metal fabrication expert and author, using an English wheel to shape a metal panel. (Aircraft Maintenance Technology)

On average, it takes an apprentice 5 years to learn how to use an English wheel. While nothing compares to formal instruction from skilled machinists, you can practice using the English wheel by following this beginner's guide. Don't fret if it is difficult at first. Using this tool takes practice.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Metal sheets

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  1. 1

    Insert the metal panel into the wheel and start with a slight amount of pressure against the metal. Pass the metal back-and-forth between the two rollers to gauge the amount of pressure they are placing on the metal sheet. You will know the pressure setting is correct if the rollers keep the metal from slipping or skipping but do not produce roller marks on the metal.

  2. 2

    Move the metal in a smooth back-and-forth motion to form the curve. This is called tracking. Make sure that with each pass of the metal, the wheel is close enough to the previous one so they overlap slightly.

  3. 3

    Move the panel from side to side as well. Ensure the entire panel passes through the wheel.

  4. 4

    Wheel short passes on the area you want to curve more to have more shape on one side, then go over the whole part and overlap the part you've already wheeled.

Tips and warnings

  • Remember that it takes several wheelings to get a high-crowned curve in a metal panel. Start with a low-crowned anvil and work up to more distinct curves. Anvils with too much crown at the outset will mar the metal.

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