How to Bend Sheet Metal by Hand

Written by c.l. rease
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Sheet metal has many uses around your home. Fortunately, the sheet metal used in residential construction is light-gauged, meaning it is thin and easily bent by hand. If you find that you do not have a sheet metal brake or a press brake, you can still bend the sheet metal by hand. Each type of thin sheet metal requires the same general hand tools to perform a hand bend; only the amount of pressure required to hand bend the sheet metal will differ.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Worktable
  • Dust brush
  • Tape measure
  • Permanent marker
  • 2 pair of self-locking pliers
  • Leather work gloves
  • Wooden or rubber mallet
  • Sheet metal hand tongs

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Clear the surface of the worktable of debris by wiping the surface with the dust brush. Even a small piece of hard debris can cause a dent in light-gauged sheet metal.

  2. 2

    Mark the location for the bend in the sheet metal. Stretch the tape measure along one edge of the sheet metal and place a mark with the permanent marker. Repeat the process to place a second mark along the edge parallel to the edge where you placed the first bend mark.

  3. 3

    Align the two bend marks you made in the last step with one edge of the worktable and secure the piece of sheet metal to the worktable with the two pair of self-locking pliers. Place a pair of self-locking pliers at each location a bend mark intersects the edge of the worktable.

  4. 4

    Put on the leather work gloves and press down firmly on the sheet metal that is hanging over the edge of the worktable with the palms of your gloved hands until the sheet metal bends closely to the lower edge of the worktable.

  5. 5

    Hit the bend of the sheet metal with the wooden or rubber mallet to tighten the bend. Release the sheet metal from the worktable by opening the two pair of self-locking pliers holding the sheet metal to the worktable.

  6. 6

    Flip the sheet metal over so the bend you placed on the sheet metal is facing skyward.

  7. 7

    Slide the sheet metal hand tongs over the short side of the sheet metal bend and apply pressure toward the inside of the bend to force the bend to the angle you need on the sheet metal.

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