How to bend stainless steel sheets

Written by c.l. rease
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How to bend stainless steel sheets
Scoring stainless steel sheets with a grinder eases the hand bending process. (grinder sparks image by Mateusz Papiernik from Fotolia.com)

Chromium and nickel give stainless steel its stain resistance and attribute to the hardness of the metal. This added hardness increases the amount of force needed to place a bend on a stainless steel sheet. As you bend a stainless steel sheet the bend area cold hardens, increasing the amount of pressure required to finish the bend. This makes bending stainless steel with common hand tools difficult and a sheet metal brake is often required, although one technique to bend stainless steel using hand tools works well on shorter length bends.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Awl
  • Safety glasses
  • Center punch
  • Hammer
  • Sheet metal brake
  • Straightedge
  • Permanent marker
  • .040 thickness, 11.2 cm (4.5 inch) abrasive cutting wheel
  • 11.2 cm (4.5 inch) angle grinder
  • Leather work gloves
  • Face shield

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Instructions

    Mark the sheet

  1. 1

    Measure and mark the bend location along one edge of the stainless steel sheet with the tape measure and awl. Place a second bend mark on the edge of the stainless steel sheet parallel to the edge you just marked.

  2. 2

    Put on your safety glasses.

  3. 3

    Center mark each bend location by setting the pointed end of the centre punch on each mark and hitting the back of the centre punch with a hammer.

    Bend the sheet

  1. 1

    Push the clamping leaf handles away from you to raise the clamping leaf.

  2. 2

    Slide the marked stainless steel sheet under the clamping leaf, align the two centre marked bending locations with the pivot line of the lower bending leaf and pull the clamping leaf handles toward you to lock the stainless steel sheet in position.

  3. 3

    Pull the bending handles of the bending leaf up to bend the stainless steel sheet.

  4. 4

    Lower the bending leaf and inspect the angle of the bend. If you need to increase the bend, repeat step three until you have reached the desired bend angle.

  1. 1

    Align the straightedge with the two centre marked locations on the stainless steel sheet, draw a line along the straightedge with a permanent marker and remove the straightedge from the sheet's surface.

  2. 2

    Attach a .040 thickness, 11.2 cm (4.5 inch) abrasive grinding wheel to the 11.2 cm (4.5 inch) angle grinder.

  3. 3

    Put on your leather work gloves and face shield.

  4. 4

    Score along the permanent marker line with the .040 abrasive cutting wheel by starting at the point the line intersects the edge of the stainless steel sheet nearest you and working across the sheet. The scored line must be at least one-half the thickness of the stainless steel sheet. You must avoid cutting through and ruining the sheet.

  5. 5

    Pull toward one side of the stainless steel sheet toward the score line with your gloved hands to bend the sheet.

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