You can bend stainless steel in a number of different ways, but bending it precisely really limits your options. There are some speciality tools professionals use to bend stainless steel, and if you know what to look for, they're not that hard to find.
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Sheet-metal brakes come in industrial sizes that tip the scales at over a ton and cost tens of thousands of dollars; however, brakes also come in portable sizes that cost a couple of hundred dollars. Regardless of cost and size, a sheet-metal brake's purpose is to put a long bend in a piece of sheet metal by sandwiching the metal between two steel clamps and bending it to the desired angle. Brakes allow users to bend metal into L, V, Z, J and U shapes, while giving the metal a clean bend. Brakes can be used to make flashing, counters, gutters, boxes, planters and any number of creative projects. A general rule when using brakes is, the heavier the brake, the better the bend. In addition, the lighter the metal gauge, the easier it will be to bend with a brake.
Hand benders are a pair of pliers with a flat, wide mouth instead of a regular plier head. This tool is useful for bending small areas of sheet metal no more than a foot in length, and are usually used for bending sections of metal that are too small to bend with a brake. Many professionals carry hand benders with them on jobs to make small bends or customisations so they don't have to go back to a shop to make a bend. If the metal being bent is dependent on appearance, using a hand bender may not be the best option because they are difficult to get a clean bend with. If you are bending a piece of metal that is more for function than looks, like roof flashing, then a hand bender may work just fine. A brake is always the best option for bending metal, but if there isn't one available, a hand bender may do the trick.
Any time you are bending stainless steel or sheet metal in general, you will need to bend small pieces and tabs during the project. The best way to bend tabs if they are less than an inch is by using a basic pair of pliers. Some people use needle-nose pliers, and some people use standard pliers. It really doesn't matter what kind of pliers you use as long as you have a pair handy. Pliers are also useful in holding metal together while you drill, rivet or solder, and are really one of the essential sheet-metal tools.
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