Whenever we spend time in a pro fabrication shop we always pick up a tip or two to take with us to our home shop. The guys who do this work day in and day out have learned some good tricks to speed up their work and make it more accurate.
Simple things such as using a silver permanent marker on black-painted or dark metal surfaces to legibly mark your dimensions may seem obvious, but to some it may be a revealing technique. It’d certainly be nice to have a computer-controlled plasma cutter for making mount brackets, but you can produce some fine work with cardboard patterns and some more basic cutting tools. You can lay out fullsize patterns with a simple computer draw program and use printed patterns for cutting.
With some care and time spent you can get professional results. There’s a bit beyond the measure twice, cut once advice to help get your projects done. Here are a few shop tips that might help.
A simple way to transfer holes or other locations from a plate or surface is to do a pencil rubbing of the object on a piece of paper placed over it. From that, you can transfer dimensions to a like piece. Sometimes magnets or spray-on contact cement used with the paper or cardboard pattern can aid in the transfer of patterns or dimensions. The pattern can also be held in place while cutting or drilling the material.
When preparing to cut long pieces of sheet material, a simple combination square can help mark your cut line. Simply adjust the square to the needed cut dimension and slide it along the edge of the sheet with a marker placed at the end of the ruler to mark the cut line.
When building mounts or components for suspension links or steering you often want the bolt hardware to fit closely to the drilled hole. One way to keep the hole tolerance very close to the bolt size is to drill the hole slightly undersized with a standard drill bit then ream the hole to the final dimension using a closely matching reamer.
Ever have to cut a bolt or other metal part that’s inaccessible with a cutting disc or reciprocating saw? Consider using an oscillating multi-tool with a metal cutting or carbide blade. This method may not cut fast but can reach into places to cut where other tools can’t.
Any time you’re making some brackets or mounts from scratch where you need more than one, it may be helpful to tack-weld plate stock together so you can cut and shape all the pieces the same. Once the shaping is complete, you can grind away the tack welds to separate your identical plates.
When cutting sheetmetal, whether it is aluminum or steel, you’re often left with a burred edge. It’s common to smooth the edge with a flap disc or file, but a deburr tool can be swiped across the cut edge to quickly clean up any burring that might exist. This tool works well on holes cut with a hole saw as well.