Sheetmetal Bending 101
Quite literally, books have been written on the topic of bending sheetmetal to form useful shapes. We don’t intend to duplicate all that knowledge here, but rather give you, the home fabricator and 4x4 nut, some information and tools to help you bend metal for whatever project you see fit.
Also, we didn’t learn to use sheetmetal or press brakes the way someone should—we just dove in head-first and learned from experience and the occasional failure. We definitely have more to learn on the topic, but we feel we have enough experience to share. We have used sheetmetal, mostly steel, to build transmission tunnel covers, bikini tops, body parts, boxes, fan shrouds, and more.
As you know, adding a bend to a piece of metal makes it much more ridged. Bending metal can be done with a sheetmetal brake, a press brake, or even a few pieces of angle iron and some clamps, or a few pliers and a bench vise. For the purposes of this article we are going to talk about using an old Chinese sheetmetal brake and a Swag Off Road 12-ton press brake with Swag Off Road press plates on a 12-ton Harbor Freight Tools shop press. So this is a simplification focused on bending about 22-gauge up to 1/4-inch for brackets, but bending sheetmetal is still complicated. You need to understand a few things about the metal and how it will react to being bent—or just bend away and hope it doesn’t fail when the going gets tough! To learn more check out the photos below and continue to educate yourself on the topic.