Many times we find ourselves in the middle of a job with a need to do something which we never initially planned to do. These moments very often happen on a Sunday afternoon and the closest hardware store is long closed for business and your weekend is coming to an end with you being nowhere near your deadline.
And other times, you just need to find a way to work with steel without necessarily having to buy a new machine. Especially if you’re most probably not going to be doing this type of work shortly again.
Here are a few metals working hacks to make you look like the real MacGyver.
Bending Sheet Metal
Bending sheet metal can be tricky, but with the right tool, it’s easy. Those who work with it regularly are likely to have a sheet metal bending brake in their workshop, but this tool can be a bit expensive for the hobbyist. Thankfully, there are a couple of wallet-friendly options that can help you get the job done.
Using the edge of your workbench, a length of wood, two clamps, and a mallet, you can fashion a rudimentary bending brake. Mark a bend line and place the sheet metal on the edge of your bench. Next place the wood parallel and slightly behind the bending line. Clamp the wood on top of the metal to the workbench. Finally, bend the sheet up by hand to the angle desired. If you want a sharp 90° bend, tap along the crease with a mallet.
Using Heat To Bend Metal
For carbon steels, this is practical when this metal has a high enough carbon content to be heat-treatable. There’s no reason to do this with something like mild steel. To do this with steel, you want to heat the steel until it’s a nice cherry red, and then cool it as slowly as possible. For most steels, this means no more than about 20-degree Celcius per hour.
This can be tough with smaller pieces especially. So here’s a trick:
Get some really dry sand. If you’re using something like playground sand then cook it for a while to get rid of any moisture. Then get a bigger block of steel and heat it bright cherry red, then bury it in the sand. This will let the sand warm-up.
Then heat your smaller piece, and once you’re up to temp, put it alongside the bigger piece of metal. All that nice warm snuggling between the two materials will keep the smaller piece from cooling too quickly. Let it sit a few hours (or overnight) and you’ll have a nice, annealed, malleable piece of steel.