Sheet metal brakes have long been a standby for small shop owners and home enthusiasts that work on small appliances or even do light body work on vehicles or lawn equipment. Brakes are used to create specific, sharp bends in pieces of sheet metal to give a clean, even look to the metal. Metal brakes can be quite expensive, but it is possible to build your own metal brake at home from relatively common materials.
Build the Base
Building a base for the brake is important as you want a solid platform on which to lay and bend your metal. Some brakes are small enough to have a simple wooden platform built on which to mount them, but others are quite large and will require being attached to either a table or a workbench. Use a saw to cut out an appropriate-sized piece of 1-inch thick hardwood lumber. Cut four smaller squares from the hardwood to act as feet and screw them onto each corner of the platform. If your brake is going to be table mounted, drill a few holes into the edge of the table or workbench. Screw one side of the brake jaws into it. Secure the side of the brake with screws all the way down the length of the table.
The actual brake consists of two metal jaws clamped together on a piece of sheet metal, bending it into the appropriate angle. The brake jaws can be made out of a myriad of different materials. According to Dave Clay, a home builder from Temple, Texas, however, a formidable and inexpensive brake can be made from pieces of metal angle iron. Lay one piece of angle iron on top of another with the valleys of each angle facing opposite directions. Drill holes periodically throughout the length of the two pieces of metal and connect them with washers and bolts. Attach a solid door hinge along the length of one edge of the angle iron and then attach another piece of angle iron to the hinge so that it will fold into the valley of the other angle iron.
Finish the brake up by mounting the jaws or brake onto the base if you have not already done this. Simply use some wood screws and washers to secure the main portion of the jaws to the base. To use the brake, slide a piece of sheet metal into the jaws of the instrument and then lift up or push down on the jaw handle to slowly begin bending the metal until you have reached the appropriate angle.
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