Beginner Sheet Metal techniques...

Sheet Metal Fabrication techniques, questions and help. "Tricks of the Trade"

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Beginner Sheet Metal techniques...

Post by HUMMIKE » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:10 pm

Hi All,

This is my first post, so thanks in advance for any help you can provide. I am an absolute beginner when it comes to sheet metal fabrication, and am looking for some general information and insider tips :wink: .

I want to build myself some really simple desktop organization pieces. I realize that I could go out and buy cheap stuff, but I'm particular about style and I love to design things myself. I suppose if the pieces proved very functional (and cost-effective), I could sell them someday, but for now I just need a side project.

The design basically involves folding sheet metal into a functional shape. End of story. No complex shaping, perforations, etc. My concerns are as follows:

1. What is the best type of sheet goods to use? I love the shiny, brushed look of aluminum or stainless steel, but am concerned about price.

2. What is a typical gauge for something of this nature? Picture a 12" square piece of steel folded so it stands like an open book. What thickness would I need so that there is no deflection in the piece (maximum span would be 12").

3. How much finishing would the cut piece need to ensure I don't cut myself on the edges or corners and what are these processes even called?? I don't want to roll any edges, simply finish them as cleanly as possible. I would be alright with a slightly rounded corner, but whatever is easiest (cheapest) and keeps the corner as square as possible would be best. (I'd love to know some lingo before I discuss it with a fabricator!).

4. How much of this is manageable from home? I've found designs for DIY sheet brakes, etc and would love to get the sheets cut and finished, and then bend them myself if possible. I assume this would save quite a bit of the fabrication costs (if I was making several copies).

Any help is really appreciated!


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Re: Beginner Sheet Metal techniques...

Post by Bruce_Mowbray » Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:44 am

Have you considered getting one of those multi purpose sheet metal machines for Harbor Freight? ... -5907.html
I looked at one of these in the store and they looked like a handy tool to have at home for those little projects like you mention. The one I saw in the store appeared to be of decent quality. A few things look like they might wear out with heavy use but most of the machine can be repaired with the making of bushings and guides if necessary. The only other thing you might need is a corner notcher for making boxes although a good set (right, left, and straight) of snips works too.

20 gauge steel or aluminum would be more than heavy enough for desk top organizers. Stiffening creases (cross breaking) could be added to reduce "tin canning" on wide surfaces.
Bruce Mowbray
Springville & Southern RR
TMB Manufacturing & Locomotive Works

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