Bending Metal

I’m playing with several projects at once right now, mostly to increase my abilities to make metal behave. So far the score is Metal 4, Pono 1. And that 1 was probably a tie at best.

What I’m up to is updating and upgrading Nero, my Airstream toyhauler. When I built Nero I cut a lot of corners as far as the fit and trim of the garage interior goes. I also cut a few in the living space, but not as egregiously. I’m trying improve the fit and appearance of things like the cabinet doors and drawers. I want to use as much of the original parts as I can, just make them better.

To that end I recently bought some metal shaping tools in addition to the basic stuff I already have. I got a shrinker and stretcher from Harbor tools that seems to work quite well. They’re foot operated on a pedestal mount with makes them much easier to use.

I also bought a great 36″ powered bead roller from Mittler Brothers, as well as some oval cut/flare dies and a hydraulic hole punch for sheet metal. The plan is to do something decorative with the doors and drawers at the same time that I make them work better.

As always, there’s a learning curve, and so far I’m screwing up with both hands. Besides some obvious mistakes I’m also having trouble with the panels distorting. Lots to learn. I’ll keep at it, but in the meantime here’s the initial screwups, and one not-so-bad door and cover.

Two cabinet doors

Besides some obvious scewups and inaccuracies, the big doors are too distorted to use. I may try to put them on a welded frame, or just try again. Probably just try again.



This door works, and doesn’t look too bad. The finger hole was already there, so I shifted the design to the left.



That makes it off-center to the lower panel design which is shifted right to avoid the switch plate. Together they look like crap. I’m going to redo the lower panel in hopes that I can make the pair tolerable. I’m probably chasing mistakes and compounding problems, but it’s worth a go. I need to go to Portland and get a bunch of fresh aluminum to screw up.


Not bad looking, but it oilcans like crazy. I need practice, and better designs. these look a little adolescent.




I made a new cover panel to rivet¬† onto the bottom cover. I’m happier with it, though it still looks like works of primitive man. It’s going to take practice to get the lines straight and the curves consistent.


IMG_1173 IMG_1178

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