As a long time car enthusiast who doesn’t feel like a car is truly mine until we’ve swapped blood for grease, body work, restoration, and sheet metal fabrication are subjects of great interest. Though I don’t have a ton of experience or skill in this arena, I do enjoy metal shaping and would like very much to develop a talent for it. I’m a visual learner, and an avid reader, so I picked up a copy of Timothy Remus’ book Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication; Build from Scratch with Aluminum and Steel.
If you’re interested in the subject, Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication is a pretty quick read full of great information, practical advice, and differing opinions from masters of the craft. When it comes to most things I’m a firm believer in there not being one single right way to do anything. Based on the format of Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication, I think Tim Remus would agree. Remus puts in shop time with several metal masters, each of them embracing a different technique to similar ends, closing each chapter and shop tour with an interview.
Metal shaping is an intimidating craft to dabble in, with a high perceived barrier to entry. Most guys picture a vast shop with abundant floor space to accommodate loud, expensive equipment like english wheeling machines, power hammers, sheet metal brakes and shears, bead rollers, planishing hammers, and welders. I finished Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication feeling like all I needed to get started is a few hammers and dollies, and maybe some basic welding equipment to join pieces. You may want or need some of the fancier equipment if you stick with it, but these guys show you don’t need most of it.
The book begins with a focus on the importance of patterns and bucks with practical guidance on how you can apply them to your projects at home. Remus then covers basic sheet metal welding, and different methods of metal forming. Master Craftsman Steve Davis prefers shaping on a power hammer. Ron Covell builds a pedal car on a hammer form. Bob Munroe crafts custom cycle parts using only hand tools – primarily hammers, dollies, and a torch, planishing his pieces on an english wheel. Bo Olson recreates parts for rare and unusual cars and motorcycles. Neal Letourneau shows you, step by step, how to build a scoop using only hand tools. And there’s more.
Of course the only way you’re going to become a master metal man is to get out to your shop with a willingness to put in the time and create a lot of scrap metal, but Ultimate Sheet Metal Fabrication is a great inspiration with a wealth of advice. If you’re interested in learning to work with metal, or improving your skill, this is a great place to start.