Sheet Metal Bending: How to Bend Thin Strips of Sheet Metal

What You'll Need
Bench-mounted vise
Angle iron
Butane torch
Pipe pliers

Sheet metal bending can be an art, but it’s one you can master. Professional shops use tools called brakes that are set to different angles. You might not have the same equipment, but you can still undertake sheet metal bending on small strips. It takes patience to do, and the sheet metal bending might not be as perfect as the professional, certainly good enough for small jobs you’ll need.

Step 1 - Angle

Begin by finding out what angle you need for the bend in the sheet metal. Take an old protractor and mark the angle in heavy marker so it’s easily visible. During the sheet metal bending this will be your guide to ensure you end up with the correct angle.

Step 2 - Sheet Metal

Take your strip of sheet metal and make sure that the sides are straight and fully trimmed. Use snips to remove any burrs and all the sharp edges that might snag as you undertake the sheet metal bending. Wear heavy gloves for this and keep them on for the whole procedure to avoid burning yourself or cutting yourself on the sheet metal.

Step 3 - Vise

You’ll need to have the sheet metal strip against one of the sides of the angle iron. That side will go into the vise so that the sheet metal is between the vise and the angle iron, still allowing your self room to work, with the sheet metal closest to you. The part of the sheet metal you’re going to bend should be well clear of the vise. Keep the protractor close by.

Step 4 - Heating

Light the butane torch and play it over the area of the sheet metal that you’re going to bend. The metal needs to be red hot or orange hot. Be careful not to heat it so much that it turns white hot. Don’t keep the heat trained on a single spot for more than a few seconds. Move the torch around instead until the sheet metal has taken on the color you need.

Step 5 - Bending

Once the metal is hot enough, turn off the torch and pick up the pipe pliers. Taking hold of the sheet metal at the top, begin to bend it toward you. Keep checking the angle with the protractor. It’s important that you don’t try to bend the metal further than it will easily go. Once you’ve reached that point, stop, even if it’s not as far as you need for your sheet metal bending.

Step 6 - Completion

If you’ve bent to the proper angle, the job is complete. If not, light the torch and heat the metal again at the bed, Go until it’s red hot once more, then bend further with the pliers. You should be able to complete the job on the second pass. If not, heat and bend once more until you’ve finished. Be sure to allow the sheet metal to cool completely before removing it from the vise and handling.