DIY Sheet Metal Bending Brake ~ Part 3 ~ It Works!

It has been a long time of no progress on my homemade, DIY sheet metal brake. But now that the push on the interior walls is over, I have had some time to work on the project.

You can catch up on previous work on the brake at Part 1 and Part 2.

I have good news to report: It works!

After my Part 2 entry, I lightly tack welded the “hinges” in place. I made the hinges from three-quarter-inch diameter, three-inch long bolts with three nuts. You can see in the next photo that I used the angle grinder to grind away the I-beam to allow two of the nuts to rotate on the bolt:

Then I cut away part of the angle iron to receive the bolt on the part of the brake that swings up to bend sheet metal:

By the way, the angle iron pieces are stamped with the name “Sheffield Steel,” a foundry in business in Ohio since 1955. I got the steel from a building that was being demolished at the old U.S.Air Force, Howard Air Force Base just outside of Panama City. So I have a piece of history right here in my shop.

Next I temporarily clamped the angle iron in place and welded, little by little, the bolt and nuts in place. I kept testing to make sure that the angle iron would swing on the hinge. In the next photo is the completed hinge assembly. Also notice that I had to build a truss to keep the swinging angle iron in a straight line and to keep it from deflecting:


UPDATE JAN 2016 ~ Several people have asked for better photos of the hinge. Here are two recent photos showing how I welded the bolt head and the nuts to the brake body and the hinged part:

P1030569-001 P1030571-001

There has been some wear and tear on the machine in the past couple of years!


I slapped on a few coats of paint to keep the rust at bay, then took the brake out for a test drive. For the first bend, I cut a strip of 26-gauge sheet metal to make inside corner trim for Cynthia’s studio:

Here’s a video of one of the first bends; the material is thin, 26-gauge galvanized steel. I’m sure the brake will bend heavier gauge, but probably not in full eight-foot pieces.

Here is a close up of the action of the hinge:

I’m slap-a-knee darn happy with the ease of operation of the brake and the nice sharp line of the bend it makes. I know that all my welds aren’t professional quality, but hey, I’m easily bending eight-foot-long sheet metal in my shop for less than $150 in materials vs. $2,500 or more for a commercial brake. Makes me smile.

I still want to make a press brake in the space below the sheet metal brake, for bending heavy-gauge bar stock. So watch for that post any year now.

And then am I done? Well, no. Cynthia has asked if I can upgrade the cabinet that I made to hold her 1,500 watchmaker’s tins that store her vast collection of seed beads for making necklaces and other items. I made the cabinet out of wood and the termites have been having tailgate parties on each of the 48 plywood drawers.

“Could you make drawers out of sheet metal?”

“Well yes, dear, but I will need to make a box and pan attachment for the brake.”

As it stands now, my brake can bend angles in one direction only. A box and pan attachment allows for bends in two directions, as in bending an open-topped box or drawer. So it is off to the drawing board for the next part of this project.

In other news: We are seeing signs of the end of the rainy season. As we do every year, we got hammered with rain pretty hard in November. But now the tell-tale alternation between wet days and sunny days is becoming more common. Around the fifteenth of December the rain will stop as if a switch were thrown, and the Tourist Season will begin.

Why all the rain in November every year? There is a band of low pressure that circles the globe. This band moves up and down over the equator twice a year, delivering heavy rains as it passes over Panama. It is called the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

You can see the ITCZ passing over us in this recent screen shot from The Weather Channel (Panama is the little arch of land between Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the east). The right-most orange cloud was just about over us at the time posted at the bottom of the picture:

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.



18 thoughts on “DIY Sheet Metal Bending Brake ~ Part 3 ~ It Works!

  1. OH YEAH!!! While I couldnt quite figure it all out previously, now it is … dare I say … a THING OF BEAUTY! Beautiful job…

  2. It is, indeed a thing of resourceful, imaginative beauty–the color is swell, too. Your mechanical engineer grandfather would be proud of you throughout this whole process.

  3. Question on aligning the “hinges”. ( which is a great idea that I hope to use with your permission.)
    How is it aligned? The center of the bolt aligns with the edge or ? It seems the alignment may be critical for a good bend. Do you have thought on how to best align the pieces?
    Thank you in advance for your assistance and time.

    • Hi Perry,

      Yes, alignment is critical. I think that you have the right idea about placement. The center of the bolt aligns with the upper leading edge of the I-beam that half of the hinge is welded to. To elaborate, I did my best to center the center-point of the bolt with the vertex (the point where two lines meet to create an angle). In this case, the vertex is that common point between the I-beam (where one side of the bolt is welded to the I-beam) and the angle iron that swings up to make the bend. Very tricky but do-able if you take your time. I had to attempt each hinge a couple of times, grinding away my welds to try again. So tack weld first and test. Eventually I got it just right.

      I have been able to bend 1/8″ by 4′ steel plate pieces for staircase steps. But to make the bend, I had to take an angle grinder and grind a line half-way through the thickness of the plate, that is to say 1/16th of an inch deep. It took two of us giving it all we had to make the bend. You can see the process at my blog entry at

      The brake can also manage to bend eight-foot lengths of 1/16th inch diamond plate aluminum. Best tool I have ever made, should have made it years ago!

      Sure, go ahead and use my bolt/hinge idea. Thanks for asking. Fred

  4. Good job and good engineering skills. I’m building a 6′ brake myself soon and you have inspired and influenced my build. Thank you very much

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks very much for your compliment. Have a general idea, then dive right into your project and solve the problems as they arise. I find that engineering is a fluid skill — do something, test it, improve it, fix it. I don’t strive for perfection, just a bit more than good enough! Have fun making your new brake. Fred

  5. Thank you Fred. I work in a sheet metal plant and have been doing autobody outside of there for years. I had my own ideas and knowledge but your ideas have influenced me greatly especially on the truss design. I was also looking at 3”x4” industrial angle for the down clamp and bend bar. I was actually staring at some running through the walls of my plant and thought that would work perfect for a brake. Its nice to see that it is perfect. You have done a very good job. Your house looks beautiful also. Nice to see good skills at work.

  6. Hello,Greetings from Colombia!
    The house that you have built is amazing! I have a question regarding the sheet metal bender. Are you able to bend sheets that are 20 or 18 gauge, and maybe thicker?

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