After some methodical planning,...
After some methodical planning, and lots of hammer and dolly work, Ron has just about removed all of the dents. The largest affected area that remains is what is left of the red circle.
Some metalworkers even discourage the use of water to cool the area claiming it hardens the metal. They propose lightly tapping the heated area with soft raps of a hammer to shrink the heated area. Again, through the years I feel both methods have their time and place. (Refer back to my phrase that on-the-job training can’t be substituted!)
In times where a stretched area can’t be accessed, but the dent needs to be shrunken out, a torch can be used as well. Never directly heat the center of the dent, as you will only create more of a dent. Instead, begin at the outer perimeter of the dent and rapidly circle your way into the dent. Once hot, immediately cool the area with a rag. It may take a few tries, but eventually you’ll shrink some, if not all, of the dent out and make it more manageable for filler. For those of you who live in colder climates, this method is what most commonly cures hail damage!
When metal-finishing Ron will use his hand as a gauge and a metal file. By running the file over the area he can see what high and low spots are left. From there he’ll employ the proper technique. Another good skill to acquire is using the pick end of a pick hammer to lightly tap up fine low spots, and then filing them clean.
Like I said before, every person has their own way of doing things, and some even disagree with the torch method altogether. Instead, they prefer to use what is known as a shrinking disc. The disc is a smooth flat metal disc, or sometimes with a pie-cut edge, that is mounted on a grinder and then ran over the stretched area. (Again though, it’s followed by the cooling of a wet rag.) The non-grit surface doesn’t remove metal; therefore five, 10, or even 20 passes can be made. Beyond that, it heats the surface of the metal only a fraction of what an oxyacetylene torch will, which gives the user a more precise approach.
Just about finished. There...
Just about finished. There are only a few visible spots left (dull spots denote the affected areas) that Ron needs to work. As you can see, time, patience, and lots of practice makes perfect.
At the end of the day, metalworking is quite simple in theory. Metal shrinks, stretches, and can be moved and mended quite easily. At the same time, this simple-minded thinking will cause you to pull your hair out. It’s a skill that all can acquire through trial and lots of error! In the following pictures we’ll highlight the key points of each theory, and then remove a dent using our various methods.
For those of you who may still feel the need to further delve into sheetmetal work before you turn loose on a project of your own, there are several great options. As I mentioned in the captions, I attended a Ron Covell weekend session of basic and advanced concepts of sheetmetal working. For those outta the know, Ron is one of the premier metal men around, and has been honing his craft for over 40 years now.
With skills and projects ranging from an aluminum-bodied dragster, motorcycles, street rods, and even several AMBR-winning cars, Ron is skilled in all walks of metal. Luckily for folks who aren’t as inclined in the ways of metal, Ron saw a need to offer workshops to help keep the craft of metalworking alive. Since 1993 Ron has been giving tutorials on all sorts of metalworking all over the globe.
In the classes I attended we covered all of the basics as described, yet with a hands-on demonstration factor to it, and then delved into working the English wheel, bead roller, shrinker/stretcher, and more. From the novice to the professional, the class is sure to offer something to all. Even better is for those who can’t make his classes he offers a full range of instructional DVDs that can be ordered to your door, and two of them concentrate on beginning and advanced sheetmetal work.
If you’re unclear, or wanna brush up, I would highly recommend either option to help further your skills in the wicked ways of metal. For a full list available DVDs, workshop, and even metalworking equipment, visit www.covell.biz or give him a call at (800) 747-4631.