How to Build Low Budget Sheet Metal Hand Brakes

By K.K. Lowell
30 inch brake, bench-top hydraulic press
All photos by: KK Lowell

A sheet metal brake is a very handy tool for metal workers, but is not found in many home hobbyist shops. Small sheet metal brakes can be ordered from the Internet including the specialty catalogs Northern Hydraulics. However, this approach is usually cost-prohibitive for the occasional user. By following the steps outlined in this article you can make your own sheet metal brake at a very low cost using materials from your local hardware store. Mount the assembly to a bench or other suitable stand. The brake pictured is mounted to the top of a bench-top hydraulic press.

Measure and cut three pieces of a 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-1/4-inch angle iron. It must be 30-inches long.

Drill, two 1/2-inch holes, the pieces, step

Drill two 1/2-inch holes in two of the pieces cut in step 1. The hole should be located 3/4-inch from each end and 1-inch from the edge.

Weld, a 7/16-inch coarse, nut, the inside

Weld a 7/16-inch coarse threaded nut on the inside of the angle, centered carefully under the drilled hole. Clamp the nut in place with a 1-inch long 7/16-inch bolt. Weld another nut in the same manner on the opposite end of the same piece.

the 1/8-inch pipe nipples, the 1/4-inch steel rod, the hinge

Place the 1/8-inch pipe nipples on the 1/4-inch steel rod. This will be the hinge.

the angles, the pipe nipples, the hinge, Weld

Align the angles and weld the pipe nipples for the hinge. Weld one nipple to the angle iron with the nuts welded to it, the next to the undrilled angle, and alternate welding the remaining tubes to form a hinge. Be careful not to weld two tubes together.

the piece, 1/2-inch pipe, the undrilled angle iron, it

Center the piece of 1/2-inch pipe on the undrilled angle iron and weld it in a perpendicular position from the back of the angle.

Thread, Thread the two remaining 7/16-inch nuts, the 3-inch long bolts, the second piece

Thread the two remaining 7/16-inch nuts on the 3-inch long bolts. With the second piece of drilled angle iron this will be the clamp to hold the sheet metal to be bent.

the sheet metal, the two drilled angle iron pieces, the bolts, a wrench

Position the sheet metal to be bent between the two drilled angle iron pieces. Tighten the bolts with a wrench to firmly clamp the workpiece.

a mark, your sheet metal, the bend, this mark

Make a mark on your sheet metal where the bend should be located. Align this mark with the edge of the clamp bar.

Make the bend by lifting up on the pipe nipple handle. A short extension can be fit in the nipple for more leverage on heavier stock.

Check the angle of the bend and if correct, loosen the clamping bolts to remove the workpiece.

About the Author

K.K. Lowell is a freelance writer who has been writing professionally since June 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. A mechanic and truck driver for more than 40 years, Lowell is able to write knowledgeably on many automotive and mechanical subjects. He is currently pursuing a degree in English.