How to Make Your Own Sheet Metal Brake From Wood

By Daniel Sutherland

A brake is an essential tool for working with sheet metal. Professional siding crews and heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) technicians may work with metal brakes on a daily basis, and can justify purchasing a metal brake as a legitimate cost of doing business. Unfortunately for the do-it-yourself type, metal brakes are often expensive, and it is impractical to buy one for use on only a few projects. With some lumber, you can build a brake from wood, that will perform just as well as an commercial sheet metal brake.

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Build your own brake to simplify working with sheet metal.

Step 1

Cut two 12 inch pieces out of one of the 2 x 4's. Construct a box 15 inches wide by 8 feet long by gluing together and screwing the 12 inch pieces between two other 8 feet 2 x 4's -- fit the 12 inch pieces flush with the ends of each 8 foot section. Your box should measure 15 x 96 inches long, with the 2 x 4's standing on edge.

Step 2

Fasten two of the 1 x 8's to the top of the 2 x 4 rectangle by gluing and screwing them down. Make sure no screws are raised above the surface of the 1 x 8's. The 1 x 8's should fit flush with the edges of the box, with the good side up. Make sure you have at least one piece with a straight, square edge facing out. This will become the platform on which you will place the sheet metal -- adjust it to handle whatever length or width of sheet metal you choose).

Step 3

Cut legs out of the remaining 2 x 4's with which to suspend the box as high as you choose. Attach the legs by gluing and screwing them on the inside edges of the platform.

Step 4

Fasten the piano hinge on one edge of the remaining 1 x 8, with the pin side of the hinge flush along the good edge of the board. Use 3/4 inch wood screws, and fasten the hinge at least every 3 inches. Measure the width of the hinge, then measure and mark a line on the platform the same distance below the edge of the platform as the width of the hinge (measure from the top of the 1 x 8 with the good edge, and mark your line while pulling a measurement from that edge).

Step 5

Open the hinge 90 degrees and align the edge of the hinge with the line you marked on the platform. Then, fasten the hinge to the platform every 3 inches with the 3/4 inch screws.

Step 6

Build braces to attach to the moving part of the brake. Measure in from each end of the "moving" piece of hardwood 2 1/2 feet, and make a mark near the piano hinge. At each mark, attach perpendicular to the hinge and with the length extending away from the hinge, one piece of 2 x 4, 12 inches long. Glue them in place and drive in two wood screws from the top (or metal-contacting side) of the 1 x 8. Brace these pieces diagonally from the other edge of the 1 x 8 with another piece of 2 x 4 cut at with angled ends so that it fits between the 12 inch 2 x 4 and the 1 x 8 (the two pieces of 2 x 4 and the 1 x 8 will form a rigid triangle).

Step 7

Now, with the piano hinge still bent so that the brake is closed, attach the other 8 foot piece of 2 x 4 to the legs of the brake 9 inches below the top surface (attach it "flat" to the legs so that the 4 inch width faces you). The braces on the moving part of the brake will rest against this 2 x 4 so that the hinge is not damaged, allowing you to slide the sheet metal around on a flat surface.

Step 8

Attach 2 foot lengths of 2 x 4 at right angles to each angled part of the triangular brace on the moving part. These will serve as handles.

Step 9

Use the 4 x 4 and pipe clamps to hold sheet metal in place as you bend it.