How to Bend Sheet Metal

Sheet metal you're likely to find at home, contrary to some thinking, is used for a variety of art craft projects, and those who participate in these projects will eventually need to know how to their bend sheet metal. Even if the object you build with this thin metal sheet is as simple as a tray or as complicated as a sculpture, if you're going to bend the sheet metal, you'll need to know how to make a straight and even bend. Bending sheet metal with precision is not nearly as simple as it appears to be. Bending it is simple. Bending with precision is not. Here's how you can bend your sheet metal like a pro.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Ruler
  • Dry-erase marker
  • Carpenter square
  • Straightedge
  • 2 Lengths of 2 by 2 inch wood
  • Wood clamps

Step 1 – Measuring and Marking Your Sheet Metal

Before attempting to make your bend, you'll need to measure and mark the place where you want to make your bend on your sheet metal. Use a dry-erase marker to make the mark. This way, you won't need to be concerned about making an unwanted mark you won't be able to clean off your sheet metal.

Step 2 – Choose a Straightedge

Use a straight edge to make a clean, straight, bend line. A table edge, or a shelf will sometimes give you a straightedge that will be less likely to move when you begin bending your sheetmetal. Just be sure that neither the straightedge nor the sheetmetal moves or shifts as you mark your line on the sheetmetal. Also, you will need the straightedge to be thin enough that you can get it between 2 clamp jaws.

Step 3 - Alignment of Materials

Clamping your sheetmetal to the straightedge is a must. Otherwise, the sheetmetal is almost certain to shift as you bend it, resulting in a bad bend. To clamp efficiently, lay your sheetmetal on the top surface of your straightedge, with the drawn line perfectly aligned with the outside edge of the sheetmetal. Then place a 2 by 2 inch strip across the sheetmetal, so the edge is aligned with the line drawn on the sheetmetal. Open the clamp jaws wide enough for them to fit over the straightedge, sheetmetal, and 2 by 2. Finally, begin very slowly closing the clamp jaws. Be sure, as they close, that all 3 edges—sheetmetal, straightredge, and 2 by 2—are perfectly aligned. Don't allow either of them to shift out of alignment.

Step 4 – Bend You Sheetmetal

With a second wood clamp, clamp another 2 by 2 inch strip to your sheet metal. The inside edge of the strip should be parallel with the line you made on the sheet metal. Position the strip back about 1/8 inches from the line, then clamp it in place with 2 clamps, so that they are clamped to the sheet metal lip that protrude past the edge of the straightedge. With both hands pushing downward on the outer 2 by 2, begin bending the metal sheet, applying equal downward pressure at both ends. When it has reached the angle you're trying for, release your pressure, and remove the clamps.