How to Use a Metal Shrinker Stretcher
If you own a shrinker stretcher, then you will probably already know that this is a tool used in automotive repairs. The specific role of this tool is to make a piece of metal curve around, making it fit into the bodywork of the car, or create a new piece, so that it can be added to a restoration. Using a shrinker stretcher can help you to repair the panels of your car, alter flanges, or even create fenders. This type of tool is generally used when the work needs to be done quickly, as the shrinker stretcher is faster than an ordinary hammer at creating the curve. In order to use the shrinker stretcher properly, you will need to have a few home repair tools, and some basic DIY skills.
Step 1 - Plan Your Curve
Before you begin, plan out your curve. Deciding the angle of your metal, and where you want to place it on the car, will help you to create the perfect curve. If you have already removed a part, with the intention of replacing it, then you will have the perfect design for your fitting. However, if you are performing a repair on a classic car, or do not have a good curve, then you should consider researching the particular panel, and working out the right curve. Draw on some paper the angle of the curve, so you will have something to compare your worked metal against.
Step 2 - Starting to Use the Tool
When you are ready to begin, fasten your shrinker stretcher to a workbench, or a suitable tabletop. There are 2 holes either side of the frame, which are designed to have bolts fitted to them, securing the shrinker stretcher. If you do not have a suitable bench for securing the tool, then you will need to use a pipe notching tool to make holes in a sheet of metal. You can then secure the metal to the table using vise grips, and bolt the shrinker stretcher to the holes in the metal.
Step 3 - Starting on the Metal
Once the shrinker stretcher is secure, you can start to work on the metal. Tape around the ends of your metal, and then push it into the shrinker stretcher. For the first pass, only push the jaws together half-way, as this will prevent the fresh metal from bunching up. Make several passes, until you can feel the metal becoming softer.
Step 4 - Making the Curve
Once you have flexed the metal, you can then start moving it around, so that you get the curve you want. If you like, you can make a second curve in the metal by turning the piece over, and passing it through the shrinker stretcher in the same way. Compare your metal with the paper design, to ensure that you are doing it correctly.