How to Use a Sheet Metal Brake

What You'll Need
Sheet metal brake
Sheet metal
Tape measure
Pencil or scratch awl
Sheet metal shears
Work gloves

A sheet metal brake is a tool used to bend various types of metal. It is often used for forming gutters, drip edges, soffits and fascia boards. They are also used in the heating and cooling industry for forming duct work. Portable units can be rented at home improvement or hardware stores for about $70.00 per day. The major components of a sheet metal brake are a clamp to hold the sheet metal, a bending plate where the sheet metal rests and a lever that lifts the bending plate until the required angle is achieved.

Step 1 – Preparation

As in woodworking, it's a good practice to measure twice and bend once. Use your tape measure to find the correct length and transfer that measurement to your material using the pencil or scratch awl. Make sure the sheet metal brake is properly oiled and in good working order before attempting to use it.

Step 2 – Cutting Sheet Metal

Before using the sheet metal brake, make all the necessary cuts to the sheet metal. The cut sheet metal will be much easier to handle and bend after it is cut. Also, the sheet metal will be very difficult to cut after it has been bent to shape. You can use sheet metal shears to cut the material. For more accurate or larger cuts, there are a number of other machines you can use; electric shears, bench mounted stationary shears or floor mounted stationary shears are just a few cutting tools available.

Step 3 - Making the First Bend

Once you have the sheet metal cut to size, it's time to make the first bend. Slide the sheet metal into the sheet metal brake until the measurement marks line up with the clamps on either side of the brake. Lower the clamping lever using the handle on the side of the brake and secure it against the sheet metal.

Step 4 – Bending the Blade

Lift the lever on the bending blade so that the metal moves up toward the sheet metal brake. There is an angle guide on the side of the brake. Continue to bend the metal until the angle indicator shows the proper angle. Hold the bend at that angle briefly before lowering the bending lever to its original position. Do not allow your fingers to rest under the bending blade or clamps for any reason and always make sure the lever is securely fastened after you finish a bend.

Step 5 – Checking

Remove the sheet metal and check the bend. If the angle is incorrect, reinsert the metal into the clamps and bend the sheet metal again until the appropriate angle is achieved. Once you are satisfied with the bend, you can move on to any subsequent bends you need to make.


Always use care when working with and around metal and metal forming tools. Sheet metal is very sharp and can easily slice bare skin. Safety glasses and gloves should be worn to protect your eyes and fingers. Also, recruit a friend to help move larger sheets of material into and around the sheet metal brake.