Troubleshooting a Sheet Metal Brake

A sheet metal brake is used to bend sheet metal in to different angles. They are useful for some types of construction work, especially when working with HVAC systems and gutters. If the metal brake isn't working the way it should, here are a few things to check.

Not Leveling Correctly

If your sheet metal brake isn't leveling as it should, check a few things before assuming the brake is bad. In most cases, the brake's set screws just need to be adjusted, to make it even again. Also check the wedge, you may need to replace the shims that keep it in place. 

Dents and Dings in Metal

If you keep finding that the sheet metal is getting dinged or damaged when you use the brake, chances are you are tightening the clamp too much. You only need to set the clamp handle with enough pressure so that you can't move the sheet of metal by hand. If you over tighten the clamp handle, you will damage the metal you are working with. In most cases this will still be a functional piece, but can look bad.

Incorrect Angles

A sheet metal brake haves a gauge that shows you the angle you are working with. If you use the gauge and you are coming up with incorrect angles, the gauge may be inaccurate. Fortunately the gauges are simple to replace. If you replace the gauge and this is still happening, you are either reading the gauge incorrectly, or you are working too fast. Chances are you are working too fast, as most gauges are simple to read. Try using a scrap piece of metal as a test, working more slowly, to see if this corrects the problem.

Not Bending Easily

A sheet metal brake should bend sheet metal with much more ease than trying to do it by hand. However, if you are using large sheets of sheet metal, it may not bend easily. If you are having a hard time with the bending action, first check to see if a smaller piece of scrap metal can be easily bent. If so, you need to either size down what you are working with, or rent a larger brake.

Metal Shifting While Bending

A common issue with sheet metal brakes are the clamps that hold the metal down. With a lot of use, the clamps will start to show signs of wear, and may need to be replaced. You can replace the clamps easily. They are attached to the brake using simple screws. Remove the screws from the clamp and place them to the side. Remove the clamp itself and inspect it. If you see signs of wear, such as scratching, chipping or just overall worn down areas, then go ahead and replace the clamps. Take the old clamps with you to purchase the new ones, so you can ensure you have the right size. Then, just attach them to the frame using the screws and a screwdriver, or a small hand drill.