How to Bend Sheet Metal Without a Brake – Vise Version?

How to Bend Sheet Metal Without a BrakeThe inclusion of sheet metal can sometimes be a bit stressful experience. There are so many causes of why someone may need to use one. It could come use for the vehicle’s auto bodies or simply for making a truck bed.

As a recreational metal worker being still in the beginner’s phase, not every tool is going to be available at your hand. One such very useful piece of tool is the brake. This allows you to bend the sheet to your preferred angle. These are common to see within metal shops.

However, those who need to bend sheet metal at home, may not have an appropriate brake at home. And today’s topic on how to bend sheet metal without a brake is meant to help those folks.

How to Bend Sheet Metal Without a Brake:

Tools Needed, Step by Step Guide, Troubleshooting & More…

For this project, you will simply need to use a vise and some other common equipment. Keep on Reading…

Tools & Materials You’ll Need

  1. 2 form blocks (metal or wood)
  2. Hardwood block.
  3. Mallet or hammer.
  4. Bend calculator.
  5. Protractor
  6. Rawhide, plastic, or rubber mallet.
  7. Marker
  8. Ruler or tape measure
  9. Vise
  10. The sheet metals.

The Sheet’s Thickness.

For the first phase, you need to determine thickness of sheet. Simply use any regular tape measure or ruler for this step. This calculation will help to determine the bend allowance of this process.

If the sheet metal you are working with is too thick then extra machinery might be needed. For instance, a torch to get it into the right shape. A brake would have been able to do that as well.

Finding the Bend Allowance.

The sheet metal bending techniques are supposed to help in warping sheet metal. This is necessary for the sheet to physically become bigger. And to measure the outside bend angle’s expansion, knowing allowance is important.

Here a formula can help.


B = your desired bend angle’s complementary angle.

MT = material’s thickness.

IR = inside radius.

K = K-factor.

Then we can say,

Bend allowance (BA) = (π/180) * B * (IR + K*MT)

The bend allowance chart will help you to discover the K-factor, inside radius, and material thickness.

Also, remember the fact that there are different brittle level metals. The one with more brittle might cause metal to break or snap if pushed beyond limits.

Draw the Lines.

Next, you need to use the protractor to draw a clear line using a marker. This line should be across the point that you’ll use to bend sheet. Now go for drawing the second bend line using bend allowance. This is going to be the intervening span between bend lines. With the bend application, space between bend lines will expand.

Now leave around quarter-inch trim to your sheet and cut it to the right size. Make sure you file the sheet and smooth it down. Otherwise, the metal can form cracks from nicks and rough edges.

Using the Vise to Bend.

The desired bend angle matching edge should be within your forms. Use the form block guide angle to find out your forms on vise. The guide angle should be facing upwards. To let you get the right bend, there should be one edge that is rounded to bend radius’s degree.

As soon as you place the forms, clamp sheet. It needs to be between the form blocks securely. Make sure the form bend angle and your bend line are even with each other.

Now there is a possibility that your sheet metal is hanging outside the form blocks to a very noticeable distance. If that is the case, you need to arrange some support for this part. This will help in avoiding any wild bouncing. Also, this will keep negative impacts away.

Now let someone help you by holding the piece with their hands. Make sure they wear gloves so that accidental cuts never get to happen. Next, you need to use a mallet for bending the metal. You should use the one made from rubber or plastic.

The rawhide mallet will also work. This will ensure there is no harsh tapping done on the metal. Keep on going until the bend gets toward form block. Once it has achieved the bend angle you desire for, it needs to be gradual and even.

Start tapping from one evolving bend end. You want to work back and forth between the bend lines. And the sheet metals will be bent to your preferred angle at some point.

Some Troubleshooting Steps.

You should be sure about the bend allowance calculation value. The best accuracy can be achieved with decimal expression. You can use the standard gauge thickness for this.

You need to be very sure about the bend angle, so double-check it. Any angle that is more or less than 90 degrees will need you to consider the complementary angle. For example, if you want the bend to be 45 degrees, then minus that from 180 degrees. This gets us to 135 degrees and that should be your bend angle.

There’s a very critical role of applied pressure. And so, your vise should be able to take the pressure well without causing any slip or problems. Otherwise, an unintended result may form by the end.

If you are dealing with really thick sheet metal, then using heat for bending might be necessary. It needs your utmost caution and care to ensure no hazardous incident. You can use a blowtorch for heating along the bend line’s seam. This will help your bending process a lot.

You can’t use the torch injudiciously by any means. There are several types of fabricated metals that are super sensitive to high melting points. These metals will react negatively with a torch used carelessly. And eventually, end up harming the equipment or sheet metal you are working with.

Tips to Keep in Mind.

You should use a hardwood piece along with the bend’s length to avoid any irregular or uneven result. This also needs you to use some sort of heavy-duty hammer or mallet for hitting the bend. By doing this you will increase the bending strength drastically.

If you are thinking about getting a sheet metal brake, then choosing right type will be the most important thing to consider. The manual ones are perfect for small businesses or hobbyists. While for industrial and construction use, go for the hydraulic and computer-controlled versions of brakes.

Wrap Up.

And that was all about how to bend sheet metal without a brake using a regular vise with other common tools. In this process, you should focus highly on solving that bend allowance equation with care and caution. If you end up being using an incorrect solution with it, chances of getting a satisfying bend will be extremely low. This can even cause the whole sheet metal to get ruined and wasted.

Take the Process Slow & Steady by Understanding & Applying Each Parts Right. And You’ll Be Pleased with The Results Hopefully!

About Jeremy

Hello! My name is Jeremy Bloomberg. I have been passionate about carpentry and DIY. Over the years, my passion slowly turned into expertise and wider knowledge about electronics. I’ve been involved in numerous projects, both professional and personal. I want to share all I have learned with you. Welcome!

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