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BEND ME SHAPE ME
Professional Sheet Metal Fabrication

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Aug 31, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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Ed Barr's Professional Sheet Metal Fabricators

BOOK REVIEW By Doug Stokes Professional Sheet Metal Fabrication Motorbooks Workshop Series Author: Ed Barr Motorbooks/MBI Publishing Company ISBN-13-987-0-7603-4492-7 304 pages $39.99 Prologue: A long time ago, way before the Internet, just after the earth cooled, and about a week or so after the war between the states was concluded in favor of the North, I worked as a page (library assistant) for the LA County Library System (for the record, Region 8 West Covina). You may have even Googled the fact that those were the days when knowledge was written down, printed on paper, and then bound into books. To find out stuff you could buy and own books or you could go to the library and read books about the stuff that you needed to know. There was even a system that allowed one to check out a book and take it home with them for further study. I was not a Librarian (that was an advanced college degree which I still do not hold) but, on quiet nights, the librarians let me help at the reference desk. The reason that I bring all of the above to the table here (in a book review on a website) is that my observation, based on the above experience, that just about almost all of the “how to” books that I helped library patrons find in the stacks were really “how NOT to” books. Those books were, instead, a unblinking look at just how difficult what they were planning to do was going to be, and to at least partially assuage their egos when they wisely turned to a pro for the work. With that semi-explanation, on to the book review. Metal. It’s all around us. Its shaped, stretched, shrunk, slapped, folded, welded, braised, blasted, bolted, bonded, bent, hammered, riveted, and, if you’re something of a car, or motorcycle, or airplane person, you quite likely have a weird attraction to it. You really want to understand it, work with it, you want to make it (pardon the pun) bend to your will. And, all those myriad car fix-it shows on television have stoked your senses with English wheels, shot bags, wooden bucks, bending brakes, slapping files, torches, arcs and planishing hammers. Of course, and like everything that looks really cool and easy, classic metal panel-working is (and, sorry about that) nowhere as easy as it looks. Real life and metalworking projects just don’t work that way. You know, twenty-six minutes after the show starts and the hood, fender, fuel tank, or the whole damn car is not only all done but (taaa-daaa!) nuts-on perfect. Oh yeah, suuuure. And that may well be why we need this book. You could read it even though you’ll likely never even think about picking up a piece of raw sheet metal and beating the hell out of it. You’ll get a ton of background and bunch of empathy (and admiration) for panel-beaters that you might not have sensed in yourself before. New eyes. On the other hand, you might read it and pick up all sorts of the tricks, tips, and hard-won knowledge that author Ed Barr has crammed into this 304-page, clearly illustrated, clearly organized, metalworking workbook. Heck, you well might get so good they’ll do a TV show around you. Imagine yourself standing in a heroic shower of sparks soaking it all in and fashioning something symmetrical, shiny, shimmering, beautiful, out of a plain piece of sheet steel. Either way, if you’re a true car/motorcycle/airplane believer and craver of more information about working on them (just for the hell of it, or because you’ve got a sheetmetal project out there that needs to be done.) this big book of panel beating is great read and a well-written guidebook to that fascinating world. In fact, there are not many more satisfying projects that getting it right in metal. My only problem with this instructive volume is that I also have a copy of the TM Technologies metalworking tools catalog and an overarching mechanical ego that keeps nudging me and saying: “You can do this. C’mon, it’ll be fun!” For fun or for serious, if you love skin—car/bike/airplane skin, that is. Read and learn. Specs (which, you’ll observe are actually the chapter headings): • Getting Started • Special Techniques for Welding Metal • Brazing, Soldering and Riveting • Cutting Sheet Metal With the Oxyacetylene Torch and Plasma Cutter • Beginning Sheet Metal Shaping • The Small Gas Tank Project • Advanced Sheet Metal Shaping • Building a Fender Form Concept to Completion • Making it Beautiful, Straightening, Grinding, and Surface Finishing • Building a Custom Pedal Car • Floorpans, Rocker Panels and Rear Quarter Panels • Repairing Doors • Repairing Fenders Get through all of the above one by one, read the chapters out of order, keep this book by your bed or by your workbench … Either way Barr’s big book of boundless sheet metal secrets is a fascinating look at an ancient and honorable pursuit. -DS To purchase the book on Amazon, click here

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