Q. I recently bought your Working with Steel DVD, which has a segment on metal finishing. I can metal-finish to the point where there are only small depressions left in the panel. In your DVD, you mention that you can hammer on-dolly to raise those small depressions so you can file the panel to completion. I'm trying to raise those depressions with a hammer-on dolly, but it's not that easy. I don't want to hit the panel too hard since I don't want to lose control of the shape. Any suggestions?
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A. Raising small, low spots by hammering on-dolly is a pretty delicate operation, and it takes most people quite a bit of time to master it. Let me mention a few things that may help. When you are trying to raise low spots by hammering on-dolly, you need to push up on the dolly with quite a bit of force. If your force on the dolly is only medium or low, the spot you hammer may go down rather than up. The dolly should be as close to the panel's shape as possible. Using a high-crown dolly on a low-crown panel doesn't work well at all.
It's not hard to see where the hammer is hitting the metal, since it usually leaves a visible mark. It is much more difficult to know where the dolly is touching the metal. Probably the best way to find out is by listening to the sound the hammer makes when it hits the metal. If it is a sharp ringing sound, you are definitely hammering on-dolly. If the sound is a dull thud, you are missing the dolly a little (or a lot).
A really good technique to find the dolly is to hold the dolly still and start hammering gently in a gradually expanding spiral pattern until you finally hear the sharp ringing sound that indicates a hit right on the dolly. Once you have found the dolly's point of contact, keep hammering lightly and move both the hammer and dolly until you are hammering on the point you want to raise. You have to hit with a pretty sharp blow to effectively raise the metal, and most spots will take more than one hit to finish.
An alternative way to raise small low spots is to pick them up from the back side, either with a picking hammer or a Bullseye Pick, as shown on the DVD. For most people, the picking technique is easier to master than hammering on-dolly, since it gives even a beginner pinpoint control over where the metal is being moved, and it's really good for low spots that may only be a few thousandths of an inch below grade.
Q. I have a '49 Ford pickup, and the bed was in very bad shape. I discarded it and got a '52 Ford bed from a friend. I am installing the '49's fenders on the '52's bed. My question is, how do I get the bolts out of the bed's side panels without bending up the side? After the original bolts are removed, I will then drill the bedsides for the '49's fenders. Thanks for any help.
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A. I believe you are looking at special bolts made with very large low-profile heads, which are spot-welded to the bedside. While it can be a somewhat tricky job, there are a few options you have for removing the bolts. If having the heads exposed inside the bed isn't a problem, you can just trim the bolt's stem flush with the bed on the outside-an abrasive cutoff tool would be a great tool for this.
To remove the bolt completely, you can try to find the spot welds and drill through them. This is a bit tricky since the spot welds can be pretty hard to see. One way to reveal where the spot welds are is to use a chisel sharpened to a fine point, and carefully hammer it to wedge the bolt head away from the bedside. If the chisel is right on a spot weld, it will shear through it. If you are a short distance away from a weld, you will see it pull the sheetmetal down, forming a little divot as the bolt head is pried away from it. You can easily do some damage here by chiseling too violently, so work very slowly, watching the bedside very closely as you go, and drill through the spot weld just as soon as it reveals its location.
The surefire method of removing the bolts is to cut a round hole, completely removing the head. This can be done very neatly with a holesaw. I'd suggest using a holesaw just slightly smaller than the head diameter since it's unlikely any spot welds are located right at the edge. Of course, this will leave a fairly large hole to patch, and welding in a patch of this size will probably cause some distortion, which will require some careful hammer and dolly work to fix.
Now you can e-mail your questions to Professor Hammer: E-mail email@example.com or mail to: Professor Hammer c/o Classic Trucks Magazine, 774 S. Placentia Avenue, Placentia, CA 92870. We'll print your name and city unless you request otherwise. Ron Covell has made several metalworking videos and offers an ongoing series of workshops across the nation covering all aspects of metalworking. Check them out online at www.covell.biz, or call for a current schedule of workshops, or for their free catalog of videos, books and fine-quality metalworking tools. Phone 800/747-4631, or 831/768-0705. You can send a request by mail to: Covell Creative Metalworking, 106 Airport Blvd. #105, Freedom, CA 95019.