Q:My original floorboard is badly rusted and needs to be replaced. I decided to put the knowledge gained in one of your workshops to good use and make a hammerform to reproduce the part. The panel has beads of various lengths, but they are all 1-inch wide and 3/8-inch deep. To make the hammerform, I used a piece of flat stock 6 inches wide, 30 inches long, and 1/8-inch thick as the base. Next, I tack welded two pieces of flat stock 2 1/2 inches wide, 30 inches long, and 3/8-inch thick, leaving a 1-inch gap in the center. I made duplicates of these two pieces to use as clamping plates. I drilled holes near the ends of all the pieces (holes in total) so I could bolt my clamping plates to the hammerform, and sandwiched the 18-gauge steel sheet between the hammerform and clamping block.

Here is my question: I have a 1-inch round bar that is 25 inches long and rounded on the ends that I plan to force against the steel sheet, pressing it into the hammerform to make the beads. I have used the hammerform with small test pieces and it works well so far. I want to know if I will be able to hammer the 1-inch round bar hard enough to form the bead, or will I need a shop press to form a bead this long? Do you have any other suggestions for the longer beads that I need to form?
Telly Reel
Via the Internet

A: You have done a great job so far with your hammerform, but there is a limit to how much metal you can move with a hammer! While it would be possible to use a large press to form the beads all in one shot, you can complete the job by hammering if you shorten the bar stock you are forcing down into the hammerform. I'd suggest making a new hammering bar about 6 inches long. It will also help to give the leading edge of the stock a shape like the front of a boat. To use this tool, you will start at one end of the bead and work toward the opposite end, hammering the bar down as you go. Once the bead is hammered to full depth, you can use a bar with a rounded end to define the ends of the bead.

(Look at the photos below of Telly's completed beads-this is a simple process that can be used to create beads of various depths and profiles.)

Q:I'd like to share my experience with welding helmets, battery-powered versus solar. I bought an American-made battery-powered auto-darkening welding helmet (one with a smaller window) for $100 about three years ago. The lens went bad in about six months. The local dealer replaced it under warranty, but last week the replacement went bad.

I went on an Internet auction site and bought a solar helmet with a lithium battery for $17.50 plus $9 shipping and handling. This helmet is ANSI approved, has an adjustable shade darkness from 9 to 13, and comes with a pretty nice harness. The auto-switching time is 0.0001 second. A comparable U.S.-made helmet would have been $200-300. The vendor has sold 8,000 of these and had no complaints. I'm sure they are made in China, but it has been a really good helmet so far.

The only complaint I have is that there is no provision for adding a magnifying lens, which is a must for me, but I managed to adapt one without difficulty.
Jack
Via the Internet

A: Well, as your experience has shown, there are some good bargains to be had with imported tools. The only problem here is that as nearly everyone has learned, not all imported tools are well made, and it's difficult to assess the quality when buying over the Internet. It is always a good idea to do business with a company that is reputable, and that has a clearly defined process for returns in case you are dissatisfied with the product you receive.