Q. I have read your articles for many years and learned a lot. I have many of your DVDs and find them outstanding. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
I shaved the door handles off my vehicle, and the welding process has warped the panels. I normally just hammer on the welds to stretch the metal back into shape with no problems. In this case, I am unable to access the rear of the welds, due to bracing and interior structure. Is there any way to stretch the metal without gaining access to the rear of the weld?
Via the Internet
A. First, thanks for the kind words!
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good ways I know of to stretch metal without hammering on it. You can do a limited amount of raising low spots by using a stud gun and slide hammer. Next best thing is using the type of slide hammer that has a threaded snout that you screw into holes you drill in the panel. Of course, filling the resulting holes will make the metal warp, too.
Sometimes it's possible to cut an access hole in the inner structure, to allow you to get access from the back side. In some cases you can leave the access hole, as long as it doesn't weaken the door structure. Otherwise, you can weld the metal you removed back into place once the skin of the door is straightened.
Another approach is to buy (or make) spoons to get inside panels. A spoon is like a "dolly on a stick," and while these are commercially available, in a pinch I've temporarily welded a steel bar to a dolly to make a spoon for a particular job.
I truly wish I had a some better solutions, but it's a pretty tough problem! Often in situations like this, using plastic filler is the only realistic solution to get the final finish, but of course you will want to get the metal as close as you can, so the filler doesn't have to be built up overly thick.
Q. I am building a '53 Ford truck, and I'm having a problem where the hood meets the cowl. When I had the original hinges, the hood fit well enough, but now that I have installed a tilt hood kit, the lower corners of the hood pucker outward. My suspicion is the original hood hinges helped by pulling in the hood sides when they were bolted to the hinge, but without the original hinges, the hood no longer stays close to the body. Any suggestions?
Via the Internet
A. This is not an uncommon problem with a conversion of this sort. There are two general approaches for a solution. The easiest one is to make some pins that point down on the bottom rear edges of the hood, and to fashion funnel-shaped receiver sockets for the pins to fit into. Many people use the type of pins that were used on some muscle cars for hood hold-downs, but you'll most likely have to make the sockets yourself. If the pins and sockets are properly positioned, you can get just the fit you want. If you take this approach, be sure to make the location of the pins adjustable, so you can dial in the fit later on. This type of alignment will sometimes need adjusting from time to time.
Another, perhaps more elegant solution would be to make a tubing inner structure to give the rear edge of the hood more strength. If you go this way, don't weld the tubing to the skin of the hood, or you'll get massive distortion! The U-shaped tubing structure should have some sheetmetal extensions attached to it that would attach to the rear edge of the hood. This will keep the distortion caused by welding from ruining your hood.
Most people who make a tubing inner structure also add locating pins, like I described in the first approach, to it to give the hood accurate positioning when it's closed.
You can email your questions to Professor Hammer at firstname.lastname@example.org -you'll receive a personal reply! We'll print your name and city unless you request otherwise. Ron Covell has made many DVDs on metalworking processes, and he 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 and their free catalog of DVDs. 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.