In today's world of custom cars and trucks that can cost upwards of half a million dollars-or more-to build, the focus on metalworking is greater now than ever before. Maybe it's the accessibility of information and the idea of sharing that have spawned many new, high-end custom shops all over the world, but the foundation of the art is still the same.
For those looking to get into metal fabrication, you can only read so many books and magazines or watch so many programs before you just have to get out there and do it. For many, this is like attempting to stand on the roof of a tall building with a terrible fear of heights. The good thing is that it's only metal-it can be fixed, bent, stretched, shrunk, welded, and so forth. Mild steel in particular is a pretty amazing material, come to think of it; you just need to know how to tame it.
If after all of your research on metalworking you are still getting cold feet about taking the plunge, it might be time to sign up for one of Ron Covell's Creative Metalworking classes. I had the opportunity to attend our own Professor Hammer's Beginning Steel Workshop last November at Hot Rods & Hobbies in Signal Hill, California. While I didn't really need the beginner's class, it would be a good opportunity to reaffirm my practices and hopefully learn a few new tricks since I've never had any formal training on the subject.
I arrived at Hot Rods & Hobbies for the all-day class with about 15 other eager folks of varying degrees of experience and age. Many were beginners; there were a few iron workers looking to scale down their skills, if you will, to the sheetmetal level; and there were a few experienced metalworkers like myself-but we were all excited to learn. I even met some Classic Trucks subscribers hoping to transfer the lessons they were about to learn to their truck projects at home.
For those who may not know, Ron has been honing his skills over 40 years and started these workshops 15 years ago to share his knowledge-and he also admits that he is still learning everyday.
Ron has about a dozen different classes that he teaches across the country, and even a few overseas, ranging from beginning steel and aluminum classes to advanced and extreme metalshaping, as well as working with tubing and chassis. The beginning class I attended covers the basics of metallurgy and the tools and methods used for shaping and repair. Ron gives an in-depth look at hammer and dolly theory and use as well as torch work, welding, and metal finishing. He even demos the English wheel and discusses making hammerforms.
Probably the only bad thing about Ron's class was that it ended! Go to www.covell.biz to see his class schedule for 2009 and do yourself a favor and sign up if you are close to one of them. Ron also has many demonstrations on DVD available on his website if you can't make it to one of the classes. Until then, keep reading Classic Trucks, and don't forget to check out Ron's Professor Hammer column every month.
Ron used a simple hammerform to make two halves of a '40 Ford center grille bar that he's
Ron put a slight crown in a panel for another demonstration using the English wheel. Even
After discussing the theory of hammer and dolly use, Ron bashed in this panel that he care
He even severely stretches the metal-think a bullet hole that didn't go through-and demons
Only patience and practice can make one proficient at TIG welding, but once you learn you'