You can email your questions to ProfessorHammer at email@example.com, or mail to Professor Hammer, c/o CLASSIC TRUCKS Magazine, 1733 Alton Pkwy. Ste. 100, Irvine, CA 92606. 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.
Q. I was reading the August issue of CLASSIC TRUCKS and ran across your article regarding the different options available to create new and different dash panels. I thought you might be interested in what we did with our truck.
My street rods are a little larger variety-they are 18-wheelers! The last project was a '69 Peterbilt. I wanted to retain the old classic look, but with new and modern function.
I decided to do the dash and door panels in engine-turned stainless, and after a bad experience with one company, I found a business in Fairbury, Nebraska, that can produce many patterns of engine turning, and one of them was perfect for my truck. Contact FPM Metals at 402-729-2264 or on the web at www.fpmmetals.com. Check them out; you might like what they do!
C. O. Bruce Jr.
A. I went to the FPM website, and I see they have many interesting patterns to choose from, indeed. Your truck is truly a "classic," even though it's a little larger than what most of our readers are building!
Q. What is the best way to approach fixing dents in the top edge of a tailgate? Obviously the area is very stiff, and you can only get to one side. What is the trick?
Via the Internet
A. Tailgates are quite difficult to fix, for the reasons you listed. One possibility is to snake a long solid steel bar inside the rolled edge. If you can do this, then you can hammer against the bar, as you would hammer against a dolly. If you take this approach, be sure to use a solid steel bar, not a piece of tubing, and the larger the diameter, the better it works. The rolled edge is capped on some trucks, so you would have to temporarily remove one (or both) of the caps to use this approach.
Alternately, you can use a stud gun to weld studs onto the dented areas, and use a slide hammer to pull them out. This rarely works to perfection, but it can help to some degree. You could heat areas close to where the studs are welded on, which will make the metal move more easily, but if the stud gets hot, it's likely to break before the metal gets moved very much.
Lastly, you can cut out the dented sections, shape a piece of metal to the correct size and contour, and weld it into place. Of course, using plastic filler or autobody solder can certainly help, but usually the areas that are dented in have high spots next to them, and that makes it a difficult problem to correct by using filler alone.
Q. In 1988, Chevy trucks went (as I understand) from a "mild" steel frame to a low-alloy high-strength steel. The downside is welding on the frame was discouraged. No more weld-on hitches. If a change in wheelbase was required on one of these later frames, is there an acceptable welding procedure that would work? The obvious things would be to use low hydrogen rods, pre-heat, post-heat, and the like. The other two practical options I can think of would be:
• Cut the frame to butt it together, and use a formed channel that fits inside the frame; bolt it together with Grade 8 bolts and proper torque specs.
• Use a pre-'88 frame and simply cut and weld it; then weld reinforcements inside the frame channel.
Please comment on the feasibility of these procedures, or possibly offer another suggestion.
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky
Via the Internet
A. The reason welding is not recommended on high-strength steel frames is because the frames are heat treated. When the frame is heated (by welding, or pre- or post-heating for a weld) the heat treatment is lost, and you'll have a weak spot in the frame.
I can't recommend any solution that relies on bolting sections together-it's just not a good way to join frame members that are subject to repeated, heavy bending and twisting loads.
I'd say that using a pre-'88 frame is probably your best option!