You can email your questions to Professor Hammer at email@example.com, or mail to Professor Hammer, c/o CLASSIC TRUCKS Magazine, 1733 Alton Pkwy., 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.
This ingenious reader is using an oxygen bottle and tie-down straps to help form a sheetme
I am in the process of fixing up a ’55 first series Chevy, and I have been getting into fabricating various metal panels and parts to replace the rusted out ones, my latest being the floor and transmission tunnel built by hand, without using any rollers or bending tools, just a old oxygen cylinder and a sand bag for shaping.
My question is about metal working tools, specifically hammers and dollies. Since I am not planning on making this my career or business, I purchased a hammer and dolly set from a company that sells tools imported from China, and they get the job done in a way, but I was wondering if there are any benefits to using higher quality wood handled sets? Let me know if there are any other tips you can provide us weekend warriors who may be sheetmetal tool limited.
Joel L. Simpson
Via the Internet
I am impressed with the work you have done using simple tools! In particular, using tie-down straps to hold metal against an oxygen cylinder as you beat on it with a dead-blow hammer is a stroke of genius! I’m sure many other builders can use this technique for their benefit. The issue of using imported tools is somewhat complex. I’ve always preferred hammers and dollies made in the US, England, or Germany—these are almost always made from top-quality drop-forged tool steel, and these tools will resist denting and marring extremely well, and with the most basic care, they will last a lifetime.
Many (but not all) of the hammers and dollies imported from Asia are made of cast iron, or cast steel. While these tools are usable, they dent and mar easily, and tools with any sort of texture or blemish will transfer these marks to the metal you are trying to straighten with them. Worse, some of these cheap hammers have been known to shatter on impact, which can be extremely dangerous! I think it’s an excellent investment to get at least a few high-quality hammers and dollies. These are such basic tools for doing bodywork that your initial investment will have a very long payback, and you will know that each time you reach for these tools, they will perform very well for you. I prefer wooden handled hammers, but many manufacturers are now offering hammers with fiberglass handles, and a lot of people like them. Fiberglass handles are lighter, slightly more flexible (which may reduce the stress on your arm from hammering), and they are probably more durable, making them less likely to break if they are occasionally abused. You should always try to avoid letting sharp edges of metal hit the handle as you are hammering, but it happens to the best of us from time to time, and the fiberglass handles will probably be marred less than a wooden handle when this happens.
Very recently, I’ve seen some hammers and dollies imported from Asia that appear to be of decent quality. Unfortunately, there is no good way to know exactly what you are buying, unless you can talk with someone who has used these tools, but if you are looking at imported hammers and dollies that have an obviously “cast” appearance (cast metals usually have a distinctive texture to the surface), I’d suggest going with something that you know is made from forged tool steel.
What is the best way to fill the 3⁄8-inch holes in the body panels like on the bedside of a truck or fender, where the clips have been used to mount trim? Should I just fill the hole with a rosette weld, make a plug for the hole, or put a piece on the back side?
Via the Internet
The BEST way is to use tightly-fitted plugs. You’ll get more shrinking with a rosette weld, and if you weld a piece on the back side, you’ll be creating areas on the panel that are double-thickness, making it nearly impossible to do accurate hammer and dolly work to straighten the panel. To make this job easier, Bob Drake sells “Plug Kits” that provide an assortment of pre-cut round sheetmetal plugs in various sizes. The phone number for Bob Drake is (800) 221-3673, and their website is www.bobdrake.com.