How do I measure the gauge of sheet metal... for example, what would be
the gauge of the sheet metal sides in a fridge or washer or dryer?
I am in a remote location and do not have access to a sheet metal shop. I
need to make a guard for the pulleys and belt on a woodworking machine. I
need to make two simple 90 degree bends. Is the metal in a washing machine
side too heavy to bend in a home made jig?
TIA for any help.
Hmmmm... your message does leave out a lot of your requirements,
capabilities and available equipment. You also don't give even a
rough idea as to the dimensions and type of bends you think you need.
I this for a home-shop, or something more commercial where you might
see an inspector looking at it?
I don't have a spare dryer or what-ever to measure the thickness, but
I guess they would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 22 to 18 gage.
If you need a guard heavy enough to stand on, then washing machine
sides are too light. If you merely want to keep a bit of sawdust or
wood scraps from falling into the belts/pulleys, then it should do
very nicely, maybe even be a bit heavier than needed, depending on
sizes. What capability do you have to cut a washing machine panel
into the sizes you need? Could you cut and fabricate, rather than cut
and bend? In other words, make a "side", and then a "top" and fasten
the two together with angle brackets and screws to fabricate a guard?
What "angle" were you considering bending to? 90 degrees, with a
sharp corner, say 24" long, is not do-able without a brake. On the
other hand, you might get a sort of curvy edged 90 by clamping with
hinged plywood slabs with the sheet metal clamped to them.
Not knowing what you really want/need, I've seen some very nice guards
just made with wood, and plywood or even "paneling". Painted up, it
is hard to tell it isn't sheet steel. Fibreglassed, it's perfect, and
if you've got real expertise with FG, then it can be layed-up into a
mold to suit any manner of contortions.
I don't know the gauge of the sheet metal in a washer or dryer, but I
have made 90 degree bends in heavier material. My method is to use
some 2 inch by 2 inch or bigger angle iron as vise jaw extensions.
Then use a couple of C clamps out at the ends to help clamp the metal
tight. Then it just a matter of pushing on it and beating on it with a
mallet ( or hammer ).
I hope you have a good vise. In addition to the eye pretection
mentioned, ear protection is good too.
Dan's method is the standard for those of us who don't have a bending
The mallet/rubber hammer method works for thicker material but will
leave marks on thinner stuff if you're not very careful. I usually use
metal hammers to strike a 2x4 to make the bend. It spreads the blow.
Don't try to make the whole bend at once. The first pass along the
length of the work might only bend about 5 degrees. The next pass
might add 10 degrees to that. In most cases it takes 5 or 6 passes to
complete the bend. More passes are better since it gives you more
chances to correct any mistakes. The prettier you want the result to
be the more passes are needed.
Appliance skins are pretty thin. I just measured some I took off a
water heater (years ago) to be .021 which would be about 26 gage after
the paint was stripped. I'd guess washing machines might be 24 gage
which is .025". Sheet steel like this is not difficult to bend.
Aside: Of that whole water heater skin, I only have about a 12" x 18"
piece left. The rest of it got welded into various kid's beaters as
rust repairs over the years. Had one Aspen that I swear pulled to
the right when it passed a Minnegasco installation.....
Anyay, you can make a jig to do this out of hardwood since you
probably have that at hand. Just clamp the metal between two stout
pieces of hardwood, and then begin bending it with another piece of
hardwood used as a drift and placed very near the desired bend with
a mallet. The idea there is to confine the bending to around the
corner of the underlying support rather than bending the "flying"
metal. Just walk along the bend, bending a little bit with each
blow, then go back and repeat. When the metal gets bent reasonably
close to desired angle for the whole length, then go along with your
mallet and pound the bent part flat against the underlying hardwood.
Many light blows work much better than a few heavy blows. You can't
avoid a little distortion, but if you keep it minimal then it's easy
to hammer the metal back flat when the bend is nearly complete.
This is hardly a "production" technique, but it works quite well for
a one-off if you're not working with critical dimensions and are
patient. It is amazing what a person skilled with a hammer can do
with sheet steel, some bits of hardwood and a shot bag. I'm not one
of those, but making bends in thin metal is really quite easy.
Water heaters are painted, but I believe that most washing
machines and dryers have a thin porcelain coating (sort of a white or
pastel colored glass) -- which will fragment at the site of any bend,
and send sharp pieces flying. As has already been suggested in other
followups to the same question posted a bit ago, you really need to be
sure that you have safety glasses on -- and anyone who happens to be
watching you needs them as well.
Anyway -- other than that, it is not that difficult to bend, and
you have gotten good advice on that -- but it will really be *ugly* when
it is done, with all of those flakes out of the finish.
Best of luck,
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The beat-it-over-an-edge-with-a-rubber-hammer technique others have
described has worked for me on 0.060 stainless steel, which is much
harder to bend than scrap appliance panels.
I make belt guards out of wire fencing which is quite a bit easier to
form than sheet steel, especially the curves. It can be lined with 1/4"
hardware cloth to keep fingers out and framed with angle or strap iron
for strength. If you mark the key slot location on the pulley you can
easily see if the setscrew has loosened and the pulley is starting to
Expanded metal was what we commonly used for guards for woodwoorking
machinery in areas which didn't need to be sealed against dust buildup.
The primary reason was to be able to blow out all the sawdust without
having to remove the guard each time you cleaned-up.
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