5 Tips to Make your Bead Roller work Better

Bead rolling is one of those sheet metal fabrication techniques that looks easy to use, but there are countless tricks to get good looking, consistent beads. On Project Pile House I have over a hundred feet of handmade panels rolled in bead roller (Easily!) and I’ve picked up a handful of tips along the way that make life a LOT easier!


1.Bead Roller Fence- Use a bead roller fence to help you make PERFECTLY straight lines and take away the possibility of you getting off course when rolling straight lines by hand. The fence bolts to the edge of the bead roller and has six inch long plates on either side that the edge of the panel rides up against. The only catch is that you need to cut the edge of the panel pretty darn straight, as the guide only keeps the panel as straight as your cut is. The guide will take up small little dips if you cut the panel by hand or with something other than a stomp shear. You can also add pieces of box tubing to the face of the guide to bring the guide out further for beads that are closer than four inches to the edge of the panel.


2.Clean and Lubricate the Roller– A bead roller has a lot of moving parts and ideally you want the spinning motion of the mandrels and the handle to be as smooth and consistent as possible. I like to liberally grease the gears with wheel bearing grease (or similar) and to clean the mandrels with PRE Cleaner to remove any possible debris or metal shards that could be pressed in between the wheels and leave their impression in the panel (no do-overs with bead rolling!).


3. Count your Turns- In order to make all of your beads or designs the same depth and shape, you need to make sure that you have the same spacing and tension on the bear roller mandrels. We suggest marking one end of your tension handle so you can count the number of turns it took to release pressure off the panel and remove it from the roller. This way you can reapply the panel or make multiple panels with the same impressions each time. If your forgetful like me you may want to take a sharpie and write the number of turns right on the bead roller!


4.Let it flex- Some of the economy bead rollers have some flex to them when you have a bit of tension on the wheels. The frame WILL flex but don’t worry yourself over it. Let the frame flex then start rolling the beads. The frame will only have a small amount of flex and once it reaches the maximum deflection it will stay how it is and you can be sure it won’t cause an issue as long as you still have pressure on the wheels and roller handle. I’ve rolled ALL of the beads on Project Pile House with the Eastwood Economy Bead Roller and it works well if you account for the flex when you begin.

Rolling Beads in a Panel

5.Do a Test Run- If you’re rolling a panel that has a radius in it or is large enough to require multiple people to hold it I always suggest doing a test run with little to no pressure on the wheels and practice running the panel to make sure you can get the clearance needed to swing the corners on all sides of the panel. Smart bead layout will allow you to roll some REALLY big panels if you think ahead and take some test runs to check your clearance.

Bead Rolling is a great way to strengthen your panels and recreate original panels if you practice and take your time along the way. Feel free to drop us a line with pictures of what you’re rolling in your bead roller!



  1. How did you build the bed sides for Project Pile House? How did you form the tube shape at the top of the bed sides? Thank you!

  2. Hi Alan,

    We used a number of Eastwood tools to make the bedsides. We’re working on editing the video and writing up the tech article for the process now. Watch this space for the full how-to in the coming weeks!


  3. The problem with the unit flexing can be cured by beefing up the sides with extra steel . Just make sure you don’t warp it when adding steel to the sides for strength. Lots of photos of beefed up “econo” bead rollers on the web. A bead roller should not flex.

  4. Than for your articles On the bead roller I use a jam nut to lock my depth in place. That keeps my repeat ability the same
    Thanks again

  5. Hi I found it was easier to replace the crank handle on my bead roller with a Model A steering wheel.It then made a nicer job .

  6. Another option with counting the turns is cut off a piece of a steel ruler and mount to the lower arm.
    Then make & mount a small pointer to top arm next to the ruler scale. This will give you a measurement to work with but don’t forget any flex between the arms.

  7. How do you stop a panel from warping when you have used the bead roller. I have made some door skins that look great but after bead rolling they are nowhere near flat. Can you relieve the stress by heating?

  8. It is hard to give the best answer for you without seeing pictures, but there’s a few ways. You can use a shrinker to shrink and tighten up the areas that are loose. Another way is by using an english wheel on the opposite side of the panel to stretch it the opposite way lightly to get the panel “relaxed”. You can also do some heat-shrinks with an oxy-acetylene torch and a compressed air or a damp rag, but it takes a bit of practice to avoid making the warpage worse. In the future you can pre-stretch a the panel lightly in the opposite direction as your beads will be in the same area so that the metal is all even when you’re done.

    Hope that helps!


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