Aluminum is one of those materials that a lot of beginners and DIY guys and gals in our hobby tend to shy away from, especially sheet aluminum. The reality is that once you have an understanding of how it reacts when shaped and welded, it’s a beautiful material to work with and it can be formed into complex shapes much easier than steel of the same gauge. It also saves weight and can be mirror polished without rusting. Today we’re going to focus on 5 projects you can do yourself to get your feet wet in Aluminum work. All of these projects can be done with our Aluminum Sheet Metal Kit. This kit comes with two 12″ x 12″ x 0.050″ and two 24″ x 24″ x 0.050″ sheets of 3003 series aluminum which is easily weldable, formable and machinable.
1. Panel Blister/ Clearance Blister- With Custom cars you’re always trying to fit a lot into a package that it may not have been designed for. Whether it’s a larger engine than stock or a turbo, super charger or multiple carbs, you may have some parts that stick out of the hood or part of the body. Avoid being the guy at the show with a jagged hole cut in his hood or body of the car. You can use an aluminum panel shaped to cover your hole and give that area a “finished” look. A simple and quick way to do this is with a panel beater bag, a teardrop mallet to first rough in the shape. You can than use either an english wheel, planishing hammer, or a hammer and dolly to smooth out the metal after shaping. We go in detail on making your first panel blister HERE. Give your blister some race car/aircraft flare by attaching the blister with a set of aircraft grade solid rivets with the Eastwood Solid Rivet Kit.
2. Interior gauge Panel- Save yourself some cash and make a gauge panel/pod that fits your exact application. Adding gauges to your interior can give it a sporty look and allows you to keep a better eye on the engine vitals. A simple gauge panel can be made with only a few tools. Cut out your shape with electric shears, a body saw, or metal snips, sand the edges smooth. Then mark out your gauge holes and your bend line, and make a bend that matches the angle needed for mounting in your vehicle. Finally use a hole saw or a GreenLee style punch to cut your desired holes, and drill your mounting holes. These panels could even be mirror polished before you start to really make the panel pop in your interior.
*Intermediate-Advanced project tip- Use your panel blister process to make a curved top for a “pod” style gauge holder.
3. Coolant overflow tank/ Brake Fluid Reservoir- Replace that yellowed plastic overflow with one that won’t get brittle and break, or discolor over time. Start by cutting flat pieces to make a cube the size you need or make a small blister out of metal as shown in the first project and tip the edges. You can then add a flat top with your bung, or cap of choice and TIG weld around the seam to seal it all up. Add outlets or bungs to the bottom or sides when done by drilling and TIG welding your bungs in place.
4. Custom Hood Scoop- Need to cover more than a small protrusion in the hood or REALLY want to force some cold air into your intake? A custom hood scoop can be made to fit your hood and add some style to your ride. Ron Covell shows this intermeidate-level project in our video and tech article found HERE.
5. Custom Motorcycle Tank Sides- Building a motorcycle tank from scratch is a complex project and begins to border on expert-level of metal shaping. A fun exercise in aluminum metal shaping is to build the sides of a motorcycle gas tank from scratch. These parts are where most of the shape of the tank comes from and are most definitely the most stylish part of a gas tank. Practice the steps shown in this article and video we did with Ron Covell. Use these tank sides to practice your pin striping or custom paint skills and hang them on the shop wall when you’re done!