How to Build a Custom Hot Rod Dash

In this tech article we’ll show you how to make this custom hot rod style dash that would have gauges all the way across. We’ll be using the Eastwood bead roller, the shrinker, stretcher, and the punch bead knockout dies. This process can be used to design and fabricate your own custom dash for your next project vehicle.
Start by rough cutting a piece of 20 gauge cold rolled steel to a manageable size. If your panel has any surface rust on it you will want to start by cleaning the surface with the Eastwood Contour SCT to get a uniform finish. Next we laid out our lines for the design of the dash. I like to make notes on all of the lines as to which way the metal needs to bend, and the order in which I will be modifying the metal.
The first step is to tip the top and bottom edges on the dash.  The reason that we’re doing that is because we want to be able to adjust the shape of the dash.  If we just simply roll the design in the face it will lock the shape into the dash and we can’t adjust the panel later on. Because the dash has a curve to it on the top and bottom the dash will get a valley or large low spot in the panel from the flange bending process. If we tip the edges first we can adjust the panel back to flat before rolling our step beads in the face.  We’ll be using the motorized bead roller to tip the edges. I like to use a combination of a soft lower wheel and a sharp/narrow top wheel and tighten it down so it digs slightly into the soft lower wheel. You can then just run the panel through the bead roller and follow your bend line. When you run it through focus on your line because this first pass is the most critical when tipping an edge. The edge will naturally begin to bend because the top wheel is digging into the soft lower wheel it’s going to start that tip. So you don’t need to pull up on the panel that first time you run it through the bead roller. After you have your initial bend line you can begin to pull up on the panel with each pass until you get to about a 90 degree bend.
Depending on the severity of the curve in the dash and the flanges you may need to stop throughout the tipping process to keep the shape of the dash consistent. At the very least after the flanges are made you may need to shrink or stretch the flanges to get the dash to fit the shape of the cowl of the vehicle. For a straight dash you can use a long straight edge or make a pattern to check your dash to as you adjust the shape.
After I have the flanges bent and the dash back to the shape I want I can now set up my step dies to run my step design into the face of the dash. This will give additional strength to the dash and also a little more style to the dash. You may want to run some test panels through the offset step dies to get your die spacing correct for the size step you want to achieve. You can then run the panel through the bead roller; staying focused on following your design closely.
With the bead detail in the dash we’re now ready to use the bead punch dies to knockout the gauge holes in the dash. These style knockout punches require only a drill and a socket wrench to perform the punched hole and the bead detail around the hole. We also offer punch flare dies that can be used in a press if you desire. I first drilled holes in the center of each gauge location and lubricated the cutting portion of the dies. I then ratchet the dies tight. As you tighten the dies down you will first notice the draw bolt go from hard to tighten to really loose. This means the first step has been performed and the gauge hole has been cut. You then can continue to tighten the draw bolt and it will begin to get hard to tighten again. This means that the die is flaring or forming the bead around the hole. Once you feel the draw bolt stop turning you are done and can disassemble the knockout punch.
As you can see it only took a couple of steps to make this really cool custom dash that would go great in any 1920’s or 1930’s style hot rod. I’m really happy with how it turned out and using the punch bead dies gives a really cool detail around the gauges.

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