Shaving or smoothing the bodywork on a custom car has been one of the most popular modifications since the beginning. Shaving door handles and trim or side marker holes are the most common things to shave on a project car, but close behind that is smoothing or shaving the firewall. Sean of Empire Fabrication has gotten REALLY good at shaving and smoothing cars. So much so that his finished projects require basically no body filler at all and can be primered and block sanded straight away. Sean recently took the time to snap some photos and give us the rundown on how he tackles a firewall shave project. The donor vehicle is a VW Eurovan that he has already drastically customized. So grab a drink, sit back, and watch how to do the job right with Empire Fabrication.
1. The main sore thumb of this firewall are these five holes. First any paint, seam sealer, or rust have been cleaned up and the panel is wiped down with PRE Prep cleaner.
2.Welding up each hole individually would put extra heat into the panel (causing extreme warpage) so the entire area was cut out to reduce the welding needed.
3. The area traced out is then cut out using a set of aviation snips.
4. Once the area is rough-cut a barrel sander on a pneumatic angle die grinder is used to round the corners of the opening for better heat distribution when welding.
5. When shaving or patching sheet metal be sure your patch panel is the same gauge thickness metal as what’s on the car. Having the same gauge thickness means that you can more easily metal finish the panel in the end. The firewall on this van measured to be 20 gauge, so 20 gauge was used to fill the holes.
6. A tight fitting patch panel is key when trying to TIG weld sheet metal, so a piece of metal a little larger than the hole being patched was held behind the hole we’re filling so the exact size of the opening could be traced onto the patch. Blue layout fluid or machinist dye was applied to the panel so the scribed outline of the opening was easy to see. Finally the patch is carefully cut on the scribe line with aviation snips.
7. A tight, precise fitting patch panel can be tightly fit into the opening and clamped in place using a set of locking welding C-Clamp Pliers. Then the TIG 200 was used with the mini torch to tack weld around the panel. Each tack weld is hammered flat and the panel is checked to make sure it’s still fitting correctly.
8. Sean had the TIG welder set to approximately 35 Amps as he worked his way around the seam welding it up. Afterwards he checked to make sure there are no pinholes or spots that were missed when welding. Even at low amperage and quick welds you can see the panel has warped still. Don’t fear it CAN be fixed!
9. Sean started by knocking any proud welds down with a sander and began hammering on-dolly, directly on the weld seam. This will flatten the welds out and also will begin to stretch the metal back out to reverse the shrinking that occurs when you weld sheet metal. He then applied another coat of machinist layout dye on the panel so he could sand the work area with 150 grit sandpaper to highlight the low areas in the panel.
10. Any low areas around the welds require another round of more on-dolly hammering of the weld seam. Once all of the majorly low areas have been bumped up, the dye is sanded off with a DA sander so more dye can be applied to check the panel again.
11. This time around a slapping spoon is used to hammer on-dolly to smooth any larger areas with numerous small imperfections. The slapping spoon covers a larger area and tends to level the small highs and lows that are close to each other.
12. Finally a bullseye pick is used to pick up any areas with larger low spots. This tool allows precision hits on the low spots to quickly raise them level.
13. Once the hammering, picking, and sanding portion looks pretty close, a DA sander was used again with 150 grit paper to sand out any small imperfections. As you can see the panel is now dead flat and there’s almost no trace of the repair from the front side. A poly or high-build primer and a round of block sanding would make this panel perfect and ready for paint!
Follow the Project Eurovan and all of Sean’s quality fabrication on his Instagram page HERE.