Ron Covell is a master of forming sheet metal by stretching, bending and shaping. He has made a series of how to DVDs which can be found here at Eastwood. In Ron’s videos he teaches you how the things he makes look so easy. He also does classes and workshops all over the country, including at Eastwood headquarters in Pennsylvania. He uses our tools, and for several years now he has attended the SEMA show in Las Vegas and demonstrated them, from hammer, sandbags and dollies to the English Wheel.
One of the projects he likes to use as an example is a traditional styled, hot rod hood scoop out of 1/16 inch thick aluminum, from start to finish in less than an hour.
Ron is going to use 3003-H14 aluminum, delivered half hard, and made full soft beforehand by applying heat. He gets it half hard so is less likely to get damaged in transit, storage or handling, and he works in aluminum because it takes half the time of using steel. All these same techniques work with mild and stainless steel as well, they just take more time and effort.
1) Start with a shield shaped piece of metal, roughly the size you want and outline of the scoop to be. By mostly stretching the metal with mallets, and the English wheel, the size of the finished project will end up close to the size of the original piece.
2) The first step is to make the flat panel into a lumpy mess, but with roughly the right amount of curvature you want in the final part. This involves a sandbag and a teardrop mallet, and hopefully a pair of earplugs because it’s going to make a racket.
3) After about 50 skillful mallet blows against the sandbag you end up with this, which looks ugly, but is getting close to the basic shape you need.
4) In case you were wondering, that tool Ron is using to help visualize how far off he is from his ideal curve is nothing more than a long stick of glue for a hot glue gun.
5) After determining where the piece needed more curvature and depth, and where it needed some fine tuning, it was back to the sandbags for another round of beating. And after another 150 or so hits with the mallet, it’s about 80% the right shape.
6) One more round with the mallet and sandbag, and the shape is there, even if the surface has the texture of a bag of walnuts.
7) Now it’s time to start smoothing the lumps and bumps with the English wheel. Ron starts with the 8 inch crown wheel, the least rounded one. Adjust the upper and lower till they are just barely touching. Then he works the piece slowly back and forth, trying not to roll off the edge, which can cause the overall shape to change. Spin the upper wheel with your hand so it will suck the piece between them.
8) Roll the piece back and forth, back and forth, gradually moving from one end to the other. Then do a second pass, finishing back where you started. You will be amazed at how smooth the English wheel will make things in just a few minutes.
9) Just let the wheel do the work, and let the metal find its own level. If you put too much pressure on one side or the other, or use too much force, the edges of the wheels can cause creases in the metal, instead of leaving nice smooth surfaces.
10) If you do get a crease, it is usually a simple matter of wheeling across the crease diagonally, in both directions to get it out.
11) After another pass through the wheel, paying special attention to the edges and back of the scoop, it is really starting to look like something.
12) The next step is to get the edges of the scoop to all be flat on the same plain. You do this with nothing more than your hands and a little twisting and tweaking of the shape. You may have to use body weight against a work bench to get it right.
13) Next, lessen the pressure on the metal, and run it through the English wheel again to get it even smoother. Change direction and track it back and forth again from one end to another. Run it through 3 or more times at slightly different angles and it will get smoother with each pass.
14) If you find all this work on the wheel has lessened the doming of your piece, just tweak it again by hand.
15) The next step is a rolled edge on the front of the scoop. Ron chooses to do it on the English wheel, which makes it really easy. Mark a line 3/4 inch along the front edge of the scoop. Insert a small metal spacer on one side of the lower wheel of the English wheel so instead of the center of the wheels touching, the outside edge touches. Now you can intentionally put a crease in the metal to roll the edge.
16) Feed the scoop through the wheel with the marked line rolling along the edge of the wheels. Exert a little force to make it bend in the direction you want to roll it. It’s going to take several passes.
17) You may notice as you put more of a roll on it, that the metal starts to get wavy again. This is because the metal is too long for the new curve you are trying to force it into. If you have the Eastwood Shrinker/Stretcher combo this can be solved in seconds.
18) After 4 passes through the wheel, and about 45 degrees, you will begin to run into interference issues, so you’ll have to switch to another method. But look at how far you have come.
19) Now it’s time to get the thin edge of a body dolly in the crease and start hammering it over. This will get you pretty much all the way to 90 degrees. You will need to cut the very corners of the rolled edge before it gets folded over completely, otherwise it will be much harder to put the flange around the rest of the scoop.
20) Use the shrinker as needed to adjust the edge, and increase the curve of the scoop, as it may lose some with the rolling of the edge.
21) A tear drop mallet will take the edge and roll it over the rest of the way, hammering against the sandbag.
22) Finally, set the English wheel to the thickness of the new rolled edge, and finish it off by rolling it through the wheel a few times.
23) Now you need to make the flange along the other edge. Make a mark 3/4 inch from the edge with a felt tip pen, or masking tape. The flange is made the same way you started the rolled edge, by putting a spacer in one side of the English wheel, and rolling the scoop through making a crease along the edge.
24) After 3 passes through the wheel, the flange is pretty much flat. Some final adjustments may have to be made with the shrinker/stretcher or a body hammer and flat surface, to get it perfectly flat.
And there you have it, a traditional hot rod hood scoop made from a flat piece of sheet metal in under an hour. These same techniques can be used to make all sorts of body parts, and several more of Ron’s demonstrations are on the Eastwood YouTube channel, or our blog. For more in depth demonstrations buy his DVDs from Eastwood and learn all the ins and outs of shaping metal.