Body­work Ba­sics

Turn a cheap swa­ger into a pro­fes­sional metal-shap­ing ma­chine

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - With Theodore J Gil­lam

Up­grade and power your swa­ger.

If you’re go­ing to fab­ri­cate re­pair patches or pan­els, there’s one tool you’ll find in­valu­able: the swa­ger. You might see it called a ‘jenny’ or a ‘bead roller’ on Youtube videos orig­i­nat­ing in Amer­ica. They were once the pre­serve of pro­fes­sion­als and rich DIY en­thu­si­asts. Cheap im­ports from the Far East, how­ever, mean that de­cent ma­chines are now within the grasp of the rest of us.

If you look around your car’s body, you’ll find strength­en­ing ribs pressed into things like the in­ner sills, the bulk­head and the bat­tery box. There are also likely to be de­pres­sions pressed into the floor­pans to add rigid­ity and, of course, swage lines that strengthen and en­hance the body­work. Th­ese would prob­a­bly have been stamped into the pan­els at the fac­tory. A swa­ger with will al­low you to re­pro­duce all th­ese pro­files – and many more be­sides – at home.

The cheap­est type of swa­ger ca­pa­ble of han­dling mild steel plate is avail­able as a kit on a stand from around £160. It will come with some pairs of dies that’ll al­low you quickly and eas­ily shape sheet metal in a num­ber of use­ful ways. There’s noth­ing dras­ti­cally wrong with the func­tion­al­ity of th­ese swa­gers straight out of the box. It doesn’t take much work, how­ever, to el­e­vate them to pro­fes­sional-qual­ity ma­chines that are more ca­pa­ble and eas­ier to use. This fea­ture will show you how. In the next is­sue, we’ll demon­strate what you can do with your swa­ger, whether you’ve car­ried out our mod­i­fi­ca­tions or not.

We’ve started with the cheap­est tool avail­able, which is iden­ti­cal to many oth­ers on the mar­ket. We’ll stiffen it up to prevent flex and in­crease ac­cu­racy. Then, we’ll add some ac­ces­sories to make it more use­able. Fi­nally, we’ll mo­torise it. This is not be­cause we’re lazy, but be­cause it’s so much eas­ier to guide metal through the swa­ger if you’re not turn­ing the han­dle at the same time. We’ve used scrap metal and cheap bits from the in­ter­net to up­grade our swa­ger. You can pick and choose which up­grades to make.

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