Body­work Ba­sics

Mas­ter the ba­sics of this cheap but pow­er­ful metal-shap­ing tool

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

Set up your shrinker/stretcher.

There are myr­iad ways of shrink­ing and stretch­ing sheet steel us­ing all sorts of tools. A bench- or stand-mounted shrinker/stretcher is one of the quick­est, eas­i­est, most pre­dictable and qui­etest meth­ods. Most shrinker/stretch­ers orig­i­nate in the Far East, with prices star­ing at around £120. They wear many dif­fer­ent badges – but they’re pretty much the same un­der the paint. Though a sep­a­rate shrinker and stretcher is jolly handy, buy­ing one tool body and two sets of jaws will be cheaper. A floor stand that al­lows foot oper­a­tion is very handy, as it frees up both your hands. They can be bought cheaply – or you can make one your­self (PC, De­cem­ber 2015).

This type of small shrinker/stretcher is ideal for mak­ing all sorts of re­pair patches, as we’ll demon­strate. Many of these would be fairly time-con­sum­ing to make sim­ply with ham­mers, dol­lies and a shrink­ing-fork. The shrinker/stretcher doesn’t mimic these hand-tools, but in­stead takes a swift and rather bru­tal ap­proach to its job. It has ser­rated jaws that grab hold of the metal. The jaws forcibly squish it into it­self to shrink it, or pull it apart to stretch it. It’s very ef­fec­tive in­deed and once you’ve started us­ing one, you’ll won­der how you ever man­aged with­out it.

The re­sults are usu­ally pretty good, though the fin­ished piece may ben­e­fit from a lit­tle light cor­rec­tion with some brief ham­mer and dolly work. The marks left by the ser­rated jaws will need to be lin­ished be­fore re­fin­ish­ing, too.

This guide will show you how the shrinker and stretcher works and how to tune it up so it func­tions at its best. It’ll also help you to ap­pre­ci­ate the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the metal that’s shrunk or stretched and the metal that hasn’t been worked.

You will need Smoothly does it… Check it your­self Wire brush, grease, shrinker/stretcher. Don’t take it for granted that the shrinker/ stretcher was set up cor­rectly at the factory. Check it as de­tailed on the op­po­site page. The best re­sults are gained from uni­for­mity. Move the metal through the jaws by the same amount for each ‘bite’ and ex­ert uni­form pres­sure each time. Al­ways think of how the dif­fer­en­tial be­tween shrunk/stretched metal will in­ter­act to cre­ate the shape you want. Plan your moves

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