I bought a Shrinker Stretcher machine. I have seen them used on some Youtube channels and they looked pretty handy. They seem to help a lot in making tighter curves and radiuses. The English Wheel is handy also, but the Shrinker Stretcher seems to speed up some operations a lot. Also – at my skill level – shrinking edges with just a hammer and a dolly (or stump) is challenging. Making an even shrink along an edge is especially difficult. So, I decided to try it out.
How a Shrinker Stretcher works
The device comes with two sets of jaws. One set for shrinking and another for stretching. The jaws clamp on the piece of sheet metal and pull the metal in towards the center (or push out if stretching) when you pull on the handle. This forces the metal to curve.
The jaws can shrink and stretch steel about two inches or 5 cm deep, and around 1 mm thick.
Above you can see the teeth marks the jaws make on the metal. These need some smoothing out after the desired shape has been attained. An English Wheel is a great help.
Foot operation stand
Already after my limited experience I would say that a foot operation stand is a must. A stand would have cost almost as much as the device, so we decided to make one of scrap metal. The pedal is a Saab 96 brake pedal.
The foot stand gives you a lot more power but it also frees up both hands to hold and guide the piece you are working with.
Repairing a Saab 99 Turbo rear brake dust shield
So here’s the first real test repair where I used the shrinker stretcher.
All in all I have to say that using the shrinker was a lot easier than I thought. Ofcourse making complex panels is a completely different thing, but for small parts like this it seems a real helper.
Some more metal work – The spare tire compartment floor was badly corroded on the 99 Turbo. At first I thought about making it one piece with hammer and dolly and the english wheel, but it was just a little too complex a shape for my skill level. So, I ended up making it in manageable pieces and used what was left of the original piece.
I’ve been wanting an English Wheel for a long time, but they are pretty costly pieces of equipment, and I didn’t have room for one earlier. But some suitable scrap metal came my way and I decided to use it to build one – thus saving a a little money. Of course you can get a made-in-china English Wheel for about 400 to 500 euro, but I really didn’t like spending that much. So – we made use of what ever metal we had.
There’s a ton of instructions on making an English Wheel on the internet so this is not a tutorial on how to make one. Just a few pics of what we did.
There’s also a ton of videos on how to use one on Youtube, so check those out if you want more info. That’s basically how I figured this stuff out.
So – all in all – by making the English Wheel by ourselves we saved a little money and it was actually fun to figure out everything. The total cost was about 200 to 250 euro.