Metalworking isn't always about big expensive tools, such as power hammers or even English wheels. Sometimes you can get a lot done with simple tools. This month we got to use one of Eastwood's Panel Beater Bags and a metal-forming mallet. The 18-inch square suede top cowhide bag uses all-leather construction and is double-stitched with glued seams. Useful, as it has to contain sand or shot without spillage! The bag yields with the metal as it's worked to minimize stretching, nicks, and gouges.
Eastwood has a range of teardrop and round mallets, all with their blue, ultrahigh molecular weight heads. We used a 2 1/2-inch teardrop mallet. The bags and mallets are available separately, or you can purchase the combination we used as a pair, saving a few bucks while you're at it.
Of course the bag isn't shipped containing sand or shot. We bought a bag of kiln-dried sand from our local hardware store. Don't use regular sand as it's not dry, and you'll need it to be for it to work properly. You'll have a hard time filling the bag with anything else, too!
We already had a small curved panel of 18-gauge steel, similar to a hood top, and figured we'd form a blister in its center using the bag, the sort of thing you'd need to do to clear carburetors or similar. We could have marked a circle on the panel before starting to make it perfect, but elected to form the blister by eye for this demonstration. From start to finish what you see here took under 10 minutes to form. From here it could be finessed a little better, then sanded smooth, but this was to show what the mallet and bag is capable of, not to fabricate a finished piece. If you're into metalworking or forming, and haven't tried using a "sandbag", give it a go. You'll be surprised how much you use it once you start.