Fold 'n' RollFolding or rolling sheetmetal is often the only fabrication required, particularly if you're fabricating floorpan repair sections or rolling a transmission tunnel. As with most of the tools covered here, your choice depends somewhat on your budget, as well as how large your workpiece is. If you need to put a 90-degree bend in a 4ft sheet, you'll have a hard time bending it between two pieces of angle iron in a vise, and will most likely need to use a 48-inch sheetmetal brake. For complicated projects that might require more than one bend, a box and pan brake may be what you need.
If you want to roll a transmission tunnel, you might get away with wrapping your workpiece around a gas bottle, but will probably need to use a set of rollers-though it takes practice to roll a tapered section, which is what most trans tunnels are.
You may want to form a 90-degree bend that goes around corners, such as a lip on an inner fender panel to clear a suspension arm, in which case you may want to fabricate a wooden former, or buck, to shape the metal.
Shrinker/stretchers are tools that are capable, as their name implies, of shrinking or stretching the edge of a panel, most often used to work a lip to form a curve. These are all ways to bend metal in one plane, rather than putting curves into the panel.
Compound InterestOK, now to what you really want to know about: how to form panels with compound curves. Invariably, most handmade compound-curved panels start with a mallet and sandbag, used to rough out the shape required. Wood was the staple material for mallets for years until the advent of plastic.
Once the shape has been roughed out, a wheeling machine is most often used to finish the workpiece, stretching the metal to form compound curves. An air hammer will also form compound curves, and is useful on a small panel that simply won't fit into a wheeling machine, such as a small hood blister to clear carburetors, for instance.
One last tool we should mention is a bead roller. This versatile tool can, depending on the wheels fitted, form beads of various widths in sheet steel, form 90-degree bends, and even rolled edges, and is available with manual or power options for one-man operation.