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Bodywork and Sheet Metal Work - Heavy Metal

Learn What To Do When The Damage Has Been Done And Replacements Need To Be Made

Kevin Aguilar
Sep 1, 2006
Photographers: Kevin Aguilar
Photo 2/21   |   replacing Body Panel shaping Metal
What do you do when you have an old truck that has major body damage or so much rust that your body panels have disintegrated? If the damage is beyond the relief of simple hammer and dollies, then replacement panels must be made. It's a major step up from the basic process of taking out dents, but it is not impossible to learn. In most cases, it just takes practice to build a useful amount of knowledge and skill be able to shape metal like a pro.
Why is metalwork so damn important in bodywork? Basically, the metal is your foundation and is the main structure of a vehicle's exterior. And like most things, if you start off with a bad foundation, it's very well possible that the final surface will show the weaknesses of the work. Let's say you start off with misshapen metal and you cover it up with body filler, block the piece straight, and cover it in paint to a shine. What could possibly happen is that over time the filler will shrink to the bumpy metal, and the smooth surface will soon be wavy.
Tools are tools, and prices of them mean that you are getting a better deal by spending less money, right? Wrong, You are only as good as the quality of tools you work with. You get what you pay for, and good tools will last for years to come. Also, it counts to have the right tools on hand because it never fails that when you're in the middle of a job that's when you realize that you needed a certain tool to finish the job. Of course, this happens to you when you are working on a three-day weekend when every shop is closed. Basically, you're screwed because you failed to properly equip yourself ahead of time.
Here at Sport Truck, we were a little rusty on our sheetmetal knowledge and needed some brushing up. With more people constantly buying old vehicles that have high odds of needing repair, we figured that our quest for knowledge could benefit others, too. In our quest, we discovered a shop called Scott's Hot Rods 'N' Customs in Oxnard, California. After a haul out there, we took some time to learn not only how to use specialized metalworking tools but how to make our own replacement pieces out of flat steel stock. Also, while searching the internet for information on the subject, we came across a website dubbed that had cool information and animated drawings of using these same tools. In the end, there is only so much that you can learn in one session, so we captured all the interesting facts that we could to help get an understanding for all the do-it-yourselfers out there.
Photo 3/21   |   replacing Body Panel body Damage
3 Tips for Metal-Shaping Mastery
It's true that practice makes perfect, but you've got to practice the right way first. Here are a few basic rules to help you work with sheetmetal safely and effectively:
1.When shaping metal, it is easier to add more than it is to reverse the process. Baby steps are good because if you go overboard you may have to start from scratch again.
2.Nobody is perfect, and it's always a good idea to make templates to help make replacement panels.
3.Always remember that freshly cut sheetmetal can be very sharp. The thin material can form like a knife and it will cut you if you aren't careful.
Photo 21/21   |   replacing Body Panel damaged Panel
The Final Word
When all of our work is done, the replacement panel is welded on, and as you can see, using the right tools correctly allowed us to fix this rusty area without a lot of body filler. Now, when this truck gets painted, we won't have to worry about covering up bad work. Also, we can rest assured that the money spent on the paintjob will not be wasted away on a truck that will show its weaknesses later on.


Beverly Shear
Fournier Enterprises Inc.
Metalshapers Association
Scott's Hot Rods 'N' Customs


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