Are you still bending metal using the old fashioned clamp and mallet method? You need a break — a metal bending brake that is! Brake-bending metal is superior to manual bending methods for two main reasons: you’ll end up with a cleaner and straighter bend, and you can skip the tiresome pounding session entirely.
A basic brake — like the above-pictured made-in-the-USA 18″ model by BAC — is capable of bending and forming 18-gauge mild steel or 16-gauge aluminum sheets. And they’re easy to operate: first, clamp your sheet metal between the supplied straightedge and the stationary support. Then lift the handles at both ends of the brake to rotate the pivot bar about its axis to bend the sheet metal. It works best if you mount the brake to your worktable, but clamps also work well in most situations.
Street pricing for an 18″ model starts at about $28, and a 30″ model is also available. Unless it’s mentioned otherwise, entry-level brakes do not come with the two or so C-clamps that are required. You can buy more sophisticated brakes with features such as foot-operated mechanisms and individual clamping fingers for increased uniformity, but they’re much more pricey.