How to Use a Metal Shrinker Stretcher for Auto Body Restoration

January 27, 2012

A metal shrinker stretcher is a very specialist tool that is used to create a curve on a piece of metal. You can use this kind of device to make a curve in a piece of body work, or when making a new part to fit our classic car, which will help to get the car working under proper conditions. Using the metal shrinker stretcher to repair panels on your car, flanges, or even fenders, can help you to finish your car restoration more quickly than using a basic planishing hammer method. You can use the shrinker-stretcher to remodel any part of the machine.

Materials Needed

  • Shrinker Stretcher
  • Pipe Notcher
  • Tape
  • Metal
  • Design

Step 1 - Work Out Your Design

Before you use the metal shrinker stretcher, you will need to work out where on the car you wish to place the metal you will be remodelling. If you are replacing a part, then you will have the perfect model for your creation, but if not, you should do some research on fittings for your car, so that you can create a piece of metal work that perfectly matches your car model. Once you have a firm idea of the shape of your piece, you need to mark out on paper the size and angle of the curve. Once you have the design drawn out in actual size, place your metal on the drawing, and mark with tape where the curve should begin. You should then bend the metal using a sheet metal brake, so that it is soft.

Step 2 - Secure the Tool

Once your metal is ready, secure the tool to a table top or workbench. The shrinker stretcher should have two holes for bolts on either side of the frame, which you can use to secure the tool, or you could use a pipe notcher to make two holes in a sheet of metal, bolt the tool to the metal, and then secure the sheet to the table using vices. The latter has the advantage of being usable on dining tables without needing to make holes. 

Step 3 - Working the Metal

Insert the metal with the tape into the shrinker stretcher. Using the leading edge, push this half-way into the jaws (only doing half at a time will prevent bunching), and then push the handle down, so that the jaws press into the metal. Move the handle up, and then down again, moving the metal in and out. Doing this will bring the metal further into the jaws of the shrinker stretcher, giving a smoother curve. Check your curve regularly with the paper template, so that you will know when they match.

Step 4 - Adding Curves

You can then make a compound, or additional curve by turning the metal over, and using the shrinker stretcher on the other side. When you are making a car body panel, you can add one inch curves to both sides within  half an hour or so.


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