Metal fabrication is an acquired skill that takes patience and repetition in order to approach some level of competence. It also requires tools. In the past several months, we’ve brought you a series of Cool Tools features on metalworking tools we have added to our arsenal, including a box and pan brake, a slip roll, and a bead roller—not to mention welders, plasma cutters, and dimple dies. However, one tool that we’ve recently started using regularly on many of our projects was a relative mystery to us not long ago: the shrinker/stretcher.
While metal doesn’t always do precisely what you want it to do, most sheet metal operations can be boiled down to four basic tasks: 1) do you want to flatten metal out, 2) bend it in a single plane, 3) curve it tightly into a concave shape (shrink), or 4) round it out into a convex shape (stretch)? For all but one of those tasks (bend it in a single plane), a shrinker/stretcher tool can be a helpful addition to your shop.
While shinkers and stretchers come in a variety of shapes and configurations, we knew we wanted two things: 1) a hands-free foot pedal operated stand-mounted unit, and 2) a combo shrinker/stretcher unit that could serve either function depending on which jaw set is in place. After shopping around online, we found just what we were looking for in the Eastwood #51439 extra large capacity shrinker/stretcher with #51431 foot operated stand.
With an MSRP of $599, the unit is reasonably priced compared to other brands we shopped, and we found the unit on sale for just $549 making it an even better value. You can also find free shipping promotions from time to time if you look for a while, too. Our unit arrived via standard ground shipping in two boxes and was ready for assembly with all required hardware supplied.
Assembly was a snap, taking less than 15 minutes. To add stability and combat against rocking on our less-than-perfectly flat concrete floor, we purchased threaded feet from eBay for $10 that installed right into the unit’s pre-drilled base. We grabbed a couple of scrap pieces of 20-gauge sheet metal to give it a try.
The #51430 has a deeper-thanmost 8-inch throat that will accommodate larger pieces of material with no sweat. Rated up to 16-gauge for mild steel, the hardened steel … Read more of this article. Just click on the digital feature below this introduction.
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