Martin Thaddeus takes you through all the kit you’ll need to buy, borrow or make yourself to take on panel-work.
To some extent, exactly what we, as classic-car restorers, can hope to tackle is governed by the tools and facilities at our disposal. Ingenuity can go a long way with bodywork tasks, and it can often be the case that if a tool does the job without breaking, then it’s the correct tool for the job. That said there are a few basic items which are important to have to hand. Some tools will have to be bought; others can be obtained from metal fabricators, and the rest fabricated as the need arises. The workplace needs to be well thought out, taking into account noise and hazardous materials, both of which can affect relationships with those living close-by, and also may have an effect on insurance cover.
Knowing which tools to buy can be confusing. There’s a lot of equipment available and it won’t all be needed at once. As a rule of thumb, if it looks useful it probably will be. Making tools has a long tradition within the motor trade. And there can be great satisfaction in working with a crowbar or slappers that you have shaped yourself, not least because this can save a large amounts of money.
Where to work is governed by individual circumstances, but if you hamper yourself with a cramped, poorly-lit and damp area, which has no electricity or running water, tasks will be harder to undertake and often won’t get finished.
  • Pick hammer

    For an expert, the pick-hammer (Frost Code: F523) is the most effective tool, but for the uninitiated it is a nightmare. This hammer can be used to pick up a dent from inside, using light, careful blows. The dimples are then planished away.

  • Shrinking hammer

    There are many wonder hammers on the market, but some are of only limited use. The spiral-faced hammer here is quite good. It is effective when removing scrapes on doors. Use in conjunction with a flat dolly (Frost Code: F536).

  • dollies

    These provide the counter to a hammer, or can be used to dress directly. Striking on the dolly will raise the metal by stretching, while striking off will cause it to lift. Dollies come in many forms and you can never have too many.

  • spoons

    A spoon (Frost Code: F556 / F557) can be used to pry, drift and slap, or as a dolly. Generally cast in metal and chrome-plated, these are very handy tools to have around. The universal spoon also has a hooked end. When using as a drift, the spoon is struck with a mallet or club hammer.

  • Heavy Roughing hammers

    Club hammers, engineer’s hammers and heavy mallets. Roughing out is the term given to the stage in a repair before the final shaping and planishing. A range of hide copper and rubber mallets is a good idea, along with at least a couple of heavy steel hammers.

  • Dead blow Mallet

    This clever polyurethane hammer deserves a mention. Unlike conventional rubber hammers this has a hollow cavity filled with shot. In use, as the mallet strikes, its natural tendency to bounce is countered by the shot, which instead reinforces the blow. Great for bodywork.

  • slappers spring hammer

    Any long striking device might be regarded as a slapper, be it made of wood, steel, or as in this case, have a rubber face. It is often useful to inflict a defuse blow on the work piece. Highs can be shrunk so as not to leave a flat or hollow.

  • bumping file

    This was traditionally an old file, which had been lopped and shaped to work as a slapper with grip. The knurled file face will counter the natural tendency of the metal to stretch. The bumping-file or Shrinking Slapper (Frost Code: F555) is also essential in the process of metal finishing.

  • Body File

    Though not a beating tool, the flexible body file is used in conjunction with the bumping-file in the metal-finishing process. This adjustable file is an essential element in any panel beater’s tool kit.

  • Panel Beating kit

    Panel Beating kits are available from companies such as Frost. Higher-priced tools often feel better in the hand. If you are only going to renovate one car, go for the budget set. Should you be more serious, spend a bit more.