12 MUST-HAVE Panel Beating Tools
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.
A variety are available.Flat faced for crowned panels, crowned-faced for flat panels. These shapes limit the surface contact and can come with round or square faces, heavy or light weights. Also, cross pein and pick ends are useful. My hammers are all crowned, which works for me.
The cross pein hammers allow for a concentrated blow with linear impact. This is used for many jobs, in particular when dressing door skins at critical points such as swage lines. A crowned heavy round-faced bumping hammer with cross-pein end is possibly the most useful tool you will buy.
For an expert, the pick hammer 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.
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.
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.
A spoon 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is also essential in the process of metal finishing.
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 kits are available from companies such as Frost Auto. 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.
(Source: How to Restore Classic Car Bodywork)