A tutorial on how to make a simple metal brake to bend shelf brackets at home.
One of the tools that made these projects possible was my DIY metal brake. It allows me to take strips of metal and bend them into any shape.
If you’re working on a custom project but you can’t find affordable shelf brackets in the size you need, why not make your own brackets? Maybe you already have some metal in your garage but you don’t have a way to bend them.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to make a simple metal brake that can solve your problem. It’s inexpensive, easy to use and doesn’t take up too much space.
But because I’m a beginner and do not have fancy saws to cut metal, I made my metal brake even simpler. This metal brake only makes straight cuts, no cutting at an angle, and only bends metal up to ⅛” thick.
I would recommend making this metal brake if you are just starting out and not planning to bend tons of metal, just some brackets here and there for small projects.
If you want something more versatile and heavy-duty, make your brake like the two tutorials linked above.
WHAT’S THE COST?
Let’s take a look at the cost of creating this metal bending tool.
First, I am assuming you are a beginner, having only a drill, wood cutting saw, two wood clamps, and none of the specialized tools needed to work with metal.
Your total cost will be around $55; this includes all the basic tools needed (a hand saw).
The cost of materials is around $25.
So, for around $55, you can have an easy way to bend metal at home and have the tools needed to work with metal.
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HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE METAL BRAKE
- 2″x4″x8′ board
- 3/16″x1-1/2″x36″ flat steel bar
- 3/8″x36″ steel round rod
- two: 3″ door hinges
- two: 5/16″x3″ carriage bolts
- two: 5/16″ wing nuts
- two: 5/16″ washers
- eight: #8×1″” metal to wood screws (lath screws)
- hacksaw (here’s the one I used)
- 5/16″ metal drill bit
- 11/64″ or 3/16″ metal drill bit
- metal filing tool (here’s the set I purchased)
- 3/4″ spade bit
- miter saw
- shop vac (for cleanup)
- safety glasses
- face mask (for dust)
- ear protection
You can print the material list and instructions below.
Before you begin, I recommend watching the two videos in the links I provided above (the tutorials I used to make my brake). These videos will help you understand the steps below.
Also, the images you see below show the way I made the metal brake but afterwards, I discovered ways to improve the metal brake. I’ve included those recommendations in my tutorial but not in the images.
STEP 1: CUTTING THE METAL AND WOOD
TIP: Use clamps to hold the metal in place while cutting.
Cut the 1-1/2″ metal bar to these measurements: 12.5″, 12.5″, and 11″ using the hacksaw.
SIDE NOTE: You will be only making two cuts to give you the three measurements. Initially, I made three cuts but these new measurements will make it a lot easier for you!
TIP: After cutting one piece, use the metal file to smooth out the metal edges so they are not sharp.
Then, using the hacksaw again, cut the 3/8″ steel round rod to these measurements: 8″ and 8″. Also, file the ends to remove the sharp edges.
SIDE NOTE: The hacksaw is the slow way to cut metal but it will give you a clean cut.
Now, using a miter saw, cut the 2″x4″ board to these measurements: 23.5″ and 19.5″. These are different sizes so you can clamp the longer board down.
SIDE NOTE: You can have the hardware store cut the board for you.
STEP 2: INSTALLING THE HINGES
Place the two pieces of 2×4 boards onto a flat surface and clamp the two boards together so that there is a 2″ space between both ends. See image below for example.
Then, take the door hinges and place them onto the boards. The middle of the hinges will be where the two boards come together and the hinges will be 1/4″ away from the edge of the smaller board.
After the hinges are centered, mark the screw holes with a pencil. Then, pre-drill the marked areas with a 1/8″ drill bit.
Now, attach the hinges with the provided screws.
STEP 3: ATTACHING THE FLAT METAL PIECES
TIP: Place scrap 2×4’s under the boards to raise the brake so clamps can secure the metal to the brake.
You are now going to attach the two 12.5″ flat metal pieces to the boards.
These will be placed between the hinges with a gap of 1/4″ from both hinges. (In the photo below, I originally had a wider gap). The metal will be attached at the edge of each board. Clamp the metal to the boards.
With the metal clamped in place, take the 11/64″ drill bit and drill holes at the end of each metal piece.
SIDE NOTE: You can get away with two screws per metal piece (one per side) but four would be better (two per side).
TIP: Use a shop-vac while drilling to help with the cleanup.
Then, secure the metal to the boards using the 1″ metal to wood screws.
TIP: Drill one hole, secure into place with the screw, then move to the next one.
STEP 4: PLACING THE TOP PLATE
The top plate is your last flat metal piece (11″) that will sit on top of one of the previously installed metal pieces. It will be placed on the metal piece that is secured to the longer board.
But before it can be placed, you need to drill 5/16″ holes into the ends.
Clamp the metal onto a scrap board, then create two holes close to each end (about 1/2″ away from ends), using a 5/16″ metal drill bit.
TIP: Use a shop-vac to keep the metal shavings contained.
Once the holes are created, take the piece back to the brake. For my metal brake, I will be bending 1/8″ metal so I will need a gap of 1/8″ between the already secured metal pieces.
To give you this gap, you can use a 1/8″ piece of metal (see image below for example) or you can measure and mark 1/8″ away from the inside edge (where the boards come together). Remember, this metal piece is being placed on the longer board.
TIP: If you are measuring and marking, mark in at least three spots (ends and middle).
Clamp the 11″ metal piece so that it sits between the screws on the longer board and 1/8″ away from the edge of the bottom metal.
Once the metal piece is clamped and not moving, drill a 5/16″ hole using the 5/16″ metal drill bit through the already-drilled 5/16″ hole through the bottom metal piece and wood board. Complete this step for the previous 5/16″ hole too.
When both holes are drilled, unclamp the metal and flip the brake so the wood bottom is facing up.
Take the 3/4″ spade bit and drill into the just drilled 5/16″ holes about 1/2″ deep. This is done so the carriage bolt will be inset and the boards can sit flush on a surface.
After, insert the carriage bolts into the holes and flip the brake back over.
Then, place the 11″ metal piece through the bolts, add a washer and wing nut, and tighten into place. This setup is for larger pieces of metal (sheet metal).
You will want to drill two more 5/16″ holes that are closer to the middle. You need about 3″ to 3-1/2″ between these new holes. These will be used with smaller metal pieces 2″ and smaller.
Because your two metal pieces are already tightened together, you just need to drill two 5/6″ holes using the 5/16″ drill bit again (drilling through two metal pieces and wood board). Then, use the 3/4″ spade bit for under the board.
You will now have multiple options of what size of metal to bend just by moving the carriage bolts around.
STEP 5: ADDING THE HANDLES
The 8″ steel round rod pieces are your handles for the brake. These will be removable in this design. All you need to do is drill 3/8″ holes on the 2″ side of the smaller wood board.
You want these handles about the distance of your metal pieces (no more than your shoulder width) and about 1-1/2″ deep. Use a 3/8″ wood drill bit to drill two holes 1-1/2″ deep.
Then, insert the rods into the holes.
Your metal brake is now complete!
SIDE NOTE: If you would like you can paint it!
THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY
There are several things I would recommend doing differently if I created a new metal brake. These changes are already in the step-by-step tutorial above but here’s a summary:
- I would use 3/16″ flat metal (I used 1/8″ in my brake and the top plate has bowed slightly after multiple uses).
- Cut the 1-1/2″ flat bar two times, instead of three. It takes a while to cut using a hacksaw so less cuts would be fantastic!
- Only two screws per metal piece (Step 3).
And that’s it for the changes.
I hope this DIY tutorial helps you make a simple metal brake you can use to bend metal at home. Whenever you need to create something functional or beautiful (or both!), pull out your new metal brake, attach the clamps to a sturdy table and bend the metal to whatever shape you need!
And if you’re ready to get started, try making these metal farmhouse brackets.