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Hemmings Motor News Blog

Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Watch Those Fingers: Metal Shaping Pros Offer Advice for Beginners on Using the English Wheel

Posted May 09, 2022 8:54 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Exotics

When we asked what automotive skills our readers would like to learn, multiple commenters responded with some sort of sheet metal or metal shaping. That's understandable, given that the ability to put a compound curve in a flat piece of sheet aluminum or steel has always been portrayed as either dark magic or mystic art requiring a pilgrimage to see some hunched and wrinkled old-world craftsman with a wall full of oddly shaped hammers and half a dozen dished stumps in his courtyard to properly master.

Of course, that's not the case, and with shrinkers, stretchers and other metal-shaping tools easily available through any tool catalog these days, the craft is far more accessible these days. Yet there's one tool that most beginners find intimidating and that even some more advanced metal shapers hesitate to approach. The English wheel - which the British call simply a wheeling machine - is a simple tool, consisting of a C-shaped frame, an upper wheel and a lower wheel, and a means of adjusting the pressure that the two wheels exert on the piece of metal in between them. While its operation is straightforward, manipulating it to get the desired results takes practice, technique, and understanding some theory behind metal expansion.

While there's plenty of tutorials on how to build an English wheel from scratch or from scraps, it's probably best to know how to use one first, so let's consult some of the more prominent metal shapers on YouTube for instruction, starting with a two-part video from Wray Schelin:

View more videos here.

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