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Machine building: Roller V Dies

Freshly machined and ready to use, my roller bottom dies for my press brake.
Freshly machined and ready to use, my roller bottom dies for my press brake.

I have seen the Rolla-V dies for press brakes before, really want a set and am saving my cash for some. In the mean time I spent some after hours minutes machining and welding a set for myself. Just using a standard V-punch for right now but in the near future I will build a few radiused punches.


These things are pretty trick, if you search YouTUBE you will find a few other videos on how they work. My biggest reason for doing this is to be able to bend with a larger radius with accuracy for brake pedal arms or any other large material




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Helve Hammer #3

This is #3 of three ever built full custom Helve Hammers.

IC Helve Hammer #3

This started almost two years ago with my desire to build a helve hammer for myself and the need for a power hammer of some sort to speed up work progress on a few projects around the shop. I wasn’t pressed for time so #1 took almost a year for me to complete and start using. Mike Tatum and Jessy Whitener persuaded me to build them each a copy, the persuasion was a good trade for all of us. So near the end of last year, I started the build process on two more machines, Jessy owns #2 and a generous trade was to be made at the completion of #3 to Mike. Since Mikes passing, the trade is off and his survivors pounced on the piece I really wanted and sold it off already. That leaves me with a machine that I would like to keep.

I have over 150 hours in crafting this machine, this is a labor of love for my craft.

However, times as they are and I need funding to push other projects forward in the shop I am offering this machine up for sale.



Machine will include a completed hammer assembly, 3/4 horse DC Servo motor with “dragster style” foot pedal. Several hammer head sets including a die holder for making beads and profiles and instruction on how to adjust the machine to perform heavy blows for rapid shaping or for fast firm blows for planishing action.

$6500.00 and local pickup only.


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I built a few of these for myself, but as good news travels fast, people found out about them and wanted them. I built them with some future-proofing as best as I could see by making the foot pedal for pullrod or pushrod configuration. Also putting in ten different axle pivot positions so you can choose the leverage you want.

I had ordered an Eastwood deep throat shrinker stretcher with stand to fulfill an immediate need during the chop on Richard’s Four-door Mercury and man was I ever disappointed. It didn’t even work as shipped without modification, the pullrod was about 4 inches short of working AND it needed to be bolted to the floor. Or at least a large plate that would be a pain in the ass to move about the shop. I needed mobility and stability. So a few hours of dreaming on my Alibre’ software and I came up with a base that would meet my needs.

Alibre' design of the Kickbase

Postprocessed the files and CNC cut the plates out of 1/4″ steel plate and TIG welded my prototype machine together. This first unit had a solid body 3/8″ foot pedal on it and I used a clevis to connect the pullrod. I found out shortly some limitations to this design so I cut a pair of 3/16″ plates and was able to use a HEIM joint instead of the clevis. This freed up the feel and gave me the range of adjustability I needed. The arm pivots on bronze shoulder bushings and has a 3/4″ axle retained by a pair of snap rings. With every hole reamed to size, changing pivot positions was fairly easy to do. Once I found the arc and foot position that felt the most comfortable I threaded some heavy wall tube and welded on a six pointed thumbwheel. This also was changed out to a lighter setup and I added a pair of counter springs to the back of it to improve the pedal feel, it was just too light and was far to easy to over shrink the workpiece.

First mockup of the prototype

It didn’t take us long to put it into use…

In use on the Merc project



The most recent one out the door went to our new friend Douglas, member of the Arizona Artist Blacksmiths. He had me build an adapter to work with his Lazze branded Shrinker/Stretcher. I machined an aluminum base adapter and fabricated a new upper clevis to attach to the Lazze piece. I have these on file and can produce them for your machine also.



Other than the minor updates to the foot pedal arm and the pullrod itself, the design has worked fantastic. There are 7 of them in the world now with two available right now. Hit the E-store if your interested in one.

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Fab-table fab

Been a busy few months here, this spring has been interesting for sure.

We had been without a large fab table since Adam pulled up stakes last year. The small setup table had been good enough for the last year but now we have new jobs coming in and the need for a new table was paramount. I prefer a larger flat sheet table with threaded holes for attaching fixtures and clamping down components, the last table had random holes that fit the individual fixtures I built, the new one has a grid for more universal measurement and hold downs.

I started off by deciding exactly how large I wanted it to be. My last table was 4X16 foot and was perfect for building narrow classic truck frames. It was a bit narrow for some of the other cars we were contracted to build. This new table is 5X12 and only 20″ off the floor. The deck is 1/2″ A36 steel and reasonably flat and the frame is made from 8″X 1/4″ channel iron.

Here is a few drawings of what I intended to build.


While waiting for the steel to show, I plasma cut all the legs and cut all the gusset tubing and reinforcing materials.

Just as I wrapped up the cutting and the new top and beams showed up and got to cutting the beams into the correct lengths and then cut forklift holes for moving in the future and a series of “keyholes” in the side beams to attach different fixtures or just chain binders for straightening, repair or just holding down unruly frames and assemblies.

With all the parts cut and prepped, the layout begins and the sub assemblies get welded up and test fit.

Now the real assembly begins, I started by squaring one end and inserting the end gusset tubing and welded it solid.

I then installed the first of the two center support beams, squared it, diagonally measured it and welded it in place. Then moved to the second support beam and did the same procedure.

Last was the other end beam and gusset. It went in surprisingly well, only needing a bit of tension to take the twist out of the side beams. Of course I diagonally measured each cell of the frame as I went and also checked for squareness overall. It was square to less than 1/16″.

Frame done and square I installed the center leg and support then the four perimeter legs. Rolled it over and welded everything from the top.

Quick coat of paint and install the swivel feet, level the frame and put it in it’s final resting place.

The table top was placed on the frame and as luck would have it, my plate was very flat. Only minor waves which was a bit of a surprise. Instead of welding the top to the frame I decided to bolt it down with flat head hardware tapped into the frame. Four holes on each of the end beams and the two center beams hold it in place nicely. I also scored a heavy centerline mark in the surface to aid in building and fabricating.

The last task before put into use was to drill and tap 168 1/2-13 holes in the table surface.


Now the fun begins! Building new fixtureing and tooling. But at least we have a solid base to work from now.

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Machine tool repair and rebuilding

I was given a derelict, Italian made cold saw by a very generous customer who owns an aviation repair shop. He could no longer use the machine as the guard was broken. I sat on it for years  and finally got the thing wired up to see if it even worked, it works just fine except for the coolant pump which seized up and is very obsolete. Without coolant the very expensive blades do not last at all.

I finally had enough of a lull in customer work to put some work on this machine. The guard was held on with a plastic collar. This collar has to have a quick release to make changing the cutting blade easier and it had to be fairly compact to maximize the cutting area of the blade. I found a grinder guard with a nice over-center release mechanism I could re-purpose and put in a day of labor and head scratching to build this aluminum collar with a double jointed hinge that works very well.

With the mechanical pump being obsolete, I could have repaired it but chose to install a more modern electric coolant tank and foot pedal switch. I drilled and tapped the base for a fitting in the back of the original sump and fabricated a new tray to mount the new Little Giant sump pump. I then enclosed the front and sides of the cabinet with 0.060″ aluminum panels held on by Dzus fasteners in case I need to get access to the pump. The panels should keep the majority of the dirt and grime that makes my “dirty room” what it is.

Notice the small foot switch inside the cabinet. I sourced that from Mc Master Carr for $25.00.

The original cover for the coolant reservoir was broken and filthy. I tried to save it but gave up and sliced up a section of 1/4″ aluminum and machined the sump tray on one side and punched a few holes in it to mimic the stock cover. Also needed to make some hardware to hold it down tight.

And it’s ready for service!

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Machine building service

Our background is in fabricating. This reaches beyond just building cars, but to industrial equipment as well. From building simple fixtures to short run low tonnage stamping and forming and as far out as full machine building of a complex nature.

Recently we built new movable stands for our shrinker/stretcher machines. Their modular design allows for reconfiguration for different styles of head units to stave off obsolescence. Designed in our 3D solid modeling software, cut on the CNC plasma and press brake formed the 1/4″ steel body is fully TIG welded. Future machines will be welded with Dual Shield MIG to save time. The pedal arms are cut from 3/8″ steel and are bronze bushed with 3/4″ CR axles and all high quality hardware was used. This is meant to last.

3D solid model of the shrinker/stretcher stand
Using the new shrinker stand

And we are now in process of building a new Helve Hammer/Planishing hammer hybrid. This hammer will be modular and reconfigurable also.  This machines primary function is for sheet metal forming. Traditional Helve hammers are very large and hit very hard. Mostly used by armorers and for roughing in compound curves in heavy gauge sheet metal, our needs require a softer touch. The purpose of this machine is for the rapid forming of automotive body panel and trim. It will have multiple hammer arms and drive linkage to tailor the style of hit from a heavy fall of a Helve to a rapid plannishing action.

The body is made fro 3/8″ and 1/2″ HR A36 steel and will be welded with Dual Shield. The stabilizing legs are 1 1/4″ 0.125″ DOM tube and will be gusseted. The body assembly will be mounted to the floor with anchors and high density polyurethane mounts and machine feet for leveling. This will absorb some of the vibration and dampen the machine for slightly better user comfort.

Helve Hammer hybrid base and arm

Helve hammer drive system detail
Helve Hybrid base tack welded together

Earlier this week we produced a simple stamping die to press a design into 18 gauge sheet metal for a firewall on the ongoing 1931 Model A sedan build. This die and punch was made from 3/16″ HRPO A36 steel and will actually last on a short production run.

Die and punch set for firewall design
First pressing test

These are just a few recent examples of what we can do for you.  Feel free to contact us about your project, fixture table, art design, structure or small machine. We have the experience in metal fabrication and forming , tube bending, notching and pneumatic power, hydraulic power, plumbing and and mechanical power transmission to meet your goals. We can build from your spec or if you need our design services to turn your napkin sketch into a reality, we are here to service your needs.