Repairing distortion from beading

Q. I just spent the last two weeks trying to flatten out the floorpan I made with some buddies. I don’t think it’s usable. I’m pretty frustrated but I learned some things. My two helpers are engineers, but they have less experience with sheetmetal than I do. I think their desire to get the job done quickly was part of the problem, coupled with my letting them steer more than I should have allowed. So I will try again with a different approach with helpers who are more patient.

I have a piece of 18-gauge steel 24×42 inches that will fit under my seat. I’m running beads from front to back 2 inches apart, parallel to the short sides; stopping about 2 inches from the rear edge and 4 inches from the front. There are six beads on the passenger side and seven on driver side. It seems that we didn’t pre-stretch the metal enough because the edges are stressed at the ends where we stopped. Not wanting to just scrap the piece, I tried to shrink the ends by heating and hammering. That worked pretty well. I got three of the four beads looking pretty good but I lost it on the final section and I can’t seem to “read” the piece well enough to bring it back.

The next plan of attack is to pre-stretch about 25 percent more and only roll two beads at a time, working out the distortion on those beads before making the next ones. There is a section about 6 inches wide between the two sets of beads that will remain flat because the throat on my machine is only about 17 inches deep, and I’m OK with keeping the center plain. It actually looks pretty cool. So I will roll one bead on each side of that field and clean the beads up before continuing to the next set, working on two at a time until the panel is completed. My thinking is that it will be easier to read the distortion because there will be less going on.

The biggest question is: Can the panel be pre-stretched the right amount to not need “tweaking” on the ends? I think that it will require some regardless of how well I stretch it. Any help is appreciated.
Jeff Franklin
Via the Internet

A. I learned that some people are amazingly helpful, with a great spirit and lots of good ideas, but others have a style so different from mine that it seems no good comes from it.

It’s very hard to judge how much pre-stretching is needed before beading. There are many variables here, like the width and depth of the bead, and the thickness and stiffness of the metal, but I’ve almost never heard of anyone OVER-stretching the metal. I would plan on doing some tune-up at the ends of the beads in any case.

If working two beads at a time works better for you go for it. One technique I’ve used to repair the distortion (which almost always happens if a bead stops short of an edge) is to make a cut from the edge of the panel to the end of the bead(s). This cut will remove a little metal and then you can tap the metal flat and weld the joint back together, which will shrink the metal uniformly. I’ve found this to be a lot more controllable than the other techniques I’ve tried.

You could experiment with the “slicing and welding” technique on the panel you plan to scrap; there’s a fair chance you can save it.

You can email your questions to Professor Hammer, [email protected], or mail a letter to Covell Creative Metalworking, 106 Airport Blvd., Suite 105, Freedom, CA 95019. You will receive a personal reply. Ron Covell has made many videos on metalworking, and they can now be streamed or downloaded from his website. Check these out at, along with his ongoing series of workshops held across the nation, or call for a current schedule of workshops and a free catalog of DVDs. Phone (831) 768-0705. Also, check out Ron’s YouTube channel:

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