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How to fabricate a panel with a lot of shape

This post shows the process of fabricating a small panel with a good amount of shape made easy.  Here’s the panel we want to copy, it’s just simply too far rotted to use on our truck.  It is the panel that goes below the grille on the front of a 1938 Chevy truck, so it makes sense that it was heavily used and abused.  These panels are impossible to get in good condition because they are trashed on every 1938 truck out there!  Fenders are a similar situation, as anyone who had searched for 1938 parts will tell you.

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And a view of the backside of the panel for you to get an idea of the shape and condition.  Look at how you can see through the panel in many places, that’s why this is beyond repair.  A less skilled fabricator might try and make a patch or two, then cake over the rest of the panel with body filler and stick it back onto the truck.  But a “restoration” job like that won’t hold up very well.

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Step 1 to fabricate the grille chin panel – trace and cut

Let’s start with a fresh piece of sheet metal, this is 18 gauge steel, just like the original panel (although after weathering it’s clearly thinner than it started out).  We traced out a general pattern that we’ll need, taking into account how the shape will change the flat pattern.  This means you are not literally tracing the outline of the panel, leave plenty of room for shaping, trimming, rolling the edge, etc.  An alternative is to trace the original onto a paper pattern, then copy that onto your new sheet metal.  I skipped that step here just because I have a lot of experience.  The paper pattern will also give you a guide as to where the tucks (shrinking areas) are.