English Wheel

C-Clamp English Wheel I’ve been doing some research on English Wheels, and been wanting to get into sheetmetal panel forming.  In the process of making the small body panels for the China Cargo Trike, I realized how much better my panels would look if I could wheel them smooth.  I finished the trike, and left the panels with the hammer marks, which makes it fit in more in China, but it really piqued my interest in more metal shaping.  I’ve also started design on the Miller 3 Wheeler, which will involve a lot of metal shaping.  By the time I get to the point where I will be fabricating the body for it, I want to have a good understanding and working knowledge of metal shaping.  The only way to do that is to start learning!  I’ve added a tuck puck and hammers, plus a shot bag to my current available tools, and which I used on the China cargo trike.  I know I could have gotten the panels much smoother if I had worked them with the hand tools longer, but in the interest of not pissing of my neighbors with the banging, I elected to stop where I did.  Watching some videos on people using the English Wheels shows how quiet this work can be, plus the awesome results it can achieve!  Since you don’t learn by sitting on your butt and not doing anything, I got busy on pushing forward with an English Wheel for myself! I had initially looked at a cheap one from Harbor Freight for in the big shop in South Dakota, but with living in China, I only have limited time in the home shop during US visits. Not exactly ideal for the time commitment this is to learn.  I did some internet searching, and found a single photo of a small C-clamp English Wheel.  Now that could be the ticket, I could make it myself, and then start learning on it.  I could scale down some projects that would fit in my garage in China, and would also fit on a small English Wheel. As part of my learning, and also to prove out the design elements, I’d like to build a 1/4 scale or similar sized model of the Miller 3 Wheeler.  It would help for check sizing and layout, as well as make some mistakes on the body panels on a much smaller scale!  It would also be a cool display piece when finished. Here’s the link I found with the small C-clamp English wheel.  “Nothing Too Strong Ever Broke” I’m also a member on the All Metal Shaping forum, as they have some very talented people that are willing to share their know-how.  I haven’t posted much yet, as their experience is so much more than mine right now.  Good group of guys over there. Here’s another link that I think is noteworthy to share on building an English Wheel.  Eurospares>Sheet metal tools Today (9-13-2014) I moved this forward, and we made a trip down to Beijing Lu, a tool hardware market in China, and bought the various bits and pieces to make my own C-Clamp English Wheel: A large 10″ C-Clamp, a smooth flat steel wheel, a large straight caster to use as the upper wheel support, and then a couple of plastic straight casters with rounded profiles for the bottom wheels.  I also got a steel wheel with a channel in it for possibly tipping flanges.  I may need to add some additional rounded steel wheels for the bottom portion.  I intend to start with aluminum or possibly brass or copper for the easier forming and learning. Here’s a pic of the pieces:
9-14-14 Time to starting cutting some metal! First thing I did was to figure out how to mount the main caster wheel on the end of the C-clamp.  I decided to use some angle iron, which I will then drill mounting holes and bolt it on.   That will also allow me to shim it square to the frame.


I ground the edges of the C-clamp down so that the angles would fit parallel nicely.

IMG_7880 IMG_7881

After tacking on all 4 sides of each angle, then I laid weld all around with my little Century welder with flux core wire in it.

IMG_7882 IMG_7883

Ground the weld smooth where the caster base needed to sit, and then mocked it back up again.


I removed the plastic wheel and switched over to the flat steel wheel that’s silver.  I also mocked in the smaller crowned caster wheel assembly (black).  Unfortunately this wheel is a hard plastic, which may work on copper or brass, but probably won’t work on steel or aluminum.  For now it’s good enough for fabrication purposes, but I’ll be looking for the proper steel wheels to use. Here it is with the other wheel mocked in place:

IMG_7886 IMG_7887

One thing I noticed right away is that there’s quite a bit of gap between the flat Silver wheel and the base of the caster mount, which takes up vertical space from what will be the adjusting mechanism on the other end.  I decided to rectify that by cutting off the caster mounting ears and shortening them.

IMG_7888 IMG_7889 IMG_7890 IMG_7891

Then I welded the ears back onto the mounting plate with caster wheel helping to jig it up.

IMG_7892 IMG_7893

Now to thing about mounting the second wheel.  I initially thought about adding some square tubing over the threaded rod, and then having a second slightly smaller tube slide inside of it and attach to the threaded rod.  The more I looked at it, the more I didn’t like it.  There wasn’t enough room to have good overlap on the tubes, and the threaded rod is sloppy in the threads, so that wasn’t going to add any stability either.  I did some looking on the forum and the other websites with English wheels, and then looked at it again.  Light bulb came on, I could cut off the end of the C-clamp with the threaded portion, then add a longer length of square tubing, and move the threaded portion down to the end.  Then I’d have good overlap, and I could add a method of locking the tubes together for maximum stability. So here’s what I did:


I decided to put the tube onto the C-clamp at a 45 degree angle, then I could get by with just 2 bolts to lock the inner tube in place as it would push it into the corner.  So I drilled 2 holes in the larger tube, and welded a nut/bolt combo into each one.


Here’s the inner and outer tube assembly being mocked into place and getting the C-clamp area beveled properly for fitment before welding:


I only tack welded it on just in case I need to change something as I get farther along.  I measured carefully before welding so it aligned nicely to the bottom area. Here’s the threaded rod assembly with the chunk of threaded block that I cut off from the C-clamp.  I will cut off the tubes, and then the block will get welded into the far end.  The other end will get attached to the inner tube, and move it up and down.  The inner tube will get some steel added to the end so that the caster wheel assembly can get bolted and shimmed onto it.


9-18-14 For the upper wheel mount, I knew I wanted it to have some adjustment side-to-side for different wheel setups.  For this I wanted to put in some slots on the metal angles that would mount the upper caster wheel frame.  Here’s a mockup of the angles and wheel:

IMG_7901 IMG_7902

My little garage shop in China doesn’t have a mill in it, but fortunately at work there’s a small mill/drill.  This would work perfect to put in some slots on the angles.  From setup to cleanup, it only took me 30 mins to do!  The slots aren’t the greatest, but they’ll work!

20140918_133603 20140918_133610 20140918_133618 20140918_134712

9-20-14 & 9-21-14 Now to get those slotted angles mounted to the adjuster tube:

IMG_7904 IMG_7905 IMG_7903

A few tack welds to hold it in place, then mount up the wheels.

IMG_7906 IMG_7907

The threaded rod isn’t welded in place yet, so no way to put any force on the sheetmetal, so that’s next.  I ground the end of the swivel foot so it would slip inside of the square tube, and then drilled some holes in the tube that I could plug weld it together.  That also allows me to grind it flush so it can slip back inside the main tube. IMG_7919IMG_7918IMG_7920IMG_7923IMG_7924 IMG_7925

Then I did the same thing to attach the cast female thread boss that I had cut off the clamp.  Ground it down to fit, then plug welded it onto the tube:

IMG_7929 IMG_7928IMG_7927

Now that I had a way to apply some force, it was time to give it a trial run! First, take a random piece of sheetmetal, and put some shape into it using a wood-head hammer and the tuck puck.

IMG_7932 IMG_7933 IMG_7934

Now to try the mini-English Wheel:

IMG_7937 IMG_7935 IMG_7936

Pretty good results for the first time, and using a hard rubber wheel for the upper, and “flat” steel wheel for the bottom! 10-1-14 Time off for National Day/week in China, so before doing some tourist traveling with the family, I was able to work on the mini-English wheel project some more. I drilled the holes for the bottom wheel to bolt on, and I used my 90 degree knuckle attachment for the first time.  It actually worked pretty good. IMG_7964

I had also gotten another steel caster wheel that has a big square groove in it.  I figured that might be usable for tipping a flange or something, so I wanted to get that mounted up to try.  The wheel had a larger diameter of bolt than the other wheel, so I couldn’t use the same mounting holes.  I decided to make another plate weld it’s mount to that so it would bolt into the same slots as the rounded one. Here’s it mocked into place, and then after the tack welds are on it:

IMG_7967 IMG_7968

Now to try tipping a flange with it:


That worked fairly decent! 10-26-14 Before I could make some handwheels for the top screw rod, I needed a way to bend the rod into an even curve.  I had saw a pic on Pinterest for some simple angle iron pieces with a peg sticking up that you can use to bend rod with in a bench vice.  So I quickly fab’d up a set!


Then it was short work to curve the rod (~5/16″) to make a nice hand wheel, and keep me from poking out an eye!  Safety first! Here it is getting welded together.

IMG_8516 IMG_8517

Then I needed to weld up the bracket for the offset steel wheel that will be used for tipping flanges: Flux core welding doesn’t lay down a very pretty weld, but this one isn’t too bad after the flux is cleaned up.  Always room for improvement though!

IMG_8518 IMG_8519

Then some cleanup with the flapper disc, some China “Scotchbrite” pad, and a bit of filing, and then disassembly in preparation for paint.  Here’s all the pieces:


10-31-14 to 11-1-14 Now to set up a “structure” for hanging everything off of for painting in the front yard.  Then I laid down a good layer of primer, followed by a couple of coats of nice blue!  After the blue cured, it was a bit on the flat side, so I then laid down a heavy layer of lacquer clear coat to give it some nice gloss, and be easier to clean! IMG_8529 IMG_8530   IMG_8532 IMG_8533

Now ready for reassembly!

IMG_8549 IMG_8566 IMG_8564 IMG_8565 IMG_8563

I put on the the dark red wheel to give that a try, it can definitely fit in some tight crown areas.

IMG_9016  IMG_9015

Coming up…. I need to look for some alternate wheels for the upper that are steel and that I can modify to have varying amounts of surface contact.


I was in the US for a business trip, and I was able to find some cast iron caster wheels that are the right diameter, so I need to get those fitted up for a try….

Some things I’ve learned on this project:

1.  The wheels I have on it are not very true, which does have an affect on wheeling.  This will be something to review when buying/building a large English Wheel

2.  It works pretty good at smoothing out the bumps in material that’s been shrunk or stretched, much better than I would have imagined!

3.  It sure is fun smoothing out metal and watching it move!  This is definitely something I want to do more of, and invest more time in learning, and money in equipment.

Next up, I need to make a small set of tucking forks so I can put tucks in a flange, hammer them down, and then smooth them out in the English wheel.