Metal Shaping for Beginners: English Wheel Basics


English Wheel Basics

Hi it’s Wray from Pro Shaper in Charlton, Massachusetts. and guess what we’re going to do a different something different tonight. I thought that what I do in this video is do some of the fundamentals of English wheeling there’s a lot of people That’ll stumble on my YouTube channel and they’ll go wow. This is really cool, but it’s really not realistic. For me, I really need to know some of the real beginner fundamentals.


So that’s what I’m hoping to do tonight now. I didn’t want to

just take a piece of metal and make some kind of compound curve shape. I want

everything to have a purpose, so I have this buck here. This wire form buck and

when you use the English wheel, one of the options you have is to just do

stretching, and you can make this all with the English wheel. You don’t need

any shrinking capability at all.


You don’t even need a kick Shriner or anything. All you need is

the English wheel. You don’t need a mallet, you don’t need a stump, you don’t

need anything. You’ll do more welding and we’ll make more pieces. So for the

example I cut a blank out – and this is a 20-gauge steel blank and I’m going to

make this panel.


That goes right here like this. This is one of the panels and

one of the ways that you could do this make this fender, so I just eyeballed

it. I didn’t make a paper pattern or anything. This is just for the

demonstration of the different English wheel principles. So this is the blank

and after you cut it, usually the uh cutter you use, even if the stomp, shear

or uh, I use the cordless shear it’ll curl the edge a little bit, so you either

grind it or I put it in the planish and Hammer with flat dies and I’ll knock it

down, and I still grind it and then you can sand it with 80 paper.


You want your edges of your material to be not sharp for two

reasons: one: they don’t bite you as bad on your hands and two. When you go

into the wheel uh, they won’t bite into your wheel at all. Now I generally run

soft wheels. All the wheels I’ve been using for 30 years or more have all always

been soft. On the bottom, I have a hot wheel on the top, and I’ve found no

problem having soft wheels on the on the bottom.


Providing you take care of them and, if you, if you get in a

problem, I’ll show you later in this video how to clean it up. So we’re going

to just do a couple fundamentals with this panel uh and we’re going to show now

what the English do is a wheel tracking pattern, and generally I don’t follow

that rule so much so I should go get my gloves. Let me get some gloves. So one

of the things that the first thing you do is putting the panel into the English

wheels. You see, people go like this, you know yeah, you can do that if you’ve

got hardened wheels the bottom wheels.


Even then, it’s not a good practice because it can draw you in I’d

prefer to go in at a 45-degree angle, and you just walk right in very easily.

I, like the top adjusters, it’s right here available to me. I don’t have to go

like this. I can, I got my hand right up here, no problem, so some of the

fundamentals – I got a low crown wheel on here now. The first misconception

about an English wheel is they’ll, say: oh we’re making this panel right here.


I got to get the anvil that matches that contour, so they’ll

take in the anvil and they go oh, no, that one’s too strong and then they’ll go

to the next one. Look at that! That’s pretty good! I think I’ll use that one

well. That approach will work sort of, but it’ll make a lot of marks on your



You always want to use the flattest anvil possible. Well, you

go. How will that work and I’ll show you how that works? But first I’m just

going to show you that in a situation like this we’re going to say make this

panel, I might have a little extra metal, but we’re going to need some here and

here we’re going to make the panel from here to here. So it’s got a good

compound curve there, so what’s happening is if you’re going to stretch shape

this panel you’re going to have to stretch the center of this panel out now, if

you were making this with shrinking, you would shrink this edge, so it’s exact

opposite Depends on what method you’re using we’re doing a stretch method, so

we’re going to stretch the center.


We don’t want to stretch the edges. That’ll uh, counteract

everything we do so most of our stretching is going to be in the middle here.

So you have to figure out on the panel where that middle is going to be. You

don’t have it’s not that important right early on in the game, but sort of in

the middle? Now, if you were doing a strict tracking method, you would be

working in that middle really, closely tracked all the time and slowly but sure

you would come out to the edges max stepped on the planishing hammer so now

running the panel in the wheels is the First thing you’re going to have to

learn how to do how to navigate over the panel.


How do you get over to here where you just kind of go rip and

over there you go when you first do this for the first time. It’s not that

simple and I always tell my students, don’t think about it. If you think about

it, you’re going to be in trouble, I always use the analogy of everybody learns

how to tie their shoes and that’s a super complicated task. Tying a pair of

shoes, a sneaker shoe or something like that. Uh is probably hundreds of times

more complicated than trying to move this panel through these two wheels to get

to the destination you want.


But somehow, when you’re five years old or whatever your mother

shows you two or three times and you kind of follow her and somehow the magic

just happens, you don’t have to think about it. Your brain just. Does it we’ll

never figure out how this stuff works, but that’s how it works the same way

with riding a bike riding a bike is super complicated. So this is a pretty

simple task. It takes about five to ten minutes for most people to learn how to

navigate on a panel.


But then, once you learn how to navigate, you can do it

blindfolded. So what we’re gonna do is we’re navigating through the panel and

we’ve got a pressure and all my wheels. I have one red marker on my wheel to find

out where I’m at so I’m here and if I kept wheeling at that pressure, it would

probably take me about three years to make this panel. So that means the

machine is telling me I’m getting the feedback from the panel that I don’t have

enough pressure. So what do I do?


I got to increase the pressure, so I could increase the pressure

to weigh over here, but that might be a little extreme. Let’s take it a little

at a time, so we went about uh from nine o’clock to say 12 o’clock, so we

turned it uh 90 degrees and a little bit’s happening now. You feel a little bit

more resistance as you push through, but let’s try it. This way now we’ve gone

180 degrees. We’re at three o’clock now there’s a little more resistance.


It’s feeling pretty good and it wouldn’t matter if this was

steel or aluminum. A lot of people on the comments are saying: oh boy, I know

you like that aluminum, but I do all steel work. Can you show some steel well

typically, I’d use 19 gauge for this job, but I’ve been calling around my usual

supplier for 19 gauge nope they’re no longer carrying it, and that used to be

the case years ago in the west and in a lot of other Country parts of the

country was hard to get 19 gauge was always easy in New England to get 19

gauge, but apparently we can’t get 19 gauge anymore, so I haven’t given up yet

so I’ve got a piece of 20 gauge in here. If I had a piece of 18 gauge, it would

just take a little longer to make it move. So the idea here is to track more in

the center than on the edges, but you can’t do just the center, because if you

do just the center you’ll get a big rib raised up there.


Now, as you can see, the panel is starting to shine up. If it

doesn’t matter whether it’s copper or brass, or bronze, or aluminum or steel,

if your wheels are polished, it will shine up really nice you’re printing that

buff from the top wheel right onto the panel. So now, as we go through that

cycle, we did a lot in the middle and we got sort of a low to medium pressure

and we’ve got the panel going this way now, we’ve let it go that way: we’ve let

it drop down, but let’s See what we actually have just a few minutes and it’s a

pretty low crown pant wheel and you can see what we have. There is a crown in

the center that diminishes towards the end diminishes towards the sides. Let’s

see how far we actually went, and this has no reverse or anything in it – it’s

just a standard compound curve.


So if we put that like that, we have about 7 8 of an inch of

rise in the panel, so it only took a few minutes to get to 7 8 of an inch with

that pressure. If we gave it more pressure, we’d probably get a little more

rise, so let’s put it in again and we’ll give it a little more pressure all

right now. We’ve went 360 degrees, one revolution and there’s good pressure on

it. Now remember this is the flattest anvil I have here.


It has about a sixteenth of an inch drop off on the edges. It’s three-inch

anvil, so it has a flat. That’s about what is it it’s about 3 8, maybe 7 16 of

an inch of actual contact when it makes its uh little track! All right! Now,

let’s see that’s a few more minutes.


I’ll put that so we bumped the pressure up, and now we are at

about an inch and 3 8 of an inch or so now you always have to be super clean

with your wheel’s oil residue we’ve washed this panel with lacquer thinner

before, but there’s oil In the gloves, there’s oil in the in the metal and

we’ll back that off a little bit to get in go back to where we were and maybe

give it another little bit. So you see what’s happening here. Is I’m allowing

the panel to droop down like that, what’s causing it to vibrate and I’m getting

a little bit of um uh a little surface anomaly from those vibrations, but I’m

going to take this flat wheel as far as I can to show this is just A

demonstration to show how much you can get a crown you can get out of just a

flat wheel and you get into a decent rhythm here and go pretty fast. The more

you go over to the edges, the more you take the shape out. The more you stay in

the middle, the more the shape goes in now.


This doesn’t look anything like the fender piece and that’s the

mystery of the magic of shaping. Is you don’t worry about it? Looking like the

piece until the end, because you’re working this out of arrangement in this

case here, you’re, definitely working it out of arrangement, later on in the

development of the panel you’ll work it in arrangement. What is arrangement is

the bending that makes it conform to the shape that you really want we’re,

taking advantage of the power of the English wheel, which allows you to work a

panel in this curl arrangement for quite a while with just a low crown wheel and

yet it will yield a high crown panel in this case it’ll be a medium crown or

so, but you can’t even get a high crown out of so, we haven’t been given any

attention to the ends of the panel, so I’m going to give the ends. Just a

little bit of attention here just so, I don’t get a sharp difference in the

surface flow.


This end. I got to do this way and then I’ll bring it over to

this end, and do this end now that was a few more minutes and let’s see where

we’re at now. So there’s my low crown wheel and obviously that’s not a really a

low crown panel and now I’m probably two inches or better in crown on that

panel. Now, let’s see if we’ve made any difference here as far as fitting goes

nope, not yet it’s a lot better, but it’s got a long ways to go. So it’s going

to need quite a bit of crown that might need four inches of crown or so before

we get there.


So we’re gonna wipe the panel and we’ll go up one on the wheel

now and that should take us a little further. If you’re not familiar with this English

wheel, this I call the YouTube English wheel. I designed the frame and I sell

the plans full size plans for the frame and you just got to go on our website.

Proshaper.Com and you’ll see that frame plan it’s made by made out of four-inch

square tubing.


It’s quarter inch wall, uh upper adjuster, lower yoke holder.

They have a common bolt patent. All that’s in the plans. It’s super stable. It

don’t go anywhere.


You can put wheels on it. You can put a hinge on it and hinge it

into the wall if you’ve got space problems. So right now, if you look at the

panel, is to tell you the truth: I’m not a good master of the English

technique, which is patent wheeling. I call myself a jazz wheeler, I just wheel

where I see that I need to wheel, I’m not methodical about it. I correct on the

on the uh on the run, so I got a little stronger right here and if you look at

that horizon view, it’s a little uneven, but it’s early in the panel.


It doesn’t make any difference right now and everything can be

corrected. So pump the pressure up with this wheel now see if we can get this

to come up to what we want it to do now, as your contact area gets narrower,

the panel will rise faster means, meaning you get more area in the panel, but

it’ll also Cause smoothness problems this one, this wheel is still a really

good wheel, so it still has a was about 5 16 contact area or so it’s only when

you get down to like 1 8 inch contact areas that you have what I call a

striping wheel. It just puts stripes on the on the panel. So again, this is

real early in the game you can hear when I go over here. That’s the panel where

it first started it had this unevenness on its surface.


That’s how it came out of the mill and now here it’s a nice

smooth, swishing sound and that’s where it’s been refined by the English wheel.

So I’m doing half at a time now because it’s harder to go all the way around

like that. I’m gonna do half and then do the other half it’ll all get blended

together later and you really don’t have to be really careful until the last 10

percent of the development of the panel. The really good practitioners of the

traditional English method, which is all about contact – I mean it’s all about

tracking patents, watching your contact area marking and tracking it perfectly

um to me that just gets a little old after a while. So I just learned to read

the surface as I’m working the panel and if I see a deficiency in the surface I

just head over, there fix it and continue on my way.


You call this pumping up the panel, hey all right now. Let’s see

what we got now, so we raised the anvil size. We went up one size and now we

have about four inches. Now, let’s see what we got over here, you can see that I

go in the center. It’s going to take that much.


But that’s a little deceptive because I’m pushing that down on

the flat bench and this isn’t on a flat plane here so um we’re getting closer,

we’re probably about at least 50 to 60 percent of the way to make that panel

fit. Let’s give it one more blast with that wheel and see where we’re at and

put that on the back we see we’re hitting the y is really strongly right in the

center plus. These ends are way up. These ends have to come down, and that will

happen once you put more area in the center of this panel here, we’ll give it

another blast here and, yes, you could pound this all out on a beater bag. You

can pound it out on the hollow of the stump you could put the shrinks in.


You could use a kick Shriner and that’ll all contribute to

bringing this center up, or you can stretch shape the whole thing. If we get

this done, we could cut it in half and then measure to see how much thickness

we lost. It’ll always surprise people that you really don’t lose that much

thickness creating these shapes, and if you can’t, if you start doing wheeling,

you can cancel your your membership at the gym because you get a pretty good

workout doing all this stuff. It’s good cardio, so, let’s see we got now we’ll

try to put in an arrangement here we’ll induce this curve roll into it, and you

can see it’s starting to look like the panel. So, let’s see how far off we are

now we’re still a good ways off the longer.


This is the more area change has to happen, so if we made it

shorter, it’d be less. So, let’s see what we got now we’re getting to a point

where we can actually clamp it on the wire and that’ll tell us where we’re at

really closely nope. So it’s fighting me on clamping here because it’s really

springy, but now what we can do is we actually measure where we’re at and you

can see this has to come down to here. So if we measure that now we can monitor

our progress every time we cycle it and overall we don’t have that much time in

it looks like uh. If I take out all the talking and everything probably got 30

minutes in at 30 minutes – or so I put this like that, and that has to come

down about two and a half inches, so that’s a quantification of where you’re at

that comes down.


This will come down the whole thing. How does that come down?

Well, it’s super tight right here, so it needs more area right here to pop that

out in order that to come down the bottom, it’s not that bad we’ve got it almost

fitting pretty good. There, the side is not too bad right here in the middle

we’ve got what I call a peak, see how this peaks up over here mark and you get

the camera over here, see how that peaks up right there, that’s just crying out

for more area right Here, as you add area here, this peak will go down so right

now. That peak is about an inch and a half away from where it’s supposed to be.


So these are the we’re going to quantify this. So we’ve got two

inches up here and we’ve got an inch and a half here other than that it’s got. It’s

got the radius flowing pretty nice. The surface quality is not perfect, but

it’s in the ballpark. So now we’re going to take and we’ll mark what I call a

home, so I’m going to put it back at this spot every time, so we get the same



If you put it on the buck at a different point, then you won’t

get the same. Reading so I’m putting a little couple marks here to try to get

that at the same spot, get two points at least a mark to get it. It’s still

pretty early for the homes, but all right. So we take those three clamps off

and we give it another go now we’re going to do. We were doing half from here

to here now we’re going to do a little bit in the middle pump that up a little

bit in the middle, and you see how that peak is right there right now, the way

you get that to go down.


Is you just go over here and that’ll settle that right in and

typically I do 45s like this inboard of where that peak is and see. That peak

goes right away that just balances the panel out all right, so that got rid of

the peak. And then we got some on this edge here, so this edge is, is uh waving

a little bit we’ll take that and we’ll get rid of that wave by inch, it’s 45

degrees to the edge. Why 45? Well, if you go 90, it’s very easy to pop out and

it’s less.


It will pop out less if you go with the 45s, because it’s still

on the panel, but it’s doing what you want to do. You can see that wave just go

right away. That is something you’re going to see on every single panel. You work

on you’re, going to see that wavy edge and I got one down here. I got a peek on

that, so I can pop that out now, if you’re working with a panel and the panel

starts hitting the frame of the machine, we spent a lot of time bonding this

all up and making it smooth and everything only did semi decent Paint job on

it, so if you do the same machine, you buy my plans and you paint it all up.


You don’t want to be taking your panel and bang it into the

frame. So if you get to a situation where somehow it’s hitting the frame, all

you have to do is turn it and you work out here and you’re in the same location

except you just turned to 180 and you don’t hit the frame so we’re going to

settle This end down by 45, settle that right down. A lot of people would run right

over to a kick Shriner, and I really do not like that kick shrink of deal at

all because it leaves all these marks all around the panel. I want my panels

looking like chrome plate when I’m done with them. That’s one of the appeals of

an English wheel is that it really does a beautiful polish job on your panels.


I’ve got to get mark to move the camera, so I can get over this

way. oh do a 45 on this end. Now one thing you don’t want to do is do any rolling

right on the edge. That’s totally verboten that releases all the area chains

the shape that you put into the panel. So you don’t want to do that all right!


So now, let’s wheel out the center a little more here, uh all

right now at first as I was developing the panel as a tool to allow me to see

where I was going, I was able to push all the edges down and measure the

advance of The rise as it developed now I’ve got a lot of area change, a lot of

shape in the panel cleaning it up as gloves have a lot of oil in them.

Apparently, now what we do for quantifying before we were quantifying with how

much the rise was with the straight edge now we’re going to quantify it

remember we had two inches over here and we had an inch and a half over here.

Well, we settled the edges down and we gave a little more work to the center of

the panel. So let’s put this on here approximately now I’ve clamped it with two

clamps there. I might get a little bit of different reading because I only had

three clamps before: let’s see what we got now, these clamps are going on



Now I got three clamps yeah. Okay, the panel surface quality

looks pretty good, and what do we have here now? We had two inches, that’s a

little less than two inches now I’d say it’s about inch and three quarters. It

didn’t rise that much and this this is actually a little more now because we’ve

clamped it a little better. So we’re about two inches and inch and three

quarters here, but the panel is starting to look like the fender that we want

it to be.


Let’s give it another blast, all right, we’re back in the wheel

again, we’ll give it a little more give it more pressure, whoop wrong way. Come

on uh. That edge is unsettled a little wave in it. So we’ll give it the 45

again keep it settled down. What we’re doing is just working in board of that

edge, a little bit which balances the panel out gets rid of that wave.


Now we look at this panel. This end of the defender is pretty

straight. So it doesn’t have as much compound, and I’ve got a lot of compound.

It might have went a little bit too strong. This is where most of the compound

is right in here.


So we’ll see what we got in a minute, so I need to do more. Work

at the top, because there’s more curve right here than there is here it is, I

believe, some curve see the curve right here all right, that’s about uh, 3, 8

of an inch of rock right here. But now, if you go between these three here, you

have almost an inch of rock, so it’s considerably more work has to be done on the

top segment of the panel. Well, what happens if you goofed – and you put too

much work on this side, which doesn’t have as much crown very simple? All you

got to do is work the edges a little bit, but make sure you, your mistake,

doesn’t get out of hand.


If you go tremendously over your goal, then you’re going to have

to work a lot on the edges in order to straighten that back out. Again, so

that’s where the feedback from the buck, the quantification of everything is so

important. The buck is the blueprint for the panel just like you’re, making a

machine pod. You can’t make it up. You have to follow the dictates of the

blueprint all right now.


Let me put the roll into the panel again here now once you have

that area change built into the panel, it really wants to make that roll, so it

rolls over pretty easy. Let’s clamp this up and see what we have. I’m gonna

move the position a little bit to make sure I get enough room on my edges here,

that’s a little better, so I’ve actually moved my homes a little here, all

right. Here’s where we’re at now I’ve got uh one two, three, four, five: six!

Seven clamps on it no problem right now, because I’ve got it clamped

differently and I have it: uh moved on its location.


The homes are a little different, we’re still reading about an

inch and a half here uh, but now this is a real true measurement. This one

bring that up to that’s about inch and 3 8 or so. It’s greatly improving the

surface quality is not perfect, but that comes later in the game. That’s the

last five percent, or so, let’s wheel it one more time and see where we get one

more shot. Remember we’re going to put most of our emphasis on from here up

we’re fitting the buck pretty decent, there’s no over development anywhere

we’re still underdeveloped.


At this point, I think I’m about 50 minutes into actually

working on the panel. That’s with all the commentary, too. I’ve got pretty

decent pressure on here right now, trying to speed it up just a little bit



So you have to go over to the edges, but you can’t dwell on

you’re, not on the edge up to the edge and we’re going to have to deal with

this over here. You can see a little peak there. We have the 45 through that,

but most of your time is going to be dwelling here in the center, where you

need most of that area change. But if you just stop here at this point all the

time that’s going to cause a demarcation line. So, every once in a while,

you’ve got to fade it in down below hey, hey now, we’ll 45.


That end a little bit easy say no easy do. I might have to lower

the pressure a little bit there. We go yeah all right. Let’s see what that did

we’re going to uh set the arrangement. All that is, is the belly bender here,

put your belly up against it.


Push down with your hands like this gently induce that roll into

it try to get it consistent. Nothing is permanent or set yet we’re still in the

development phase. So what you’re always going to be on the lookout for is any

anomaly all right. So the only anomaly I see right now is we still have a peak

right there, so I could give that a little bit more attention to get that peak

out, see I’m stretching inboard of where that peak was and that’ll settle. That

peak right in I did 90s, but I was being really careful.


I’ve lowered the pressure a little bit and now I’m doing 45s. I

put my arrangement back in and let’s see where we’re at, let me put a little

more radius in it and when we’re done with this panel, there’ll be no tension.

No springiness or anything will just plop right on there and what you’ve done

when you get when you get to that end goal is you’ve created the perfect area

and arrangement values to make the panel there’s an inherent area in

arrangement value in every surface and your Goal is to try to get it as close

as possible. 100 percent perfection is almost impossible, but we always strive

for it. That’s the most important clamp right there.


You want to get that radius. You can see how important being

able to clamp onto the buck. Is this why I love wire forms? You can see what

you’re doing you can clamp to it so easily and the only bad thing that wire

forms get a bad wrap for is that you can’t make them in a wood router off a cad

file. You can use that same cad file, bend your wires to the cad file and

assemble them all.


The assembly process is going to be a little trickier, but if

you pay attention, it’s time well spent to make that wire form buck and once

you’ve made this buck. It’ll, basically, last forever, wood bucks have a life

span, so we’re getting really close we’re at about an hour now into the video.

I don’t like to make the videos too much longer, so we still have this peak

peaking up here, but it’s greatly reduced. Now we’re down to about an inch or

so as we work the panel that’ll just keep settling it in, and you see this

edges off here as that settles in that edge, will grow and come out here and

we’ll have enough panel there to make the edge Treatment and we’re over this

wire, so now this part of the fender is basically this very little uh area

value. Changing in here, it’s just a flat panel, but it’ll have a flange on it.


A lot of them do have a flange. This particular one doesn’t have

a flange because it bolts up this way rather than into the flange. So that

would be just a very simple panel. That’s just arranged, and then you do the

weld right there right on that wire. You can clamp it and you can tack it all

together right on the buck and you don’t have to worry about burning the buck

up or anything, and you can clamp it perfectly and in the process you might

over develop a little bit.


I might be a little bit over developed here it’ll tell later,

and if that’s the case, all they’re going to do is work. These edges a little

bit ten five minutes on either edge and it’ll, be perfect, still have more area

change here which will bring that down, bring that down. So I think that’s all I’m

going to do tonight. I hope you enjoyed it and um, because this is like uh the

fundamentals of English wheeling. Please comment in the comment section: if you

have any questions or anything I’ll answer all the questions, not only in the

comments section but I’ll answer them on part.


Two of the fundamentals of the English wheel and how to make a

simple panel like this fender panel, so thanks for watching keep subscribing.

Please share the video check out our website check out our English wheel frame

plans. Thanks again, it’s ray from pro shaper workshop.



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