Hardwood paddles used to shape...
Hardwood paddles used to shape lead are anything but exotic, so the ones Eastwood supplies are standard-issue stuff. The flat- and convex-faces address most surfaces, whether flat, convex, or concave.
Probably the greatest endorsement followed. After cleaning up, we asked Woolery if we should leave a few sticks. "Yeah, if you wouldn't mind," he answered. "I'd like to, you know ... try it out on a few more things."
We did like the idea that there wasn't any poisonous lead and it could be safely ground and sanded. All of the solder-specific tools you will need are in one package (and then some) and the prep chemicals are less prone to cause future paint issues. We would like to see more comprehensive instructions and working with the narrower temperate range will take some learning; however, this should be quick and easy.
Well, that wraps up a good alternative to nasty old lead!
Shrinking and Stretching ... the Metal Way
Our only complaint is Eastwood's...
Our only complaint is Eastwood's instructions. Its DVD shows how to sling lead but it's too old to address the subtle differences with the lead-free stuff. The product is so forgiving that we got good results anyway. (Eastwood listened to our feedback and is revising the instructions to make these kits even better.)
Working with Eastwood's Shrinker/Stretcher combo
It's only a matter of time when every hot rodder becomes involved in some form of metalworking. One of the easiest places to start is to learn how to stretch or shrink metal. It's an ideal talent to perfect as you can make radius door or decklid corners, wheelwell lips, gutters, or even trim around windows. The list is almost endless.
In the world of shrinkers and stretchers there are the high-end professional models that are actuated by a foot pedal and can be mechanical or power in nature. (Eastwood has an extra-large capacity mechanical foot pedal operated shrinker/stretcher.) These models are intended for everyday use; probably not your average street rodder. They are very cool but outside the budget (and practicality) of most rodders. Instead an ideal way to go is the Hand-Operated Shrinker/Stretcher as they are cost effective, portable, and easy to use.
To find out just what's available we looked at the Eastwood catalog and zeroed in on a manually operated Shrinker/Stretcher set. There are DIY- (PN 51088) and a Pro-Grade (PN 28053) Shrinker/Stretcher models. The shrinker contracts metal to make inside curves while the stretcher expands metal to make outside curves. In each case the complete set comes with a shrinker jaw set, a stretcher jaw set, two housings with handles, and instructions. (All items can be purchased separately, including replacement jaws.)
Marshall Woolery's attitude...
Marshall Woolery's attitude changed dramatically when he discovered that the lead-free solder stuck right to the tinned steel as easily as his standby lead did.
The DIY-Grade Shrinker/Stretcher is specifically designed to function just as the professional unit but priced for the occasional user. It will produce professional results for one, maybe two cars per year. The professional-grade shrinker/stretchers, like PN 21053, is the same Eastwood unit that they have been selling for nearly 30 years for the rodder who places quality above all else. This is a tool for the seasoned professional or frequent-use hobbyist.
We opted to try the DIY-Grade Shrinker/Stretcher and to help us out we traveled to Phoenix and asked Dean Livermore of Hot Rods By Dean to run our shrinker/stretcher through its paces.
Why Eastwood supplies a body...
Why Eastwood supplies a body file was beyond us; the only reason to struggle with one is to avoid creating toxic lead dust and this doesn't contain lead. It is a nice file, though ...
Livermore is familiar with the Eastwood system as his shop uses one regularly. It was here that Livermore told us that the replacement jaws (PN 51437) were changed out about every six months in his shop from the grind of daily wear and tear. According to Livermore, "The average rodder should be able to make a shrinker/stretcher last several years before changing out the jaws." Obviously the amount of use is the deciding factor.
Livermore used our kit but attached it to an accessory mounting plate. Something we would recommend as it holds each device in a common garage vice. The hand-operated press (shrinker/stretcher) will increase leverage by a factor of 45:1 and can work with copper, 18-gauge mild steel, 20-gauge stainless, and 16-gauge aluminum. The advantage here is the metal will not need relief cuts, heating, or hammer forming prior to working.
To run the shrinker/stretcher through its paces we took a piece of mild steel and proceeded to perform simple radius bends and contours. We found the handles to provide ample leverage and the working of the metal was easy to learn and use.