Every rodder's dream is to have all the tools he could ever hope for
This kit includes Johnson's...
This kit includes Johnson's Flux-'N-Solder, an all-inclusive lead-free tinning compound. Its mildly acidic composition greatly reduces the potential reactions that threaten to destroy paint finishes in time. We used the supplied fiberglass-bristle brush to apply it.
This month we introduce a new column to STREET RODDER called Workshop. The idea behind this column is to take a look at the tools each of us might want in our garage-our workshop.
The column is sponsored by the Eastwood Company (www.eastwood.com or (800) 345-1178). Eastwood has worked with rodders since 1978 and is dedicated to offering unique automotive tools, especially in the body, paintwork, and related arenas. Each month we will take the time and space needed to check out an Eastwood tool as well as other tools. In some instances it will be staff, other times it will be shops that we visit and ask for their input. But it doesn't stop there. From time to time we will review a tool that will carry with it an added bonus, such as free freight if you order it based on the STREET RODDER column.
We will cover tools from a number of different companies, like Snap-on, Craftsman, Harbor Freight, and others. (In fact, should you have a tool and would like to see it reviewed, drop us a line by phone or email.)
For instance, this month we reviewed the Eastwood Lead-Free Body Solder kit and their Shrinker/Stretcher combo kit. As you read this column you will see the full review. In the future we will cover home powdercoating systems, simple (yet handy) power tools, shop vacs, power washers, loads of body and paintwork systems, the list goes on. Hopefully, you will find the column entertaining and useful and, of course, if there is a tool you would like to see reviewed please contact me (email@example.com) and we'll see if we can make it happen.
The tinning compound has a...
The tinning compound has a visual telltale: Its flux turns brown when it reaches working temperature. A supplied fiberglass-bristle brush helps push the compound into crevices. Although it would've been nice if the instructions said so, but we figured it out.
The Eastwood Company's basic Lead-Free Body Solder kit with DVD
Solder as a body repair medium has some great merits. Among them is toughness: it's great for building up stressed or exposed shapes, like edges and character lines.
The problem is that lead, the standby, is tremendously poisonous. It permanently damages organs, including kidneys and the brain. Protective measures are nearly ineffective as lead dust can work its way past particulate filters and through exposed skin. Simply for that toxicity issue, the Eastwood Company packages a line of lead-free substitutes in a body-soldering starter kit.
The problem with most substitutes is that they generally fall short of expectations. Marshall Woolery (Thun Field Rod & Custom) certainly assumed a lead-free solder substitute wouldn't stack up. In fact, even after he agreed to test it he mocked it.
Kits come with eight 1/4-inch-wide,...
Kits come with eight 1/4-inch-wide, 22-inch-long sticks. Two pounds might not sound like much, but it's much lighter than its lead counterpart. It's also a lot stronger as we found out when we tried to bend it.
Anyone willing to risk health just to push lead can be considered old school, but Woolery's hard-line stance softened the instant the supplied tinning compound flowed as well as his beloved Dutch Boy. What doubt that remained practically evaporated once he started pushing the tips of the heated sticks into the body. "Whoa, this ... goes on just like lead," he remarked. Working the solder to shape initially proved a little bit tricky, as it has a narrower temperature range, but Woolery and Josh Higgins (Amocat Speed Emporium) adapted quickly and successfully pushed the solder into shape with the supplied paddles.
Their surprise isn't accidental: the backbone of Eastwood's kits are the chemicals and lead-free solder, which is manufactured by a company that worked with GM and Ford to develop the respective manufacturers' lead-free mandates so it could comply with global lead-free mandates. Unreliable is unacceptable on an assembly line, a standard that reveals itself in a very user-friendly product.
In the end Woolery and Higgins both deemed this solder-free kit (PN11465) a success. It requires a slightly different heat approach (that we'll address in a future article), but its greater strength and ability to be safely ground and sanded more than make up for any shortcomings. "This is a viable substitute for lead," Woolery admitted-and not even begrudgingly in fact. (There are two other upgrade kits: PN11466 and PN11467.)
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.
The instructions didn't indicate...
The instructions didn't indicate what Johnson's soldering paste did, so we didn't learn until later that it made a great paddle lubricant. Optionally this flux can prep panels for tinning compound.
Only by experimentation did...
Only by experimentation did we learn that Johnson's soldering paste kept the filler cleaner than plain beeswax (which is the stuff running down the panel). Transferring it to a longer, shallower tub would make application easier.
Nobody believed the lead-free...
Nobody believed the lead-free stuff was better 'til they tried to file it; it's so much harder. Fortunately grinding and sanding is safe and far more effective. It won't even load up the paper-a nice touch!
Woolery finished the surface...
Woolery finished the surface by hand sanding. Needless to say we were sufficiently impressed with the results. Technically the panel needs no neutralization beyond paint preparation as the fluxes don't leave heavy acid residues.
The DIY-Grade (PN 51088) set...
The DIY-Grade (PN 51088) set is complete with a shrinker and stretcher jaw, two housings and handles, and instructions.
A handy accessory is the vice...
A handy accessory is the vice mount that holds a shrinker/stretcher in a common garage vice.
Dean Livermore of Hot Rods...
Dean Livermore of Hot Rods By Dean took a piece of workable metal and proceeded to make a few simple radius bends.
The DIY-Grade set with handles...
The DIY-Grade set with handles in place that yield a 45:1 leverage making easy work of thick gauge metal.
Here is a piece of worked...
Here is a piece of worked metal that took about three minutes to make an example of an inside curve and an outside curve.
The shrinker contracts metal...
The shrinker contracts metal to make inside curves while the stretcher expands metal to make outside curves.