Copyright 1999 by Ron Covell
Kent White has a new two-hour video out on making fender arches. Kent is one of the leading metalworkers on
the West Coast, and was one of the very first individuals to make instructional videotapes on
metalworking. This video is his eleventh!
The video starts with Richard Ufheil, a metal man with 30 years of experience, bringing a difficult job to
Kent White for some assistance. Richard is repairing two front fenders for a 1935 Packard, and the beads
around the edge are in very poor condition. Most metalworkers would probably deal with this fender by
putting lots of patches in it, but Richard and Kent agree that replacing the entire edge is a better
approach, especially since there are lots of areas with thin metal where previous repairs were made.
Richard tried shaping some new fender edges on his own, but ran into lots of problems with the job, which
prompted his asking Kent White for assistance.
Once in Kent's shop, the first step was closely examining both fenders to discover how similar (or different)
they were. After carefully bracing both fenders and placing them on a flat table side by side, they saw
that the all-over shape of both fenders was fairly even, but the beaded edge of one fender was 1" higher
than the other. They agree that the left fender edge has a better appearance, and decide to use it as the
`master' for both fenders.
A paper pattern is carefully made from the best fender, using the top of the bead as the reference. This is
transferred onto a sheet of 20 ga. cold rolled steel sheet, and the piece is cut out with an electric
shear. The next step is to form the bead, and this step is crucial to the successful completion of the
job. Richard has a Pullmax machine, and tried making his own tooling for the bead, but this is the step
where he had many problems.
Kent and Richard discuss the possibility of using a bead roller for this detail, and although the approach is
reasonable, the Pullmax-type machine is deemed superior for this application. Kent created the tooling
for this job off-camera, but gives a careful analysis of why Richard had problems with the dies he made,
and clearly explains the steps he took to make the dies work properly.
With the bead properly formed, the edge of the patch panel needs shaping to match the roll on the fender
edge. Kent does this very quickly working over one of his own post dollies, first using a flat-faced
wooden mallet, and then his new Metalite hammer. After the edge is curled over, some shrinking is needed
on the edge to allow the panel to lay flat. Although a mechanical shrinker could have been used, Kent
shows his unique process of cold shrinking, using several tools of his own manufacture. The results are
striking, and I believe that this technique alone is worth the price of the video!
From this point on, most of the video focuses very closely on the fitting, welding, and smoothing of the
patch panel into one of the fenders. What makes this video unique is that you almost feel like you are
there in the room with these two very seasoned metalworkers. What I especially liked was the way they
dealt with the little problems that always come up in any real-world situation. A good example of this
was how they had to re-shape the bead on the front end of the patch panel to get a good flow with the
contour of the bead on the fender. I'm sure some metalworkers would have started over with a new piece,
but Kent simply flattened out the discrepant area and re-formed it. Another example is how, after tack
welding, Kent handled a small area where the patch panel overlapped the fender. Since he uses an
oxy-acetylene welder, he was able to simply melt back the overlapping edge slightly with the torch,
allowing him to easily make a clean butt weld! The big advantage of the oxy-acetylene weld is its great
workability. Richard often uses a MIG welder in the shop where he works, which leaves a strong weld, but
a weld that lacks workability.
Once the weld was completed, Kent showed another powerful trick in his arsenal - cold planishing the weld
with a hand-held pneumatic planishing hammer. This worked to perfection, and in about 5 minutes, he
smoothed the weld and surrounding metal to the point where Richard was amazed, remarking he would
probably have spent 45 minutes doing the same work with a hammer and dolly!
The last phase of the job is completing the flange area on the patch panel, which Kent skillfully did using a
hand held T dolly and a rivet gun with a smooth nosepiece. That rivet gun really moved the metal in a
hurry, and after Kent was finished, only a small amount of `tune-up' was required to make the bead area
absolutely true. At this point Kent handed the job back to Richard for the final finish.
Kent White's mastery of metalworking is very evident all through the video, and I'm sure many metalworkers
can learn a great deal from watching him work and hearing his articulate (and sometimes humorous)
description of his problem-solving process. He also gives an interesting report of how the term `hammer
welding' came into common use, and explains why it is inaccurate. I really liked the fact that the
fenders used for the demonstration were far from perfect, since that is what most metalworkers will
encounter with restoration work. Kent is very emphatic about preserving the precious thickness of the old
metal, and argues persuasively against the use of the file for smoothing metal.
The video is shot in a very informal, `fly on the wall' style, which has its own appeal, but you should
expect to see some minor fluffs left in. (There are times when the camera is out of focus for short
periods, and times when a worker partially obscures the camera's view of the work being done.) I felt
that some of the planishing and welding sequences could have been shortened, once we got the general idea
about how the process worked, but all in all, it is a video well worth watching, and I recommend adding
it to your video library.
If you'd like more information on Kent White's tools, videos, and workshops, you can reach him at 530
292-3506 (phone or fax) He also has an extensive website at