Forming Operations and Terms

in Aircraft Metal Structural Repair

Forming requires either stretching or shrinking the metal, or sometimes doing both. Other processes used to form metal include bumping, crimping, and folding.


Stretching metal is achieved by hammering or rolling metal under pressure. For example, hammering a flat piece of metal causes the material in the hammered area to become thinner in that area. Since the amount of metal has not been decreased, the metal has been stretched. The stretching process thins, elongates, and curves sheet metal. It is critical to ensure the metal is not stretched too much, making it too thin, because sheet metal does not rebound easily. [Figure 4-118]

Figure 4-118. Stretch forming metal.

Figure 4-118. Stretch forming metal.

Stretching one portion of a piece of metal affects the surrounding material, especially in the case of formed and extruded angles. For example, hammering the metal in the horizontal flange of the angle strip over a metal block causes its length to increase (stretched), making that section longer than the section near the bend. To allow for this difference in length, the vertical flange, which tends to keep the material near the bend from stretching, would be forced to curve away from the greater length.


Shrinking metal is much more difficult than stretching it. During the shrinking process, metal is forced or compressed into a smaller area. This process is used when the length of a piece of metal, especially on the inside of a bend, is to be reduced. Sheet metal can be shrunk in by hammering on a V-block or by crimping and then using a shrinking block.

To curve the formed angle by the V-block method, place the angle on the V-block and gently hammer downward against the upper edge directly over the ”V.” While hammering, move the angle back and forth across the V-block to compress the material along the upper edge. Compression of the material along the upper edge of the vertical flange will cause the formed angle to take on a curved shape. The material in the horizontal flange will merely bend down at the center, and the length of that flange will remain the same. [Figure 4-119]

Figure 4-119. Shrink forming metal.

Figure 4-119. Shrink forming metal.

To make a sharp curve or a sharply bent flanged angle, crimping and a shrinking block can be used. In this process, crimps are placed in the one flange, and then by hammering the metal on a shrinking block, the crimps are driven, or shrunk, one at a time.

Cold shrinking requires the combination of a hard surface, such as wood or steel, and a soft mallet or hammer because a steel hammer over a hard surface stretches the metal, as opposed to shrinking it. The larger the mallet face is, the better.


Bumping involves shaping or forming malleable metal by hammering or tapping—usually with a rubber, plastic, or rawhide mallet. During this process, the metal is supported by a dolly, a sandbag, or a die. Each contains a depression into which hammered portions of the metal can sink. Bumping can be done by hand or by machine.


Crimping is folding, pleating, or corrugating a piece of sheet metal in a way that shortens it or turning down a flange on a seam. It is often used to make one end of a piece of stove pipe slightly smaller so that one section may be slipped into another. Crimping one side of a straight piece of angle iron with crimping pliers causes it to curve. [Figure 4-120]

Figure 4-120. Crimping metal.

Figure 4-120. Crimping metal.

Folding Sheet Metal

Folding sheet metal is to make a bend or crease in sheets, plates, or leaves. Folds are usually thought of as sharp, angular bends and are generally made on folding machines such as the box and pan brake discussed earlier in this section.