Layout and Forming (Part Six)

in Aircraft Metal Structural Repair

Forming by Bumping

As discussed earlier, bumping involves stretching the sheet metal by bumping it into a form and making it balloon. [Figure 4-162] Bumping can be done on a form block or female die, or on a sandbag.

Figure 4-162. Form block bumping.

Figure 4-162. Form block bumping.

Either method requires only one form: a wooden block, a lead die, or a sandbag. The blister, or streamlined cover plate, is an example of a part made by the form block or die method of bumping. Wing fillets are an example of parts that are usually formed by bumping on a sandbag.

Form Block or Die

The wooden block or lead die designed for form block bumping must have the same dimensions and contour as the outside of the blister. To provide enough bucking weight and bearing surface for fastening the metal, the block or die should be at least one inch larger in all dimensions than the form requires.

Follow these procedures to create a form block:

  1. Hollow the block out with tools, such as saws, chisels, gouges, files, and rasps.
  2. Smooth and finish the block with sandpaper. The inside of the form must be as smooth as possible, because the slightest irregularity shows up on the finished part.
  3. Prepare several templates (patterns of the crosssection), as shown in Figure 4-162 so that the form can be checked for accuracy.
  4. Shape the contour of the form at points 1, 2, and 3.
  5. Shape the areas between the template checkpoints to conform the remaining contour to template 4. Shaping of the form block requires particular care because the more nearly accurate it is, the less time it takes to produce a smooth, finished part.

After the form is prepared and checked, perform the bumping as follows:

  1. Cut a metal blank to size allowing an extra 1⁄2 to 1-inch to permit drawing.
  2. Apply a thin coat of light oil to the block and the aluminum to prevent galling (scraping on rough spots).
  3. Clamp the material between the block and steel plate. Ensure it is firmly supported yet it can slip a little toward the inside of the form.
  4. Clamp the bumping block in a bench vise. Use a soft-faced rubber mallet, or a hardwood drive block with a suitable mallet, to start the bumping near the edges of the form.
  5. Work the material down gradually from the edges with light blows of the mallet. Remember, the purpose of bumping is to work the material into shape by stretching rather than forcing it into the form with heavy blows. Always start bumping near the edge of the form. Never start near the center of the blister.
  6. Before removing the work from the form, smooth it as much as possible by rubbing it with the rounded end of either a maple block or a stretching mallet.
  7. Remove the blister from the bumping block and trim to size.

Sandbag Bumping

Sandbag bumping is one of the most difficult methods of hand forming sheet metal because there is no exact forming block to guide the operation. [Figure 4-163] In this method, a depression is made into the sandbag to take the shape of the hammered portion of the metal. The depression or pit has a tendency to shift from the hammering, which necessitates periodic readjustment during the bumping process. The degree of shifting depends largely on the contour or shape of the piece being formed, and whether glancing blows must be struck to stretch, draw, or shrink the metal. When forming by this method, prepare a contour template or some sort of a pattern to serve as a working guide and to ensure accuracy of the finished part. Make the pattern from ordinary kraft or similar paper, folding it over the part to be duplicated. Cut the paper cover at the points where it would have to be stretched to fit, and attach additional pieces of paper with masking tape to cover the exposed portions. After completely covering the part, trim the pattern to exact size.

Figure 4-163. Sandbag bumping.

Figure 4-163. Sandbag bumping.

Open the pattern and spread it out on the metal from which the part is to be formed. Although the pattern does not lie flat, it gives a fairly accurate idea of the approximate shape of the metal to be cut, and the pieced-in sections indicate where the metal is to be stretched. When the pattern has been placed on the material, outline the part and the portions to be stretched using a felt-tipped pen. Add at least 1-inch of excess metal when cutting the material to size. Trim off the excess metal after bumping the part into shape.

If the part to be formed is radially symmetrical, it is fairly easy to shape since a simple contour template can be used as a working guide. The procedure for bumping sheet metal parts on a sandbag follows certain basic steps that can be applied to any part, regardless of its contour or shape.

  1. Lay out and cut the contour template to serve as a working guide and to ensure accuracy of the finished part. (This can be made of sheet metal, medium to heavy cardboard, kraft paper, or thin plywood.)
  2. Determine the amount of metal needed, lay it out, and cut it to size, allowing at least 1⁄2-inch in excess.
  3. Place a sandbag on a solid foundation capable of supporting heavy blows and make a pit in the bag with a smooth-faced mallet. Analyze the part to determine the correct radius the pit should have for the forming operation. The pit changes shape with the hammering it receives and must be readjusted accordingly.
  4. Select a soft round-faced or bell-shaped mallet with a contour slightly smaller than the contour desired on the sheet metal part. Hold one edge of the metal in the left hand and place the portion to be bumped near the edge of the pit on the sandbag. Strike the metal with light glancing blows.
  5. Continue bumping toward the center, revolving the metal, and working gradually inward until the desired shape is obtained. Shape the entire part as a unit.
  6. Check the part often for accuracy of shape during the bumping process by applying the template. If wrinkles form, work them out before they become too large.
  7. Remove small dents and hammer marks with a suitable stake and planishing hammer or with a hand dolly and planishing hammer.
  8. Finally, after bumping is completed, use a pair of dividers to mark around the outside of the object. Trim the edge and file it smooth. Clean and polish the part.


A joggle, often found at the intersection of stringers and formers, is the offset formed on a part to allow clearance for a sheet or another mating part. Use of the joggle maintains the smooth surface of a joint or splice. The amount of offset is usually small; therefore, the depth of the joggle is generally specified in thousandths of an inch. The thickness of the material to be cleared governs the depth of the joggle. In determining the necessary length of the joggle, allow an extra 1⁄16-inch to give enough added clearance to assure a fit between the joggled, overlapped part. The distance between the two bends of a joggle is called the allowance. This dimension is normally called out on the drawing. However, a general rule of thumb for figuring allowance is four times the thickness of the displacement of flat sheets. For 90° angles, it must be slightly more due to the stress built up at the radius while joggling. For extrusions, the allowance can be as much as 12 times the material thickness, so, it is important to follow the drawing.

There are a number of different methods of forming joggles. For example, if the joggle is to be made on a straight flange or flat piece of metal, it can be formed on a cornice break. To form the joggle, use the following procedure:

  1. Lay out the boundary lines of the joggle where the bends are to occur on the sheet.
  2. Insert the sheet in the brake and bend the metal up approximately 20° to 30°.
  3. Release the brake and remove the part.
  4. Turn the part over and clamp it in the brake at the second bend line.
  5. Bend the part up until the correct height of the joggle is attained.
  6. Remove the part from the brake and check the joggle for correct dimensions and clearance.

When a joggle is necessary on a curved part or a curved flange, forming blocks or dies made of hardwood, steel, or aluminum alloy may be used. The forming procedure consists of placing the part to be joggled between the two joggle blocks and squeezing them in a vice or some other suitable clamping device. After the joggle is formed, the joggle blocks are turned over in the vice and the bulge on the opposite flange is flattened with a wooden or rawhide mallet. [Figure 4-164]

Figure 4-164. Forming joggle using joggle blocks.

Figure 4-164. Forming joggle using joggle blocks.

Since hardwood is easily worked, dies made of hardwood are satisfactory when the die is to be used only a few times. If a number of similar joggles are to be produced, use steel or aluminum alloy dies. Dies of aluminum alloy are preferred since they are easier to fabricate than those of steel and wear about as long. These dies are sufficiently soft and resilient to permit forming aluminum alloy parts on them without marring, and nicks and scratches are easily removed from their surfaces.

When using joggling dies for the first time, test them for accuracy on a piece of waste stock to avoid the possibility of ruining already fabricated parts. Always keep the surfaces of the blocks free from dirt, filings, and the like, so that the work is not marred. [Figure 4-165]

Figure 4-165. Samples of joggled metal.

Figure 4-165. Samples of joggled metal.

Lightening Holes

Lightening holes are cut in rib sections, fuselage frames, and other structural parts to decrease weight. To avoid weakening the member by removal of the material, flanges are often pressed around the holes to strengthen the area from which the material was removed.

Lightening holes should never be cut in any structural part unless authorized. The size of the lightening hole and the width of the flange formed around the hole are determined by design specifications. Margins of safety are considered in the specifications so that the weight of the part can be decreased and still retain the necessary strength. Lightening holes may be cut with a hole saw, a punch, or a fly cutter. The edges are filed smooth to prevent them from cracking or tearing.

Flanging Lightening Holes

Form the flange by using a flanging die, or hardwood or metal form blocks. Flanging dies consist of two matching parts: a female and a male die. For flanging soft metal, dies can be of hardwood, such as maple. For hard metal or for more permanent use, they should be made of steel. The pilot guide should be the same size as the hole to be flanged, and the shoulder should be the same width and angle as the desired flange.

When flanging lightening holes, place the material between the mating parts of the die and form it by hammering or squeezing the dies together in a vise or in an arbor press (a small hand operated press). The dies work more smoothly if they are coated with light machine oil. [Figure 4-166]

Figure 4-166. Lightening hole die set.

Figure 4-166. Lightening hole die set.

Working Stainless Steel

Corrosion-resistant-steel (CRES) sheet is used on some parts of the aircraft when high strength is required. CRES causes magnesium, aluminum, or cadmium to corrode when it touches these metals. To isolate CRES from magnesium and aluminum, apply a finish that gives protection between their mating surfaces. It is important to use a bend radius that is larger than the recommended minimum bend radius to prevent cracking of the material in the bend area.

When working with stainless steel, make sure that the metal does not become unduly scratched or marred. Also, take special precautions when shearing, punching, or drilling this metal. It takes about twice as much pressure to shear or punch stainless steel as it does mild steel. Keep the shear or punch and die adjusted very closely. Too much clearance permits the metal to be drawn over the edge of the die and causes it to become work hardened, resulting in excessive strain on the machine. When drilling stainless steel, use an HSS drill bit ground to an included angle of 135°. Keep the drill speed about one-half that required for drilling mild steel, but never exceed 750 rpm. Keep a uniform pressure on the drill so the feed is constant at all times. Drill the material on a backing plate, such as cast iron, which is hard enough to permit the drill bit to cut completely through the stock without pushing the metal away from the drill point. Spot the drill bit before turning on the power and also make sure that pressure is exerted when the power is turned on.