22 January 2015
Stainless can be tough to bend; the new tank uses 18 gauge material which is 0.045″ thick, and at nearly four feet wide it’s just too hard to do properly in a garage environment.
For the first time ever I searched around for a local sheet metal shop that could help out, but initially it wasn’t promising. Most small shops have aspirations of grandeur, looking for small production runs. People like me are a waste of their time – the dreaded one-off project that takes as much time as it takes their CNC machine to make 20 of something. Though I did my part, having cut, drilled, and marked the stainless, it wasn’t anything they wanted to do.
Finally, one shop took pity on me and gave me the number of another shop, “It’s a small place, basically a one-man show that does all sorts of one-off stuff for off-road vehicles.” That sounded like “my people” and sure enough the guy and a couple helpers were working on all sorts of interesting things, all crammed into a small shop. They had an autocross car in there, an MG Midget with a turbocharged 3-rotor Mazda engine on race slicks, a national championship car. Anyhow, I explained what I wanted and they said no problem. My sheet was sheared and bent within a day at a price that I was happy to pay.
He knew I was making a fuel tank and asked how I was going to make the flange around the hatch. I said it wouldn’t be easy but that I’d cut, drill, and file an 0.125″ plate to fit. He said I really needed to talk to another little shop near by with a water jet machine. Like them, they do all sorts of interesting stuff, mostly inlaid ceramic patterns for expensive home flooring and wall sculptures. However, it’s a water jet machine – it can cut nearly anything. They said, “give us a sketch of what you want and we’ll make it next week.” Well, okay, we’ll see how that goes; they’ll be handed a drawing Monday.
This is a new experience for me – actually getting help making stuff. As long as it’s for items that I can’t easily do myself, it’s a luxury that’s hard to pass up.