2018 August 14    Metal & Shop

Introduction


Making a simple right-angle bracket is one of the most basic metalworking projects you can do.  There are so many uses for these. 

You can also make exactly what you need, instead of being limited by what's available.  For example, all the L-brackets I've seen at stores were too narrow to withstand much lateral force.

And of course, this little project will build your basic shop skills.  (Metalworking can have some hazards;  please read the Disclaimer.)





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In This Article

Gearing Up

The Basic Idea

Bolt Holes

De-Burring

Painting

Conclusion


Gearing Up


The tools and supplies needed for this project:

Angle Grinder

Cutoff wheel & flap disc for angle grinder.  I would avoid cheap cutoff wheels;  they're more likely to explode.  Get a good brand.  And whatever you do, don't ever take the guard off your angle grinder.  There is no valid reason to run the grinder without it.  A lot of people have gotten very hurt or dead by ignoring that safety precaution.  Even a 4.5" wheel can send fragments right through heavy boots or a face shield. 

By the way, I just made one bracket here, but if you were going to make a whole pile of them, a metal-cutting saw would be a lot more convenient to use than an angle grinder.

Bench vise.  A cheap one will work OK for this purpose.  (And nope, those $25.99 ones that say "USA" in the picture are definitely not made in USA. )

Center Punch.  One of the top basic tools-- and the most often overlooked-- for any carpentry or metalworking project.

Hammer

File

Degreaser (if you're going to paint the bracket)

Paint (if you're going to paint the bracket)


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The Basic Idea


Get a piece of C-channel or angle iron.  Two of the sides will form the bracket.  The third side, if present, gets removed.  Another method is to start with flat steel plate, then bend it to a 90-degree angle. 

Another method is to get square or rectangular tubing, then cut it so you have two brackets from each section of it.

The material you start with depends on what kind of bracket you need.  If you're anchoring a workbench for really heavy-duty work-- such as, a railroad vise where you're going to be wrenching on stuff with three-foot pipe wrenches-- then maybe you'll want to make the brackets out of 1/4" thick steel.  For for more typical use, 1/8" thick steel is probably all you need.


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Bolt Holes


Store-bought brackets often use wood screws.  Here's one that I retro-fitted for lag bolts, shown with one for comparison:



If you're going to make your own bracket for heavy-duty use, just use lag bolts from the start.  5/16" diameter is probably good enough for most things you'd need to hold with a small bracket.  3/8" or 1/2" lag bolts are better for heavy-duty uses, such as an industrial pounder-type of workbench where you're working on engines, dismantling rusty hydraulic parts, etc.

Try to center the bolt holes on the brackets.  For most purposes you don't need 0.001" precision.  That said, if you'll be lag-bolting the bracket into wall studs, you'll want to have them line up to within 1/8" or so of the center line.

Let's say you want each panel of the bracket to have one bolt-hole each.  These panels are either going to be squarish or rectangular in shape.  So, use a straight-edge and a scribe to mark lines from corner to corner. 



If you lined up the corners correctly (which I didn't, at first), these diagonals cross at the exact center of the rectangular area. 

On a panel that's going to have two bolt holes, separate it into two equal-sized rectangles, using a combination square or machinist double square.

Once you're satisfied that the scribe marks are where they should be, center-punch where the lines cross.  This is where you'll drill the holes for the lag bolts.



It's good to drill these 1/64" oversize.  So, a 5/16" lag bolt would call for a 21/64" drill.  However, if all you have is a 5/16" drill for a 5/16" lag bolt, it will still be usable.  It just might require a little bit of work with a round file.



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De-Burring


Even though it's only a simple bracket, de-burr any sharp or ragged edges.  The finished product will be much more professional-looking, and also safer.

You can easily de-burr the piece by clamping the bracket in the vise, then using a mill file along the edges  Even quicker way:  use the flap disc on the angle grinder.  A heavily-worn flap disc works great for this, since you don't need to remove a lot of material.



You may have to use a small round or triangular file to de-burr the edges of the drilled holes.  Or, use a scrap of coarse sandpaper that's been rolled up.


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Painting


De-grease with something that evaporates completely.  Chlorine-free brake cleaner works great;  so does acetone.  Mineral spirits is another good degreaser;  it's also safer than these other two, because it has a higher flash point.  Read the precautions on the packaging, and be careful.  (Avoid that crummy "mineral spirits" substitute, which they shouldn't even be allowed to call mineral spirits;  it's not even clear, it's not colorless, and it probably isn't even of mineral origin.)

After the bracket is dry, set it on a piece of cardboard outside in the sun.  This works best on a day when there's no wind and no breeze.  Spray paint the bracket with a primer coat.  Then paint with whatever color you want.  For a workshop, gray primer is probably all you'll need.


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Conclusion


This was a look at making a custom L-bracket.  Angle iron or C-channel is a good starting material.  If you have some way to bend the metal, another good starting material is 11-gauge or 1/8" steel plate.


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