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October 15, 2011 5:54 PM   Subscribe

AskMefi type board for woodworking and metal work DIY projects?

While trying to complete a recent DIY project involving metal parts, I've hit some ridiculous roadblocks. I have been unable to locate a simple 90 degree 4 Hole Corner Angle Fitting that's actually 90 degrees. I have tried many brands, and all of them are ridiculously off by at least 3-5 degrees. The brackets need to be 1/4" thick, and at least 4" long on either side, 1 5/8 wide. I've been to Home Depot, various hardware stores, and even bought online, but none of them can manage 90 degrees over a mere 4"!

I asked the people at Home Depot "where might I locate such brackets, which are, you know, actually 90 degrees", but of course, nobody there has a clue.

Because I regularly find myself involved in some crazy DIY project or another, I figured I need to find a forum where such questions might elicit a useful answer. I googled around, but the boards that I did find were either dead, or have super low traffic with posts every few weeks.

What would be ideal is a kind of AskMefi for DIY hobbyists - surely there must be one somewhere? AskMefi itself is too generalized to usually provide such answers, plus the once-a-week limit is not very practical in the DIY land.

So my question is: what is the best such board, that's trafficked regularly and open to answering questions from fresh sign-ups? A board focused on wood and metal small-scale projects for hobbyists?
posted by VikingSword to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe something along the MAKE / CRAFT / Instructables axis? Or maybe if you trawl those forums for links you could find a forum for you. Might also look at Burning Man discussion forums, even if you don't plan to take your 90° fittings to the desert.
posted by hattifattener at 6:04 PM on October 15, 2011

Best answer: The forums at Fine Woodworking are good.
posted by nicwolff at 6:15 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have real metalwork questions, Practical Machinist is by far the best place I've found.
posted by introp at 6:18 PM on October 15, 2011

Best answer: You want the Wood Working Talk forums. My husband posts there occasionally; there are usually 200-300 members online at any time day or night. It's really active, really friendly.
posted by iconomy at 6:18 PM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Reddit's r/diy has a fairly large readership. It's not very focused but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

As for your brackets, you should either buy flat stock and bend your own or have somebody bend them for you (alternately, couldn't you rebend commercially available brackets to get the exact 90 you're looking for?)
posted by davey_darling at 7:04 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

davey_darling: " (alternately, couldn't you rebend commercially available brackets to get the exact 90 you're looking for?)"

Absolutely, just take a hammer to them, bang on them til you get them where you need them -- this is like the simplest ever on ask.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:26 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everybody - some of these look very interesting, I'll sign up.

As for your brackets, you should either buy flat stock and bend your own or have somebody bend them for you (alternately, couldn't you rebend commercially available brackets to get the exact 90 you're looking for?)

Absolutely, just take a hammer to them, bang on them til you get them where you need them -- this is like the simplest ever on ask.

We're talking about bending 1/4" steel. Hammering is not going to do it - and yes, it did occur to me, I even gave it one shot before understanding that only a pretty powerful press/vice would do the trick here. I don't have access to one, but as a last resort, since I'm going to a guy to have my 12 gauge strut channels cut, and I was going to ask him if he could do something to get me 90 degrees on these pieces. I still would prefer to get the original 90 degrees, as I'm not sure how stressing the metal by bending might affect the integrity of the bracket - it does have to support something at a pretty good leverage.
posted by VikingSword at 9:16 PM on October 15, 2011

On this particular problem, a dedicated wood or metalworking forum is most likely to offer you the same advice you've gotten here: bend a common bracket into acceptable shape, or build your project without using angle brackets at all. The latter is probably the better solution. It's tough (maybe impossible) to buy a precisely made angle bracket because precision is expensive, and people doing work of sufficient quality for the precision to matter generally don't use angle brackets at all.

I'm not sure how stressing the metal by bending might affect the integrity of the bracket

Bending it is how pretty much any mass-produced steel angle bracket was made in the first place. They took a straight bar of cold-rolled, drilled a few holes and bent it. They didn't heat it up like some blacksmith you saw at a fair. They didn't put it through a heat-treating operation afterwards. Mild, low-carbon steel, which is what these will be, is very malleable. Tweaking the angle yourself is just a refinement of the same thing the factory did; you're not going to compromise the brackets' integrity. But you're right -- you'd need a good vise and/or a heavy hammer. It sounds like you might need an improvisational, 'how can I fix this with a rock?' forum rather than a wood or metalworking forum.
posted by jon1270 at 1:55 AM on October 16, 2011

Mentally calculating the error induced by 4 degrees over 4 inches leaves me with about 1/4", give or take.

That's fixable with a shim, at no cost to the mechanical integrity. A shim is easy to make. Seems like an approach I'd consider, absent a good method for adding a bend. The shim will be stressed in compression and I can't imagine why it would affect what I assume is your application.

Solving problems involves solving the REAL problem, and redefining it is always useful, IME. (This problem can be defined as one of fit, not of form.)

Personally, I often employ the miracle of the lever to accomplish various distortions I need. I've bent 1/4" hot rolled steel into complex ribbons using nothing more than a vise and leverage. I twist 1/2" rebar into curly strings the same way. The trouble with short legs is that you can't apply a lot of leverage directly... you need to extend them. You'd be rather amazed what you can do with leverage. There are 3 types of levers, too, and they can be cascaded to achieve amazing force concentrations with some imagination.

The best thing I know of in life is to cultivate sources of wisdom and experience. You find some online, but you need persistent ones. You'd be surprised what people around you know. Ask for help from friends at the same time you're looking online. Smart people abound and most love to help and pass on tricks.
posted by FauxScot at 4:50 AM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Obviously you can bend the steel with a hammer and vise but you will need a HAMMER and an ANVIL VISE mounted on a adequate WORK BENCH.
posted by JJ86 at 8:08 AM on October 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for all the additional responses, there is a lot of wisdom therein.

Quick elucidation: I am aware of options such as redesign of the entire project to solve a given issue, but while in general that is a great principle, sometimes one just needs that very specific solution with no substitution, not on the grounds options not existing, but on the grounds of choice, such as aesthetics. For example, all these problems would go away if I was willing to employ a bracket with a support strut, but I'm ruling it out on grounds of aesthetics. So I need what I need.

Similarly wrt. questions of why don't I look into using heavy-duty workshop tools to modify the materials. It's not that such an option never occurred to me, rather, that since I only have access to pretty basic tools, I'd need to make a special trip to a friend and/or commercial metal shop. That's another step along the chain. It's far easier for me, given my situation, to just be able to purchase the right material to begin with. If such a thing is accessible, and all I have to do is ask where I can buy it, it's easier to do so than to trek somewhere. It's all about picking the exact link in the chain of production - ultimately I could dig for my own ore, make all my tools and so on, but I'm looking to see what the most efficient way of completing a project is. Buying a $2-$5 part that's within spec is easier than buying one that is not and then modifying it, and the latter of course is easier than melting my own metal. Of course, if such an option does not exist - i.e. a part within spec - then per force I'm going to move down the chain of production and avail myself of the services and/or tools of a metal shop. But what is the best place to start given my situation? The best place is to ask: hey, is there a 90 degree bracket that's within spec? And to get the best answer it's best to find the forum most suited to the likelihood of getting such an answer. Hence, this AskMefi question. Of course, it may very well be that the answer is: there are no such products, you must make your own - at which point I would look into that; but that is step 2 - step 1 is to look higher up the chain.
posted by VikingSword at 11:52 AM on October 16, 2011

Best answer: Metafilter is pretty good for finding ideas and advice on this kind of stuff. There are a handful of specialized places I go for higher concentrations of specific expertise.

This engineering forum has proven useful in the past, for me, at least.

That bracket was most certainly formed by bending. A lot of variables affect the bend. The 90 degree spec is nominal, like most specs. The manufacturer will allow deviations from the nominal and still call it good. The only way to get a perfect 90 is to sort through a few thousand units for the ones that are closest. It's usually not done that way. Usually, you get the nominal and adjust it.

Some of the variables affecting the bend are hardness in the steel, temperature, thickness variations in the raw stock, wear on the bending die. Bending can be fairly accurate, but when you want extreme accuracy in metalworking, grinding is the old school approach.

Again, in your case, adjusting the bend would not be too hard. You'd probably have to over-bend it a few degrees to address the material's desire to spring back, of course, but I'd really consider long, stiff lever arms. That material bends easier than you think.
posted by FauxScot at 5:22 AM on October 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everybody again! I had the machinist who was cutting my strut channels bend the brackets to 90 degrees, it was a cinch. I'm hopeful that with all the neat links provided by you kind folks, in the future I'll be able to find DIY project answers without making a pest of myself here on AskMefi.
posted by VikingSword at 5:49 PM on October 21, 2011

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