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Nine Tips for Break Metal Success

02/24/2016

Brake metal is often an afterthought on a glazing project.  It may not be the most fun or glamorous part, but in many cases you are going to need custom metal shapes in order to properly trim out your project.   Here are a few tips to make your brake metal orders as painless as possible.

GROUP YOUR PIECES TOGETHER

A custom sheet metal fabrication shop does not have a warehouse full of various angles, channels, z-shapes, sill flashing, and corners sitting on shelves waiting to be picked up.  Rather, a custom shop has flat sheets of prefinished aluminum and stainless steel in stock, waiting to be pulled, sheared, punched, notched, and formed to your specifications.  In most cases, it takes the same number of setups to produce one custom piece of metal as it does to produce multiple pieces.  If you know your project will take 1,000 feet of drip edge, for example, you can save yourself considerable costs by ordering those 1,000 feet together and warehousing them, rather than ordering 100 feet per day on 10 different days.  Look for these opportunities to increase quantities and achieve savings.

CONSIDER CRAZING

When a prefinished sheet of metal is formed, the finish can “craze,” or crack along the bend radius.  This becomes more prominent on darker finishes, such as black or dark bronze anodized pieces, and on thicker materials.  So, what do you do if your customer requests 1/8” dark bronze anodized panels?  One option would be to fabricate the parts and have them post-anodized to avoid crazing altogether, but sometimes lead times can get prohibitive.  A faster option might be to fabricate a piece of .080” mill aluminum and clad it with a piece .040” prefinished black anodized aluminum.  You’ll have comparable strength with a sharper bend radius and minimal crazing.

THINK ABOUT INSIDE DIMENSIONS OR OUTSIDE DIMENSIONS

There is nothing worse than driving all the way to your job site only to discover that you failed to consider the metal thickness when providing dimensions to your sheet metal fabricator.  When measuring your field conditions, ask yourself, “Does the brake metal need to go over something or fit inside a space?  If you need your piece to fit over something (i.e., a piece of cladding to fit over an aluminum extrusion), be sure you indicate that your measurement is an “Inside Dimension” (ID), meaning that you need that much clearance on the inside of your shape.  On the other hand, if your piece is filling a space, such as a spandrel panel, indicate that the dimension is an “Outside Dimension” (OD), meaning that the overall width of the piece cannot exceed that dimension.

CONSIDER EXPOSED EDGES

Most prefinished sheets of aluminum and stainless steel are finished on only one face.  If the edge of your dark bronze wall cap, for example, is visible, then you will have a bright silver line on that sheared edge.  Your piece may also be in an area that presents a cut hazard to passers-by.  If you face either situation, ask your fabricator to “hem” the edge, and they will fold the metal back over itself, giving you a rounded edge with the proper finish.

MINIMIZE YOUR SEAMS

When sealing up a building, seams are nothing more than potential leak points.  The fewer seams you have, the better.  While many sheet metal companies offer 120” materials, a few shops can offer brake shapes up to 16 feet long.  Be sure to ask your fabricator about their maximum lengths to decrease your seams as much as possible.

CHOOSE A VENDOR WITH ACCURATE EQUIPMENT

Sheet metal fabricators that utilize CNC equipment can make your brake metal quickly and accurately.  Or, perhaps you need half of the material now and half of the material in a few weeks.  A fabricator with sub-par equipment might provide you with very different bends from one week to the next.  However, a sheet metal company that uses up-to-date forming technology will be able to provide you with accurate brake shapes no matter when you order them.

USE A VENDOR THAT CAN FABRICATE YOUR ORDER QUICKLY

Brake metal is normally needed in the final stages of a project.  By then all of the slack time in the schedule has been used up, so time is usually of the essence.  If your sheet metal vendor keeps a large and diverse inventory on hand, they can shave days off of your lead time.  Also, if they have plenty of fabricating equipment on hand and talented people who know how to use it, they can accommodate several brake metal requests simultaneously, rather than putting your order “in line” with the others.

ORDER IT WHEN YOU NEED IT

There is no better time to order brake metal than when the condition is fresh on your mind.  With today’s technology, you can order your brake metal immediately if you want.  Make sure your sheet metal fabricator gives you the ability to order electronically.  You might want to make a pencil sketch, take a picture with your camera on your phone, and Email it to them.  Or, when you’re reviewing your notes at night, you might want to log on to their online quoting feature and price out your standard shapes right then and there.

NOT SURE?  ASK!

Your sheet metal vendor builds brake metal every day.  They see all sorts of conditions, and the good ones help their customers develop solutions for problem areas.  If you aren’t sure how to accomplish the needs in your situation, draw upon the experience of your fabricator’s project managers.  A company that has been around for a while has seen lots of different situations over the years, and they can probably apply old ideas to your project.  Just ask them!

Keep these items in mind when selecting your sheet metal fabricator and ordering brake metal to reduce your stress level when it’s time to trim out your project!