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Author Topic: How to bend old brass?  (Read 6487 times)
Rowan of Rin
Zeppelin Admiral
Australia Australia

~The Black Blood Alchemist~

« on: January 19, 2010, 09:20:43 am »

I recently bought a lovely early 19thC kettle:

Unfortunately it was damaged in the post. The seller was kind enough to refund me, but I would like to try my hand at fixing it (it has survived this long, after all!)

The lip is bent out of shape like so:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

What would be the best method for bending the brass back to it's original shape (it needs to be 'pushed out', and the lip reattached), taking into account it's age, so it may not be as 'supple' as newer brass, and more susceptible to splitting (or maybe I am just deluded, and that isn't a problem at all...)?

I'm as mad as I am, but no madder!
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Rogue Ætherlord
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Steampunk Facilitator MVSS

« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2010, 01:37:28 pm »

It's a real shame it got damaged and in a way which is difficult to put right.

The two "correct" ways to do it are either to unsolder and disassemble the piece for repair or judicious use of a spring hammer.

You can make your own spring hammer.  I apologise for being lazy and not drawing properly but it is like this:

          OOOO       Ball type hammer head.
          OOOO                  Hammer here with a normal flat hammer
            III                           +
            III                           +
            III                           V
                           Spring steel bar with two angled bends                  III
                                                                              (This end sunk into big block)
                                                                              (Or held firmly in vice)

It works by positioning the work over the hammer head and then using a normal hammer to strike the spring steel bar.  Of course the bar flexes and so the spring hammer head strikes from the inside.

It takes a bit of practice but is very useful for repairing pots and pans etc (I didn't get the name Tinker for nothing!)

You will have to think about whether annealing is necessary or advisable particularly since you may damage the solder in any case.

Hope that's helpful.

Good luck with it.


Mr Addams
Zeppelin Admiral
United Kingdom United Kingdom

« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2010, 02:57:38 pm »

From the picture it looks like the solder holding the rim in place is broken, in which case removing it before reshaping the kettle would make the job a lot easier

As TimeTinker says, you will need to think hard about the job before deciding to try and anneal the metal.
If you have no experience with metalworking, I would strongly recommend finding someone with experience to help you out. There are a lot of risks involved with hot metal, I have the scars to prove it.

The way to soften brass is to heat it up until it glows, then quench it in cold water.
This makes the metal soft and much easier to work.
I have only done this with bar and fairly thick sheet brass, with metal as thin as that kettle you risk damaging the metal if you get it too hot.

This is a bit out of my comfort zone, so I stress that what follows is "what I would do" based on a far less specialized knowledge of brass working than is required to make a Kettle. so if someone with a better knowledge can support or debunk the following please do so.

Firstly, is the rim soldered into the top of the kettle? If it is, use a blowtorch to gently melt the solder until the rim drops into the kettle. keep the flame moving so that the heat is even. It should be possible to remove the rim without the kettle becoming red hot.

If the rim has a turned out lip inside the kettle let it stay inside the kettle while you work on it. This will be much easier than trying to push it back though the opening once it is reshaped. If it is just a ring, apart from the top lip, take it out.

Once the rim is detached, it may be fairly simple to pull the kettle back into shape.
But if you decide that the metal needs softening, read the following.

Again I stress that if you have no experience working with metal, try to find someone who can look at the object at first hand, and advise you accordingly.

Try to do the following in fairly dim light, bright lighting makes it hard to judge the brightness of the metal.

Play the blowtorch over the deformed part of the kettle, keep the flame moving, and avoid any seams in case you melt any solder in them. the metal should start to glow a dull red, move the flame away from the glowing area keep heating the edges of the glowing area until the glow covers the damaged part. If the glow goes from orange to yellow, move the heat away, or stop, you are getting to the point where you could damage the metal.
When the deformed area and about an inch around it is glowing, plunge the kettle into cold water.

This will generate a lot of steam wear welders gloves and long sleeves, and ensure that the spout and the opening are turned away from you. A face full of steam can spoil your day.

When the metal has cooled, it will be much softer, you may be able to pull the dent out by gently applying pressure by hand. otherwise I would use a small ballpein hammer and a leather sandbag (If you can get hold of one. 

Once you have the shape correct, lift the rim into position and re-solder it. (Using Lead free solder)

I must stress that this advice is based on looking at two Photographs and what I would actually do if I had the kettle in my hands may be completely different.
Rowan of Rin
Zeppelin Admiral
Australia Australia

~The Black Blood Alchemist~

« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2010, 12:42:11 am »

Exactly the sort of advice I was looking for, thank you both (especially for going into such detail!). I shall give you an update after I have acquired a blow torch (I have been looking for an excuse to purchase one for years, and now I finally have one Grin).
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