Like standard metal brakes, box and pan metal brakes help metalworkers bend sheet metal at varying degrees and into varying shapes. But where metal brakes typically only bend sheet metal in channel, U, or V shapes, pan brakes allow for more complex shapes which aid in the creation of prototypes, simple parts, and (as the name might suggest) metal boxes and pans.
Box and pan metal brakes are known as finger brakes and all come with adjustable components and have multiple configurations. Matching a particular box and pan metal brake’s capabilities and tolerances with your desired project is essential prior to purchasing.
Components of Box and Pan Brakes
Box and pan brakes contain many of the same components of metal brakes. These include the:
- Table / Base: a flat section of the machine upon which the sheet metal gets placed
- Clamp: a compressing bar that presses the sheet metal flat against the table before it gets worked
- Locking Cam: a locking mechanism that presses the metal against the table at a particular pressure
- Apron: a swinging plate that fits into place in front of the machine and shapes the metal
Standard metal brakes contain all these elements, but what sets box and pan brakes apart are removable shaping elements called “fingers.” These parts of a box and pan brake provide added versatility for the devices, allowing them to form metals into unique shapes not readily achievable by a traditional metal brake.
Popular Types of Box and Pan Brakes
Box and pan brake come in several different configurations that allow each brake to have multiple types of customizations. Some of the features that you’ll find on popular types of pan brakes include the following:
Finger Customizations. The most distinctive feature of box and pan brakes is also one of its most modified. Different brakes contain fingers that can vary according to their number and width, which vary considerably from model to model. Additionally, some brakes include fingers that range from a couple to up to 3, some of which may come in different sizes, widths, shapes, thicknesses, and segmentations. Finally, fingers may be located on the upper and/or lower areas of the brake.
Accepted Materials. Brakes have different options regarding the type, thickness, and size of materials that they can work. Widths accepted by a machine can include ranges such as 24 inches, 48 inches, 52 inches, 72 inches, 96 inches, and 120 inches. Thickness can include 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22-gauge materials. Also, some brakes can only process ferrous materials and others can work with non-ferrous metals.
Mounting and Size. Most box and pan brakes — and especially machines designed for heavy-duty operation — are floor mounted for maximum stability. Smaller options are often mounted on an existing bench or table. A minority of box and pan brakes come in portable configurations designed to be used at job sites. The more permanently a brake is mounted, the larger and heavier it typically is.
Type of Control. Manually controlled box and pan brakes employ a hand-controlled lever to process material, while an automated option includes a foot-operated lever to minimize fatigue and discomfort.
Options and Accessories. Different box and pan brakes incorporate numerous kinds of add-on accessories, which can radically change the functionality of different machine models. Read our “Accessories” section below for more details.
What to Look for When Buying a Box and Pan Brake
Because box and pan brakes come in wildly different configurations, you should carefully consider multiple factors prior to making a purchase. Below are some of the questions you should ask:
- What kind of metal will I need to bend? What’s its thickness? Length? Composition?
- How many bends will I need to make in order to successfully complete my project?
- Will my box and pan brake need to fit on a table? Have its own spot in a workshop? Travel to and from work sites?
- How many fingers will my brake need in order to produce work according to my specifications? Will I need to adjust them regularly?
- Will my brake be used for short periods of time or all day and every day?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know exactly what kind of pan brake will work best for you.
Should You Try to Bend Sheet Metal Without a Brake?
As any commercial or industrial organization that deals with technical tasks knows, there’s often more than one way to accomplish them. The same holds true when it comes to bending sheet metal. You technically don’t have to own a brake to bend a piece of sheet metal, and plenty of tutorials exist online showing tinkerers molding sheet metal using little more than a vise, two lengths of wood, and a mallet.
However, just because something is physically possible doesn’t mean it’s advisable. A “do it yourself” approach introduces complications you won’t have to think about if you use a metal brake. For instance, thicker sheet metal might require the use of a blow torch to facilitate bending. You’ll need to calculate your sheet metal’s bend allowance before you proceed, which requires some technical knowledge. Accidental cuts and other forms of injury are a real risk when you try to bend metal without technological help. And factors such as a slipping vise or simple errors can easily ruin your materials and hard you.
In short, while it’s possible to bend metal without the use of a brake, you’ll face significant downsides. Anyone who needs to bend metal commercially would do well to approach the task by using the proper tools.
Applications and Industries
Any industry that specializes in metalwork that extends beyond the most basic applications will find a box and pan brake useful. Box and pan brakes are most commonly used in prototyping and design work. Manufacturers who require relatively simple parts with bends that go beyond the capacity of traditional metal brakes will use pan brakes. And many businesses that employ box and pan brakes are used for routine repair and maintenance tasks.
Similar to the wide range of components featured on the most popular types of box and pan brakes, additional accessories exist that can radically transform how a specific machine works, including:
- Apron stops that allow for multiple bends in a single piece of metal, some of which are adjustable
- Magnetic clamping that securely holds ferrous sheet metals in place during the fabrication process
- Shears and clip rolls that are incorporated into the pan brake system
- Ambidextrous operation options that allow employees to use the machine with either hand
- Bend angle gauges for precise measurements even during operation
Tips for Finding and Buying a Box and Pan Brake
If you are looking to purchase a box and pan brake, you’ll want to use a trustworthy source prior to making a major purchase. Surplus Record is just that source, and once you’ve determined the exact kind of pan brake and all of its concomitant features, you can easily search the brakes for sale. Sort by manufacturer, model, location, and various keywords.
Top manufacturers for box and pan brakes include: National, Tennsmith, Baileigh, Birmingham, and more.
In addition to our classified listings, we have connections with multiple dealers who specialize to multiple kinds of metal brakes, including box and pan brakes. You can find dealers in your area or by name who specialize in a variety of different kinds of brake types.
Trust The Best Box and Pan Brake Dealer Around
Surplus Record has always been committed to helping businesses sell surplus and unwanted equipment. For almost a century, Surplus Record has championed machinery dealers throughout North America, assisting thousands of dealers and individual sellers in connecting with end-user consumers to sell surplus machinery and equipment.
Surplus Record’s comprehensive database of surplus, new, and used equipment is a great place to start if you’re currently in the market for new tools or machinery.