Tech Tips

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          I would like to share my methods and great success I had building my own bed sides and front panel. I think some of my fellow Stovebolters, who like myself, enjoy the challenge of building and fabricating their own parts as much as possible may find this not only very satisfying but also a great cost savings. The total cost of the new bed was $250. The tailgate is aftermarket. I already had the wood in my shop from previous projects. It was very easy to mill and install. I also had enough good scrap metal (doors) that was given to me by a friend. I was very pleased with the process and the results ... and the savings!

Building truck bed sides and front panel
Fabricating a new bed for the old truck
By Vic "vickraft" Leger
1951 Canadian Chev 1/2-ton Shortbox
Allison, New Brunswick

July 2011

Discussing this Tech Tip in the Paint and Body forum

This tech tip should apply to 1947 to 1953 Chevy 1/2-ton pickup trucks. My truck restoration project is a Chevy Advance Design, 1951 1/2-ton Shortbox.

<<< click on images for larger view >>>
Click here to see all the pictures in Photobucket


From this ...       ... to this!
  Only the tailgate is aftermarket. Everything else was hand-crafted.  

If you take a look at the "before" picture above, you can tell my bedsides needed a little attention. After careful consideration -- I was wondering if I should cut and patch my original bed sides or replace them with new -- I decided to just replace all the metal and re-use the original stake pockets. I have a lot of carpentry experience and used some of those measuring and alignment techniques in learning more about welding, and using my mig welder for the work.


Here's how it began

First, I made a mock up of the bedside using some scrap pieces. This helped me figure out the angle, the distance from the top to the tubing, where to cut and bend the new sides, and to get a good idea of how the 1 1/4" exhaust pipe would look when welded on. The piece that I am holding shows the angle gauge made of plywood and the mockup of the bed sides prior to being built. This picture represents a mock up of the bedside.

Start by removing the original stake pockets, using the spot-weld cutter method. Do all necessary repairs -- sandblast, patch, weld, grind, body filler, sand and prime.

Now take the remaining rusted original left and right bed sides, and use them as a templates against the new metal. Temporarily secure them, separately, to the new metal with sheet metal screws. This will keep things from moving before transferring all the the shapes and holes into the new metal. Cut the new metal to exact length. However, be sure to allow a little extra height at the top (here's a view from the end), to be bent and trimmed later. Here's a photo after it's been cut and trimmed, as detailed next.

After the new metal sides have been cut, shaped and holes transferred, make a plywood angle gauge to match the original sides, to be used later. This gauge will be used as a tool when it comes time to check and make an accurate bend at the top of the bed sides, making it as close to original as possible.

The most difficult part, and not really possible by most smaller tin shops, is the top curled round part of the bed sides.

I went to a tin shop and got them to bend the angle on their large industrial sheet metal brake. Cost: $20. Now was the time to use the plywood gauge to fine tune the angle at the top of the new sides. This will help to get the bend and the angle as accurate to the original as possible.

After returning from the tin shop, I took the old pockets and temporarily clamped them to the new side metal with the exhaust tubing positioned for alignment. Here is a close-up end view. Notice the extra height near the tubing. And here is a close up from the end view. This is where you will re-fit the old pockets between the curled and flat areas.

Before trimming the extra metal from the top of the sides, I very carefully measured and moved the 1 1/4" tubing towards the top angle of the pocket until the spacing was the same as the original -- about an 1/8 of an inch. In the close-up photo, you'll notice the pipe is not touching. This portion, I did on a work table. Then I moved everything outside, clamped and sandwiched both sides to homemade 90 degree braces made from 2 x 4s. This will keep things from moving, after careful alignment, in preparation for tach welding. This also helps to ensure both new panels, left and right side, are a mirror copy of each other.

Using a scrap piece of metal as a straight edge, a welder's magnet and clamps, (see this close-up photo) carefully line up the flat metal to the 1 1/4" exhaust tubing. This should reveal a slight "V" groove along the top length. Now you can blend the side and tubing as one, fill in the "V" groove by tach-welding and stitching along the entire length of the sides and tubing. Do necessary body work and prime.

TIP -- In order to keep the metal from warping its a good Idea to make sure your surface has cooled before continuing to weld. It's the same method as welding on patch panels. Spot weld about every six to eight inches. With the clamp set up, I was able to work the entire length of both panels at the same time.

Go back to the beginning and keep repeating the stitch welds along the entire length. Remember to allow cooling between welds! Once the tubing has been welded in place to create the desired curled look at the top of the panels, it's time to weld the previously repaired pockets to the new sides.

Ending up - the front panel

The front panel is a little different than the two side panels. It seems like that front panel gets a lot of damage from stuff hitting the "front" of the bed << see image >> when loading the bed. Now if you don't want to do the front panel, you could get one after-market for about $100. Doing the front panel is not a huge savings, but since I was learning to weld, I wanted to do the front panel, too.

For the front panel, the original top curled piece was cut out of damaged front panel. New metal was added at the bottom.


I took my time and made sure everything lined up before the welding was done. It was easier than I expected.


Be sure to check out our extensive Forums discussions -- from General Truck talk, Electrical Bay, Big Bolts, Panels and Burbs, Engine and Driveline, Paint and Body, Interiors, Tool Chest -- The Stovebolt Collective can help in your quest and walk you through the mire and magic of working with old iron!

I drive an old truck, and my cup holder sits next to me.
In truth, my wife is a big help with my old truck projects!

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