Bending Metal Flashing 101: How to Use a Hand Brake for Metal Roofing Applications

Wondering how you can integrate a hand brake into your next metal roofing project? In this article, we show you all the basics of the Van Mark Metal Master 20.

Installing a metal roof requires precision. Materials must be handled carefully, and processes must be honed for correct safety standards and best practices. On a job site, contractors will use various tools to help them with installation, each one requiring the right knowledge and skillset to operate.

One essential tool for many contractors is a hand brake. Hand brakes can easily bend metal, and they provide an effective way to get the measurements needed for a metal roofing project.

At Sheffield Metals International (SMI,) we provide coated and bare metal products and engineered standing seam roof profile systems. Our customers include contractors, architects, fabricators, and homeowners looking for quality products and accurate information related to metal roofing.

We are committed to helping contractors learn more about the industry and discover new ways to streamline their projects.

In this article, we’ll cover all the basics of bending metal with a Van Mark Metal Master 20 hand brake, including:

  • How to Set Up Your Hand Brake for Use
  • How to Hem with a Hand Brake
  • How to Make Drip Edge with a Hand Brake
  • How to Use a Trim Cutter
  • Safety Considerations for Using a Hand Brake

By the end of this article, you should be ready to bend and hem your first piece of flashing.

How to Get Your Metal Master 20 Hand Brake Ready to Use

Before you use your hand brake, you’ll want to ensure it’s set up correctly and ready for operation.

Companies like Van Mark will typically ship the brake in one box —  you’ll want to open the box, take the stand out, set it up, and drop the walkboard in. The walkboard acts as a counterbalance when you’re bending heavier metals — you’ll stand on this to keep the brake stable.

Metal Master 20 walkboard

The handles are attached with push pins, which allow for easy removal to load into a truck or van.

The cam and wedge system allows very smooth operation that defends against wear.

Metal Master 20 cam and wedge system close up

One of the most common techniques contractors want to learn with a bending brake is how to hem.

How to Hem Metal with a Metal Master 20 Hand Brake

For a simple hem edge, follow these five steps.

1.        Insert Metal

Placing a piece of metal into the Metal Master 20

Line up your piece of metal on its front edge in the brake.

2.        Lock the Brake

Locking a Metal Master 20 hand brake

Press down on the top handle to lock the brake so it’s secure. The cam-operated brake will also self-adjust, meaning if you have a thinner piece of metal, the brake will self-adjust and lock onto the metal. You won’t have to change settings every time you change metal thicknesses.

3.        Stand on Walkboard and Bend

Stand on the walkboard to stabilize the brake, then grab both of the lower handles of the brake and bend upwards as far as it can go, 150°.

4.        Put Metal Into Hemming Pocket

A piece of metal in the Metal Master 20 hemming pocket

Open the brake and take your metal out, lock the brake, then place the metal into the hemming pocket.

5.        Hem Metal

With heavier metals, you can preload the hinge, then pop up the lower handles to make your hem.  When hemming any metal, painted or bare, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s T-bend guidelines to avoid voiding a warranty by making too tight a bend. This varies by metal type and thickness. 

How to Make Drip Edge with a Metal Master 20 Hand Brake

Finished drip edge

When making specific shapes with a hand brake, one of the most common is drip edge. Here’s how to make drip edge with a hand brake.

1. Load Metal Into Brake and Bend

A piece of metal being bent 90 degrees with the Metal Master 20 hand brake

Put the metal into the brake and lock it, bend 90°

2. Flip Metal and Lock It In, Bend

A piece of metal being placed into the Metal Master 20 hand brake for bending

Flip the metal, lock it, and pull the bottom handle up as far as it will go to bend the metal, 150°.

3. Drop Into Hemming Pocket

Perspective view of the Metal Master 20 hand brake

Next, place your metal into the hemming pocket, preload the hinge, and hem it.

4. Load Into Brake and Bend

A piece of metal in the Metal Master 20 being bent

Put the metal back into the brake, make your specific measurements, lock the brake, and bend. The metal may have a bit of spring back, so you want to account for that. The lighter the metal, the more spring it will have, so you may have to overbend a bit to get the right measurement. After you do this, you’ll have made drip edge. Sheffield Metals details also requires a hem to be added on the drip edge, too.  

How to Use a Trim Cutter to Cut Metal with the Metal Master 20 Hand Brake

Wide shot of the Metal Master 20 and an attached trim cutter

You can also purchase a trim cutter with Van Mark hand brakes. The trim cutter sits conveniently on a built-in track system on the hand brake, which allows you to smoothy cut through metal up to 24-gauge steel. Here’s the process for using the trim cutter.

1. Put Metal Into Open Brake and Measure

Load your metal into the hand brake and make your measurements. The trim cutter will cut at one and one-half inches from where it locks. If you have a multi-gauge, it can show you where your exact cut is for precise measurements.  

Van Mark multi gauge

2. Lock Brake

Lock the brake for your measurements.

3. Roll Through Metal

Slide the trim cutter through the metal for a clean cut. When you’re done using the trim cutter, it can sit on a handle on either side of the brake.

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Safety Considerations and Maintenance Best Practices for Using a Hand Brake

Keep Your Hands Out of the Brake When Locking

Hand brakes are very safe — because they’re manually operated, they won’t make any bends without you moving them first. Just make sure to keep your hands out of the brake when you lock it, and always follow the machinery manufacturer’s recommended safety guidelines.

Adjust Wedges When Needed

The hand brake is made from a cam and wedge system that avoids metal-on-metal contact. The wedges are made from high-density plastic, which makes them highly durable. Instead of wearing down, you’ll likely see them begin to compress first.

It’s common for people to use hand brakes for 10 to even 20 years without any adjustment to the wedges. You can easily adjust wedges with a Philips head screwdriver if needed.

Check Vinyl Strip for Nicks

A vinyl strip is included on the hand brake to avoid scratching any paint on the metal you’re bending. The vinyl strip may need to be replaced every six months to a year.

With proper maintenance, it can last for two to three years. Some of it will depend on where the brake is stored and used. If your brake is kept in the back of a truck or a van, it will likely last longer than if it’s outside in the sun.

UV light can harden the vinyl strip, causing it to get brittle and eventually get nicks. It’s a good idea to run your hand down the vinyl occasionally to see if you have any nicks. Sometimes, you’ll be able to file them out yourself.

Looking for More Help with Metal Roofing Installation?

Finding the right hand brake and using it effectively can save metal roofing contractors valuable time and money during projects. For more information on hand brakes and accessories, visit the Van Mark website at

Looking for more information on metal roofing tools and installation?

At Sheffield Metals, we provide a variety of content, including videos, articles, and downloadable guides to help contractors complete quality metal roofing jobs. Check out The Metal Roofing Center for more content related to metal roofing.

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