Machines That Would Have Made This Easier
If I had a metalworking shop, I'd have a bending brake that would allow me to produce a bend across only part of a surface. That ability would have completely eliminated the need for two separate panels on the right support leg; I'd have built the arm right into the panel. Then it would be a one-piece solution just like what could be stamped out in a manufacturing plant. It's an example of what Turbocad6 talked about back in post 103: "the right machinery can pump out many of the same pieces over & over each minute if it was a production piece." I don't have that machinery, and this single piece took eleven part-time days and several versions from concept to completion. Still, I have an insignificant investment compared to the cost of a stamping plant.
To cut the parts, I used tin snips on the lighter metal and a band saw on the heavier steel. The only flanging device I have is a 30" bending brake that I found in a garage sale for 20 bucks. It had never been out of the box, and originally came from Harbor Freight, where it costs $70. It doesn't include a clamping system, so I use my own C-clamps. It looks like this:
One machine that would pretty much have eliminated using those tools, and would have made this entire project a lot easier, is Harbor Freight's metalworking do-it-all machine, a 30" Capacity Shear, Press Brake and Slip Roll, for $400:
Such a one-machine metal shop would have eliminated most of the filing to get surfaces straight after cutting them on the band saw; they'd just need the sharp edge knocked off, and they'd be ready to go. This machine is also available in 40" and 52" models for even bigger jobs. (If you have an extra one, or something like it, I gleefully accept donations, and can pick up anywhere between the Florida Keys and the Atlanta area.)
For that kind of donation, I'd even make you a whole set of these parts, but I don't think I'd want to go into production on the very basic devices I have now.
I can also see that I need to add a larger, more powerful grinder to my shop, perhaps one with a buffing wheel.
Over the long haul, I'd like to add a small milling machine. For right now, I'd just like an easier way to make slots in sheet metal. Maybe a drill press milling vise on a second, smaller drill press I have would be an answer for making slots; it would probably be pretty hard on the bearings of the drill press, but it might be okay for occasional use until I can justify a mill.
***EDIT (2008-06-09): If I were going to try and justify a mill, the Northern Tool Mill/Drill/Lathe Combo machine
seems like a pretty good choice for the sort of work I do:
The good news is that I can order it shipped a store for free, instead of paying well over $200 shipping, so it would be worth it to pop the trailer on my Scion and make a 145-mile round trip to Miami to pick it up.
(Yes, I do tow a trailer with the Scion, sometimes. It tows just fine. The Scion is an amazingly capable vehicle.)