Son of a (Stud) Gun

Testing out HTP's Stud Setting Tool

Southern California may be a hotbed of hot rodding, but we have our share of questionable craftsmen, too. I found that out the first time I was assigned to do a bodywork story for a magazine. The bodyman I was working with took a few minutes to size up the dent in a quarter-panel, then went crazy drilling holes in it so he could use a slide hammer to pull out the dent. All told, he must have punched 25 holes in that panel. Worse yet, he didn't even bother welding the holes shut--he just smeared 'em over with body filler!

Now I'm no professional panel-beater, but drilling that many holes in a car's body seems kind of counter-productive. Most of the true craftsmen I've talked to say that good, ol'fashioned hammer-and-dolly work is still the preferred method for smoothing damaged sheetmetal. But in some cases it's extremely difficult--if not impossible--to access a dent from the back side of the panel. Such instances call for creative solutions, and often require the use of specialty tools. One such tool is a stud setting gun like the one we tried out from HTP America.

Those of you who are professional bodymen (or experienced novices) are probably already familiar with stud-setting guns. But for those who aren't, here's a brief introduction: The stud setter is a portable tool that electrically welds short studs to body panels with a quick pull of the trigger. A slide hammer can then be used on the studs to help pull metal back into its proper shape. Each stud provides about 500 pounds of pulling strength, and can easily be ground off after the panel has been worked. In addition to pulling dents, accessories are available that allow you to use the stud setter to install trim rivets, or use its heat to shrink stretched metal.

The Entry Level Stud Setter Kit we tried included the stud setter (which plugs into household outlets) with tip, a slide hammer, 100 studs, and instructions. Fellow Super Chevy staffer Jim Rizzo and I quickly found scores of uses for it, though we also discovered that it takes a little practice to learn how to use it properly and effectively. After a few experiments, however, it quickly became an indispensable weapon in our metalworking arsenal. But don't take our word for it--check out the photos and see what you think.

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When it comes to bodywork, there is no substitute for skill and experience. But it's also important to have the right tools at your disposal. HTP's Entry Level Stud Setter Kit can be an effective tool for fixing a variety of dents, particularly those that can't be reached from the back side. Once you learn how to use this handy device, you won't want to give it up.

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A small dent on this '64 Chevy quarter-panel was the perfect practice piece for our stud setter experiment. Located right next to the wheel opening, it was inaccessible from the back side.

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Naturally, the first step was to remove the paint from the dent and its surrounding area.

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After locating the lowest portion of the dent, we loaded a stud in the gun, pulled the trigger and welded it to the panel.

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The supplied slide hammer was then used to pull the metal back into shape. For a novice like me, the hardest part was learning to use the right amount of muscle with the slide hammer--pulling small dents can take more force than you think.

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When you're finished with a stud, you simply cut it off with side cutters and grind off the head.

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Since our dent was oblong we needed a second stud to pull it out completely. Like many dents, this shallow portion didn't require the pulling force of the slide hammer. Instead we used locking pliers to pull the stud and a body hammer to relieve the stressed metal surrounding the dent.

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Here's a look at our panel after grinding off the second stud. The dent is gone, and it just needs a skim coat of filler to cover the grinding marks before being touched up with primer.

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Stud setting tools are also great for pulling long dents and creases. We used a row of studs--spaced every few inches--to help pull out this crease.

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