Yarmont Copper Leader Collector Box Fabrication Project

/Yarmont Copper Leader Collector Box Fabrication Project
Yarmont Copper Leader Collector Box Fabrication Project2019-02-26T19:15:55+00:00

Yarmont Leader Head / Collector Box Project

Design Process

This Leader Head Profile was submitted to us as part of a Restoration Project.
The Residence had Copper Leader Heads installed previously.
The Client wanted to keep the same look of the Leader Boxes but wished to up scale the downspout size to be more functional.

Pictures of the Original
Leader Boxes

The Client also Supplied us with a Detailed Sketch
of the Leader Box Profile.

This is important to us as it provides us with the necessary information to start our design process with out the need to “guestimate”

With this information we began Our CAD Design Process.

We Offer CAD DESIGN RENDERING – at no additional cost -CAD helps to eliminate guess work and we can offer any view point that the customer wishes to really get a feel for the design when it is fabricated in real life.

The first thing we did was CAD Render the Original Boxes along with potential up scaled size to reflect the larger downspouts. We did Renderings for both Rectangular and Round Downspouts.

The Client also provided us with multiple pictures of the front of the Residence so we could super impose the designs to help them get a better feel for the size.

We also did additional Renderings of the Boxes themselves along with side by side comparison Rendering so the Client could get a feel for the larger design Leader Box as compared to the Existing.

The Client went with the Leader Box designed for 4″ by 3″ Rectangular Corrugated Downspouts.

Prototyping Process

(we have never actually did this leader box before so we are starting at ground zero)

Get Material

First thing is to get material in stock.

This Order will require 20 oz. Copper Sheeting along with Heavy Duty Copper Screening for Customer Requested Custom Covers.
Lucky for Us we have most of the material in stock.
The balance has been ordered.

Determine Actual Fabrication Dimensions

From the CAD data that we have – we generate a simple profile tracing.
We choose the Side Profile to use as the information that it provides us with is the depth dimension which is most important for the configuration of the Leader Box relative to downspout size and shape.

Guess #1
Now we start to get the actual numbers figured out to produce the desired profile.
This is part knowing the flat dimensions and guessing what the radius dimensions will be. Straight lines are easy…just the number…but the radius line lengths are tricky. They are not just 1/4 circles and easy to figure out – but segments of radiuses along with trailing radiuses.
So we take our best guesses.
Missed on all 3 Radius Bends
and 1 order of bending operations.

Guess #2
Got the Bending Order Right.
Got one more Radius Dimension right and Still Missed on the other 2
Radius Bends.

Guess #3

Fabricate first full size Blank

The Prototyping process is not over yet!
Bending 16″ of material will yield different results than just a couple inches of it. This applies mostly to the radiuses. The spring back of metals in the bending process will cause the ends to be more open than the middle section. We know this already so we lean toward tighter radiuses in the prototyping stage knowing that in the fabrication stage they will be just a tad bit larger.
Hopefully we will be right!
Missing the numbers becomes expensive at this stage!
Get a single number wrong and we have just scrapped out about 1/2 the material to make a single leader box…

This Leader Box Profile
Requires 12 Bending / Radius Forming Operations
(we will offer more information during the Production Blank Forming Process)



Hem Bottom Edge
This Bend is actually two bends to accomplish the hem.
First bend is about 70 degrees or so and then the second bend is the closer to finish the hem. We do not fully tighten the hem as this channel is what we will be inserting the bottom plate of the leader box into.
(This bend is accomplished with a 12’6″ Tapco MAX-I-MUM XL Pro Series Brake)


90 Degree Bend

The Brake pictured is a small 2′ long project brake that we have modified so that we can easily achieve dimensions as small as 5/16″. The sacrifice in modification is that this brake will now only let you bend just a tad bit past 90 degrees.


Radius Bend

(Radius Bends are accomplished with a Custom Radius Bending Brake which we have Designed and Built. It is actually the second one we did with more features than the original).


90 Degree Bend


60 Degree Bend

Parabolic Curve
(this bend is formed by hand over a 3″ dia. Pipe because of its complexity)


90 Degree Bend

90 Degree Bend

Where we are at so far compared to Profile
(we have actually checked all the operations as they have been accomplished so far)

Radius Bend

Checking Again

90 Degree Bend

Checking Again

90 Degree Bend

Checking Again


About 35 Degrees
(this bend will be increased later)

Final Check
and everything is

First Blank is Done!

The Easy Part is Done
(bet you thought this to be the hard part)
Next we have to make 15 more
that will match this one

Production of the Blanks

Raw Blanking

First Thing is to Roll out the Sheet and Mark the initial cut lines. The best size sheet to use for this order is 48″ wide and our Shear is only 36″ wide. So we will “rough cut” the sheet so that we can later square up the blanks.

Squaring up the raw blanks

The raw blanks are all nicely squared up and we have taken a scotch brite pad and abraded the ends that we will be marking. This is so we can clearly see our marks and not confuse them with a scratch or mill mark on the material.
We do this now because we have missed marks in the past by hitting the wrong line!

Marking the bend points.
Notice how abrading the edge lets us see our marks more clearly.

Also note the pencil sharpener. We work close on our numbers.
We work to 1/32 of an inch for most dimensions and sometimes even 1/64 of an inch on some aspects of a project.
Note also that our template has DOTS and NO DOTS. This is to help us identify Front and Back Side Markings when we mark the Blanks.


Production Blanking

Note: When doing the actual production…all blanks are proceed one bend or radius at a time. This is to have consistency for the “Production” run. Since every operation we accomplish is by “hand” – doing the same thing repeatedly is best done all at the same time as while you are doing it you get into a rhythm and you are more consistent.

Special Note: Since this is the first time running this profile we will have to also do one or two next operations on a couple of the blanks to make sure we are not creating more work for ourselves “fixing” angles – most important for those bends adjacent the radius bends.

Bend #1
This operation is simple to repeat as we have done this type of bend 100’s of times in the past.
It takes two bends to accomplish. First one is about 135 degrees and the next one completes to 180 degrees.

Bend #2
Originally 90 degrees – we have now changed it to be 80 degrees as this way the bend would need no qualifying (fixing) after moving on to the 3rd bend. During Prototyping we are mostly concerned about the total shape. We may have to adjust the angle of the bends a bit plus or minus.

When doing the production runs you don’t want to mess with this issue repeatedly so you adjust to fit the production profile needs so that you are right on the $ the first time.

Bend #3

Checking against Master
(again we are checking against the master at every single bend but is redundant to keep showing that)

Bend #4

Bend #5

Bend #6

Checking against Master

Bend #7
This bend is very important for the looks of the profile.
We use a gauge made to the specific dimension to use as a “stop”.

Bend #8

Not Pictured but completed
Simple 90 degree bend

Bend #9

Bend #10

Bend #11
This bend is very important for the looks of the profile.
We use a gauge made to the specific dimension to use as a “stop”.

Bend #12

Not Pictured but completed

Production Run is Completed

Check out the Master Profile Prototype originally fabricated.
(on right in the pics)
compared to the production run.
We work close on our numbers.
We work to 1/32 of an inch for most dimensions and sometimes even 1/64 of an inch on some aspects of a project.

Making Fixtures to Cut the Blanks

Just Going to Describe the process here.
We are Building two Fixtures – One for the Bottom Side and One for the Top Side.
The Fixtures should be built so that they have perfect contact with the flat surfaces and enough contact points for the radius areas to be sure that all surfaces are locked in place when the Blank is sandwiched between them.
as these are reference edges for Mitering and also for Initial Assembly!

Mitering of the Blanks

First we are going to change out our Saw Blade with a worn out one. The first cut on a new fixture is the hard one. You are cutting through a lot of wood and possibly nails (although we try and avoid cut line areas).

First Cuts. We keep the old blade in the saw for the first Blank Cut. We are cutting a FRONT so we have the luxury of being able to make multiple cuts and not worry about being short. The Blank is 16″ long and the Front is actually 12″ so we have plenty.
The purpose here is to find the cut sequence. You don’t just drop the saw and cut through the entire piece. You have to find out where the “HOT SPOTS” are – the areas where the saw blade is cutting flat to the work piece – and that creates heat. Heat causes the metal to warp…and warpage distorts the cut. You want to figure out the order and position of the saw blade to minimize this.
This miter cut works out to be 4 operations to accomplish the cut.

We cut the Blanks in half to make the new Blanks for the sides. The Blank is not cut completely. If you attempt to cut all the way disaster can happen.
One side is the safe side…the one that is clamped down by the top fixture plate. The other is the floating side. It can do whatever it wants. If for some reason you catch an edge and the piece grabs up on the blade you could loose the piece entirely. Plus risk injuring your saw blade ($86.00) So play it safe.
Been there did that.
They are then hand cut with tin snips the rest of the way to separate them.

Mitering Completed

Assembly of the Blanks

Well Mitering was almost Completed.
Going through the blanks we found a few that had some signs that our fixturing was not 100% on target.
Two Angled cuts that should not be present for this profile. We can fix these but opted to fix the fixture’s problem areas so that we do not have this problem in the future.
So now…We re-cut the entire batch with the fixes. Better safe than sorry and taking the time to do this now will actually help save time in the more difficult part – Assembly. This will not take any stock off the profile. The problem was that the angles went “outside the profile boundary”. So the re-cuts only took off that extra material.

The hold down Fixtures are assembled to a base so that they form a 90 degree corner.

The blanks are laid into the fixture and tack soldered. Not all tacks are accomplished in the fixture. It is just for a start. Other tacks are accomplished against a stop block on our bench so we can push surfaces together. We also use standing blocks which help us align large flat surfaces to make sure they are indeed flat when tacked in place.

After tacking (and making sure that the miter stays at 90 degrees) the miter soldering is completed.

The first Miter is Soldered.
We learned a few tips for this profile doing this first Corner. For very profile that we do for leader boxes – each one has its “problem areas” that require special attention to get things as close to perfect as possible.
We will apply what we learned to the second Miter.

Second Miter is Soldered and we now want to see just how the Leader Box looks with the Downspout.
And it looks Great.
Will be an easy clean up of the edges.
For the most part they are so close we could just use a buffing blending pad.

Bottom Plate and Outlets

Bottom Plate and Outlets.
Short Story. We made plates to fit into the recess edges of the bottom of the leader box profile. Made outlets to fit a 4″ by 3″ Rectangular Corrugated Downspout and soldered them in place.

Adding the Back

After determining the configuration of the Back – the Leader Box is placed over the Back Blank. Notice the Weights placed on the Leader Box Body. They will help keep the Leader Box in contact with the Back Plate during solder assembly. As you heat the back plate (which is flat) it can start to warp…so with downward pressure you can minimize this effect. Note that the back is already closely trimmed to the leader box body. This is important as excess material means heat warp as the excess material gets hot it expands and causes lifting. We are soldering on an 1″ thick Aluminum Plate. This plate actually pulls the heat away from the back of the leader box to help reduce this effect. So between the thick plate and the weights we achieve great results.

First Round Edge Finishing

The First Round of Edge Finishing requires Sanding any edges that extend out past the profile of an adjacent surface (using a 90 grinder with 100 Grit Pad). We also “shape” edges to try and keep lines and curves on the miters in line. Care must be taken in this stage as sanding too much is permanent damage that cannot be reversed or fixed in any way. So we want to take it just to just very – very close.

Second Round Edge Finishing

The Second Round of Edge Finishing is Buffing (using a 90 Grinder with a Medium Buff & Blend Disk). The Blend Disk will take off metal but mostly as it passes over any perpendiculars. So if you are working on smoothing the front it will take off any metal past the front extending from the side. If you have done The First Round properly – the balance of the material is easily removed in the Second Round. Again in this round care is taken to blend surfaces and edges into uniform and nicely contoured profiles. You can move the appearance of a corner by 1/16″ by blending. Doesn’t sound like much but for us that would be a worst case scenario and borderline mistake. That is why we work to 1/32″. Off your mark by half your tolerance and then off your mark on the next piece the same but in the opposite direction and now you are off a total of 1/16″ between surfaces. Not our Style. 1/32 is about 1 and 1/2 the thickness of the material being worked with so it means a gap – or hole – between elevations of surfaces. Not a good thing.
We once heard that “Professional” meant that it was not really how good you are but how well you could hide your mistakes. Well we have learned where we can hide them and where we can not. We know we can stretch or shrink a nosed radius but we cannot stretch or shrink a flat line (thus the reason for the stop blocks for those areas). Flat surfaces are unforgiving period. If you missed your mark…it will show big time.

Adding Custom Stars

The Stars have been Fabricated and taken to Finish
Sorry to not show that operation but they are made

We make a template so that we can be sure to mark and drill the holes to mount the stars at the same location – every time. The stars have two Brass Screws that have been soldered in place to provide for fastening. We have positioned the screws with a template which will match the hole profile as we laid out for the hole location template. Care must be taken to try and stay right on the money – as any shifting of holes or screws will result with leaning stars. There is a small amount of wiggle room for drill hole size. Since 32 Stars will be installed on this project…we sometimes look to the next one if we have an orientation issue. Try as you may … it is all hand work … if it is off … try and find one that matches the condition and your back on the money again!

Adding Custom Copper Screening

The Screening has been made and perimeter wires have all been soldered in place to that the screen will have stability and no perimeter wires will drop off. The Screen is notched to allow for the downspout and swing room to open the lid for any maintenance.

Although this Screen is for 4″ by 3″ Rectangular Corrugated Downspout we were informed that the Inlet Downspout Would be 4″ Round.
We made the change and fabricated to Customer’s Request.

Final Surface Finishing

The Final Surface Finishing is done by hand. We use a Brown (for metal) Scotch Brite Pad and oil. The oil does two things. First it reduces abrasion because it is a lubricant and the hand work is easier than if done dry. Secondly as you are abrading the surface fine particles of metal are being removed and are now being carried along in the oil. This slurry of oil and fine particles yeilds a nice satin finish to the metal. If done dry you would have metal that would just look scratched up. Once surface finished – the oil is removed with alcohol and rags. Then a final once over again with alcohol and paper toweling.
And Now We are Done!

Final Product Pictures

Fabrication of the Squaremont Bands for this project will be featured in an up coming project show case