The purpose of this cut will reveal itself in a minute. For the time being, note that Richman is homing in on the final shape with a bandsaw prior to any bends or folds being made—it's easier that way. Note that the plate will step down into the console channel in some places, and cover it in others.
Remember those dashed lines Richman made on the pattern? They were transferred onto the piece and correspond to the bends he wants to make. Here Richman has positioned the work in his sheetmetal brake and is bending the piece on those lines. The bending process is an iterative one in which the work is repeatedly mocked up on the car, then brought back to the bender for more tweaking. Tabletop metal brakes large enough to handle a piece this size can be purchased from Eastwood for under $100.
Finally, all the corners, curves, and bends are tweaked to where the sides can be added. At this point, Richman is also beginning to think about how the PCS shifter will be mounted on the piece. Note the series of tight, tricky bends toward the back where the "tongue" recesses into the console. The rest of the work covers the channel in the console.
It's a relatively simple process to mark off and cut aluminum sidepieces to close out the cover. These will be cut once again in the foot-operated floor shear.
Scott Etheridge is RCC's resident TIG-welding expert, and here he mocks up and welds the side closeouts of our shifter housing. Welding aluminum may be easier with a spool gun attachment (if your MIG machine is so equipped), but a true artist will always use TIG for something like this. TIG welding is an artful balance of heating the weld area, dipping the filler in the molten pool, keeping the weld enveloped with shielding gas (while keeping the tungsten electrode at a safe distance!), advancing the weld pool with the electrode, and adjusting the current with the foot pedal. It is the hardest form of welding to learn, but is incredibly rewarding once mastered.
Once Scott finished the side panel welds (taking extra care to add fillet material on the inside corners), Richman ground the corners smooth with Scotch-Brite pads on a high-speed grinder.
At this stage, Richman needed to tweak the forward portion of the plate with a hammer and T-dolly (mounted in a vice). The top of the console is curved slightly and the shape of the piece needs to mimic this. Note the piece TIG welded to the bottom; this piece acts as a standoff to keep the top level with the console. This extra piece has also been given a slight curve where it joins, helping Richman to further form the curvature of the top piece.
Another pattern was made to copy the shape of the PCS shifter. The centerline of both the pattern and the console plate was marked, then the pattern centerline was matched to the console centerline, and the pattern traced. Through the laws of Euclidean geometry, this guarantees that the square cutout will be centered on the piece.
After drilling some holes in each corner, Richman cuts out the center with a jigsaw, connecting the holes as he goes.
Working with a file, Richman smooths the edges of the cutout, bringing it ever closer to the scribed lines. Periodically, Richman attempted fitting the PCS shifter, never forcing it, filing away the edges of the console plate until it fit perfectly. This angle better shows the standoff piece at the front of the work that was TIG welded on earlier.
Trial fitting continues as Richman begins the process of identifying and marking the location of the mounting holes for both the plate, and the shifter. Note that Richman has added a section of aluminum pipe we swiped from an aftermarket cold-air induction for a Honda. This will make a nice cupholder or cellphone pocket. That electrical pigtail is the plug for the PCS shifter, which we relocated rearward to fit into the PCS unit.
Richman marked the PCS shifter holes with a punch, drilled some pilot holes for some fine-thread 8-32 countersunk bolts, then used a countersink so the fasteners will mount flush. The same process was used to make the console plate holes; only the original factory fasteners (countersunk screws) were reused in the original console holes.
The mounting holes in the PCS shifter were drilled larger and tapped for the fine-thread 8-32 bolts—one final trial fit being performed here before the entire piece was painted with the same Dupli-Color interior paint we used a couple years ago to bomb the rest of the interior.
The finished console shifter plate looks industrial cool, matching the no-nonsense look of the mil-spec PCS shifter to a "T." We've also got a place to put that Big Gulp cup! The key to success with fabricating something like this is to picture the finished piece in your mind, follow that design to the end, make plenty of patterns, measure many times (cutting once!), and keep at it until it takes the shape you want!