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Making your own "Billet" Grille ~ How-To by beandip

30630 Views 0 Replies 1 Participant Last post by  beandip
After seeing Doug's thread back in 2006 i finally decided to make one myself but with a few more detailed pics that were not in the original thread so i guess this could be a "step by step" sort of thing. overall it was a really fun project, not terribly too difficult but can be time consuming depending on how much detail you are willing to go into it.

original located here-------->http://www.s10forum.com/forum/f72/ho...-grill-242524/

DIFFICULTY: rated at 6 due to some common sense needed to build as well as its a bit time consuming (time=results though!)


  • 6x 3ft 1/8" Thick 3/4" wide aluminum bars, $4.30 each. (1/8" x 1/2" bars can be used as well, personal preference)
  • x2 8/32" all thread rod with x4 nuts and 4x washers
  • plastic hose of similar diameter of all thread.
  • Drill and an assortment of drill bits.
  • Mapp gas torch, absolutely needed, propane may work but would take more time.
  • Blue magic metal polish (or equivalent metal polish)
  • Polishing wheel/dremel with polishing attachment.
So i went to lowes or your local department store and picked up some 1/8" thick 3/4" wide 3ft long aluminum strips ($4.30 or so each). The stock grille has 5 bars and they are basically 3/4" wide, but 11/16" when i measured them. 1/2" wide bars can be used if desired but the 3/4" bars need to be trimmed around the hood latch support (shown in pics below).

So i started out by bending the strips, this is not a hard thing to do, but bend one first then bend the others using the first one as a template.

To bend them I suggest clamping a strip vertically on a metal table while the strip is half on, half off the table, then using a Mapp gas torch and heat up the bar where the edge of the table is. you have to watch the flame and you will see it start turning red around the aluminum but the aluminum will look the same, either way you will know because very light pressure is needed to bend, almost like a stick of butter. basically bend, let it cool, and test fit with the grille off and facing down to achieve the contour. when bending the rest as a group of 5 (all 6 clamped together as one using the 6th one as a template) they will bend differently, as in if you line up the edges the bend will be in a different spot, no worries since you have to trim down both ends anyways...sorry if its hard to picture what i am talking about but you will know when the time comes, just bend the strips AS IS in 3 ft sections.

You can see in the pic below all the strips are different lengths but have the same bend.

Next, line up all the bends so they are perfect, the edges may be longer,shorter than the others but that's fine as long as the bend itself is the same. Clamp this to the work table and find the center of the bends and decide how far apart the support bars will be, i made mine match the stock width. then drill the hole though all of them keeping the drill as straight as possible.

Using some small diameter all thread rod insert it into all the aluminum pieces giving a general spacing. The stock grills span a area about 5" front top bar to the bottom bar, so with 6 bars a spacing of .83" needs to be in between them to be equal and sit evenly spaced inside the grille shell. since this is a "custom" build, do whatever spacing you like or bars for that matter. this is just a general guide if you want to build your own. This is the basic layout based on the opening.

Then i used some plastic hose to space out the aluminum bars. the hose slipped over the all thread perfectly and while this stuff is very easy to bend, its hard to compress once cut into short lengths. its like a soda can, easy to crush sideways, but you can basically stand on one if on its end. for me i cut 10 pieces to .83" long.

Then slip it over the all thread and observe the spacing and see if its to your liking and if it will fit in the grill shell opening. Notice how the lengths of the bars are a bit different, no big deal considering the are ALL too long to fit into the opening. the plastic hose is hard to see being clear, but its there.

You can see the hose better in this pic. Once you are happy on to the next step!

Time to test fit, please do this BEFORE you cut out the stock grille. for me i planned as much as i could and made sure it would work 110% before cutting anything, so if worst comes to worst i could always back out.

Here i centered the grille, then mark where to cut. I used a chop saw which i'm sure the blade has bits of aluminum in it now but it worked fine and the blades are relatively cheap...a dremel can be used as well but would consume more time. Just make sure you mark accurately, and double check your measurements.

Once that is done, cut off the old grille bars. try to get as close as you can where the bars use to be connected. The old grille served me well these past 6 years.... ill hang it in my garage. i was careful to cut it out too.

In this pic here i just propped up the grille for a test fit, its not installed but basically 1/4" too far back where it should be.

Now once you are satisfied with the spacing and the bar length, take it all back apart and number them and maybe a mark to show which side is up. Time to polish the bars....

Polished one bar. Simply put, i just wet sanded the edge with 1500 grit since the aluminum was smooth to begin with, then i used a bench grinder that had a buffing wheel attached. a dremel can be used as well.

picture of said buffing wheel.
WARNING!!! Be careful when polishing, avoid polishing edges facing towards the direction of rotation. the piece you are polishing can be ripped from your hands causing injury or destroying the item you are working on.

bar on the right is not polished.

few more polished... Pics dont do any justice.

These pics do, but also a reminder, dont bump the edges of the aluminum since that will be the edge on the final product, i have a few dings in mine but nothing some sanding cant take care of, even so its very hard to see.

Custom rounded edges. when i test fitted the grille i found out the bars will stick out past the recess a bit, having a squared end looked tacky so i rounded them off for a more professional look. I did this by clamping all of the strips as one while having the edges lined up. I used a grinding wheel to round the corners, again the aluminum clogged the wheel a little bit but no big deal.. once rounded i sanded with 400 grit then 600 then 1500 grit to get the coarse scratches out from the wheel. You could jump on the grits a bit more, maybe go from 400 to 1500. aluminum is fairly soft, it will just take a little longer to get the scratches out.

actually fitted. I drilled 4 small holes then you basically have to assemble half the grille as you insert the all thread in....or at least remove the top 2 bars.

Now you are almost done! but not quite.... completely remove the grille and get ready to paint. I wanted to protect the polished edge. personally i recommend polishing before painting. shown below is the grille completely assembled, including the plastic spacers. Just a reminder to clean any oil/grease from the aluminum, i used rubbing alcohol.

I also had to cut notches out of the tape so i can paint the front.

Once its painted remove the masking tape soon after being careful not to touch the paint.

Shown below is the backside, also take note on the top 2 bars, this is where i had to notch it 1/4" for the hood latch. as i said above, 1/2" bars can be used and you should not have to do this, but at the same time notching the 3/4" bars wasn't too much trouble and was achieved using a dremel with a cut off wheel.

Painted the hood latch flat black too.

Pop it in and enjoy your custom homemade "billet" grille. unfortunately it has been overcast the past few days so no sun pics.

It has been brought to my attention that the aluminum will oxidize after a while if not clear coated...since i figured bugs hitting the grille at 70 MPH will make any rattle can clear coat peel away i just decided to keep the shine the old fashioned way...by every now and then polishing the bars by hand, its kinda like keeping up with billet wheels but a LOT less maintenance due to the small polished edge.

Here are some pictures out in the sun!

only partial shined being the sun was almost directly overhead but it was 2:00 PM, later in the day it was much more noticeable.

Camera makes it darker than it really was.

Now of course if you prefer to have your grille flush to the front where the gray part meets the paint, then take into consideration that you are doing so but the process seems the same. choose to have it mount in the stock location for a few reasons, also it makes it stand out that much more even though its recessed back. Really it does keep the front end look as I've always liked the way the grill shell had depth to it. brings character to the front end i guess.

Total cost about $40, 10 or so hours of work went into this, mostly in the planning stage, also measuring 5 times, then cutting, them trimming, then measuring again...but there wasn't any "hard work" involved. Still its a fun project that can bring a whole new look to your truck. I know this was done on a sonoma but the same can be done for the S10. since you are making it you can do whatever you want. like 8 bars? do it...want it spaced differently? go ahead. at least now you have a general idea what you are up against when doing this yourself.

Hope you guys enjoyed the project.
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