This is the start of my new “TOOLS OF THE TRADE!” series of articles.
Today we will be starting with Tubing Benders as I just happen to be working on a project right now that requires some bent tube (article on that project to follow soon).
To start off with, here is a picture of my tubing bender. Mine is a JD2 Model 3 bender, but more on the types of benders later.
My tubing bender (and yes, I realize that I have a lot of junk in my garage)
I have upgraded mine to an air/hydraulic system, but when manually bending tubing the theory is the same, just a lot more calories burned. These are available in kits, see the end of the article for links. Keep in mind that if you do not have a hydraulic/air assist kit, depending on what model bender you get, you will probably have to bolt the bender to the floor. Or if you are poor and creative like I was in college, I bolted mine to my flatbed trailer because I had a gravel driveway.
To start, stick your tubing through the bender. Let the desired amount of tubing stick through, then put the collar (bottom right) over the tube and tighten the cinch bolt
After you tighten the cinch bolt, pin the follower die into the machine and run the bender until the tube is just tight in the dies, then set your degree indicator to 0.
(Yes I realize my bailing wire indicator is somewhat questionable as a precise measuring instrument, but hey, it works….)
Lubricate the follower die and bend your tubing! In this case, I am shooting for a 90* bend.
There will always be a certain amount of spring back in the tubing, so for me to get the tubing to have a 90* bend, I actually have to go past 90* in the bender. I have found that in my bender, it is usually around ~2.5* past the desired angle. Your bender/ tubing/ experience will probably differ.
After completing the first bend, loosen the cinch bolt and pull the tubing through to your desired length then loosely re-tighten the cinch bolt.
On the second bend and every bend thereafter, you must check the level/angle of your bender and match the peice of tubing to that angle. Otherwise if you skip this step, when you get done bending, the two+ bends will not be in the same plane. Once the angles match, you are ready to tighten the cinch bolt. I had already completed this step and started bend #2
In this pic, you can see that there are multiple holes in the bender and die. This is so the bender can handle multiple angles and sizes of tube. To do a 90* bend, I had to re-pin the die twice to complete the bend. Without the extra pin locations, the ram runs out of travel before the bend is complete.
Repeat steps above for bend 3.
Then once again for bend 4.
TA-Da! We now have a semi-professional looking peice of bent tubing! Also a preview to the other project I have been working on.
Below are some links to companies that make some very good both hydraulic and manual tubing benders. They are in order from those most likely to be pinching pennies to those that have some rather deep pockets. Needless to say mine was not only one of the cheapest benders out there, but I also bought it used off a friend for 1/2 price.
(I have no affiliation with any of the below companies in this article, they simply make good products)
JD2 – MODEL 3 TUBING BENDER
TRICK TOOLS – PRO TOOLS MANUAL TUBING BENDER
BALEIGH INDUSTRIAL – SUPER TOP OF THE LINE BENDERS OF EVERY KIND
Below is a link to a Pirate 4×4 article called Tube Bending 101 by Rob Park. He does a much better job of explaining the bending process than I do.
PIRATE 4X4 – TUBE BENDING 101
Is this the end-all-be-all article about tubing benders? Absolutely not!
Is this a good article to use as a jumping off point for finding your own tubing bender and building some projects with it? Sure!