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 style bender, but more on the types of benders later.
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.
(Yes I realize my bailing wire indicator is somewhat questionable as a precise measuring instrument, but hey, it works….)
Helpful links and products
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. You can also keep an eye out for used ones on FB Marketplace or Craigslist.
Entry level/standard option:
This is the equivalent model to what I have always used. There are A LOT of these out there and is probably the most common type of tubing bender.
You buy the dies separately because there are many different tubing sizes and capacities for this bender from 3/4″ to 2″ OD (Outer Diameter). The most common size for automotive roll cages is 1 3/4″.
Below is a link for a air over hydraulic kit which saves A LOT of time!! I have one on mine and wouldn’t go back to manual.
As mentioned above, the other side benefit of this kit is that you don’t have to have the bender bolted to an immovable object (e.g. concrete floor or trailer), you just have to have it bolted to something big enough that it won’t fall over. In the pics above I had it not fastened down at all, but I typically screw it down with some lag bolts to an old heavy scrap solid core wood door.
Fancy Industrial Model:
Below is a more fancy industrial duty version of the JD2 style bender:
If I had won the lotto model:
Yeah right… only in my dreams 😉
The BEST guide for tube bending available!
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. I have been referring back to this guide for years.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive reference on tube bending, but hopefully I was able to introduce you to the process, show an example, and some commonly used tools that you can go pick up and use yourself.
Now YOU, go outside and work on something!!