I'm sure for some,
when you first unpack your bender, you’ll be lost. I don’t
blame you, it looks like some sort of medieval torture devise…
have some very confusing instructions and list of calculations
that might as well be written in some ancient language. So
you’ll throw some tube in the thing, pull the handle, and
Ohhhh YEahhhh, you’ve bent tube with your bare hands! (In
my best Tim Allen voice…aruh… aruhh... arhhh)
But now you’ve got
a bent piece of tube, with no way to know where to start, or stop. I’d
like to share some simple things I’ve learned, after what seems like miles
of wasted tube.
Yes, there is another
way to do it!
You don’t need some
big computer program, a degree in math or even have to know more than
just basic addition and subtraction. True, this is VERY BASIC, but with
this, you can bend like a pro (almost)....lol
Here are some basic
tools you should have…. A clean floor, level, measuring tape, permanent
pen, adjustable square, protractor, framing square and my favorite home
made tool that I like to call my “angle-o-meter”. lol
A good stand is very
important too. Try to get it level by measuring off the die.
Again, this is by
no means the only way, but in my opinion the EASIEST way to START. First
step is to forget everything that you’ve heard or read about “centerline
radius”, bend center, blah blah blahhhh…
Now throw a piece
of tube in your bender and crank on the handle (get use to it, cause that
handle is going to have to be pulled THOUSANDS of times to make your money
back) and bend a 90. You can use your framing square as a guide by laying
it on top of the tube while it’s still in the bender to make sure what
you end up with is a 90.
Once you get that
bent, take a look at how the tube “looks.” You’ll see that the inside
of the bend has a small distortion where the bend starts, and where it
stops. Sometimes, it’s just easier to “feel it”, by just running your
finger around the inside of the bend. This “start and stop” is going
to be the Guide that EVERTHING is based on. Once you have found this
point, mark it with a pen.
* Remember, EVERYTHING
from now on will be based on this mark *
Now that that is out
of the way, you have a place that you can measure from. Remember that
big list of calculations that came with the bender? The one that somehow
is supposed to tell you how to figure out how to measure and figure the
bend. Pick up that list and toss it as far away from you as possible.
It’s as simple as
Lay your 90 inside
your square and see how many inches that it takes to complete the bend,
start to stop. They both should be the same measurement, in this case
it’s 5 ½”. See, by doing it this way, you’re not worried about what the
centerline is or what size tube it is or any of that other “fancy” stuff.
You KNOW that it takes 5 ½” to complete a bend.
Example: Say you want
a hoop 60” wide to the out side of the bend… So it’s 60” – 11” = 49” from
the start of bend…
Now keep that piece,
because it’s now a VERY important tool. If you have more than 1 size
die now is a good time to bend them to 90, measure and mark them too.
If you look at your
die, you’ll see the point where your bend actually starts, (it’ll leave
a mark, if not, you can use some grease) it should be about an inch or
so from the leading edge. Since this is the point where it actually starts
the bend, you’ll need to mark it on your die. This one is ground in,
so you can see it, but a paint pen works too.
As long as it’s a
bright color and you can see it, who cares.
Once you have both
your die and tube marked you’re all set! You now know where your bend
will start, where it will stop, and have the ability to “rebend” exactly
where you left off IF you come up short a few degrees on a bend.
I guess the next step
is trying to explain how to lay out what you want.
Lets take for example
a simple B-pillar hoop (the one from side to side over your head). First,
you need to find out just how wide, and tall you want it. This is where
the “clean floor” comes in (from now on this will be your “layout table”). Draw
a perfect square right on the floor with chalk the size of your highest
and widest measurement. Next, draw yourself a centerline.
Let’s just say the
very top of your hoop needs to be 20” narrower than the sides, so measure
in 10” from both top corners, and mark.
Now let’s say that
your door height or bed rail sits at 20”. So measure up from the bottom,
and mark at 20”.
Now we have every
thing we need to finish the layout. Simply draw lines with a straight
edge connecting the points to get your outline.
Pretty fool proof
Here is where that
90 you bent and marked comes in. Start from the center and work your
way out and down. You simply lay your 90 on the floor parallel to your
top chalk line, and slide it over till it intersects your down line, and
mark the floor.
Now do the same thing
to your uprights.
When you’re all done
marking it, it should look something like this….
Now lets get an idea
of just how much tube it’s gonna take… Remember if you make it too long,
it can always be cut down, BUT if it’s too short, you’re screwed. “LONGER
is BETTER”… And after you get the hang of it, you’ll keep the waste down.
Let’s add up the measurements.
20”+ 32”+ 20”+ 20”+
32”+20” = 144”.
Now you can cut your
tube, and just to be safe, give yourself a couple X-tra inches. Let’s
just call it 148” total.
*Work from the
Once your tube is
cut to length, mark the center, which ends up at 74”.
Next, simply line
up your Tube on your layout , and mark where your first bend marks are,
make sure to show the direction of your bend by marking an arrow on the
tube. (Trust me, no matter how good you are you’re going to end up bending
from the wrong side of the line sometimes, if you don’t) Remember...
“from the center out” make both bends on “top” first, then the bends on
Chalk up your tube
in the bender by lining up the marks and the direction arrow (seam to
Here is where the
“angle-o-meter” comes in. Use it by finding your bend angle from your
layout, then bend to the same angle by looking down it and comparing it
to your bend.
When you think you’ve
got it, check it against your layout to make sure your “top” bend is still
Once that bend is
complete, swap ends around and bend from the other mark, making sure your
first bend is level. (2 man job)
Now mark your next
bends (the uprights) against your layout and bend them the same way. When
you’re done with your bends every mark should line up like this.
All that is left is
to mark and cut it to the right height…
You can use the same technique to do door bars front hoops on and on and
I know this is only single plain bends and very simple, but it should
help you to get STARTED.
* Here are few
words of warning *
- I wouldn’t suggest
going in with someone to buy a Bender if you can help it… It WILL cause
lots of problems and tension between friends.
- You are taking
your life into your hands by building a cage… Make sure you think LONG
and HARD about that.
- Take your time;
build very simple stuff like bumpers, sliderz and such before ever attempting
to build something that is meant to save your life.
- IT’S NOT CHEAP.
You’ll have to spend over 1k just for the bender and a couple dies,
and that doesn’t include the welder, notcher, chop saw, grinders and
all the countless other little nickel and dime stuff that it’ll take.
A.K.A. “Tin Bender”