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I needed to bend a 15" long piece of 1/8" aluminum, and from past experience I know a big hammer and a couple 2x4s is not the way to get it done. I also know the manual lever-type benders you can build pretty easily are only good for sheet material, no way to bend 1/8" aluminum with one. So I needed a press-type bender, like the guys you see using their shop press or bottle jack press. The problem is I don't have a shop press either!

SO I came up with this funky design, which uses three lengths of 3.5" square tube (1/4" wall), a piece of 1.5" angle iron, and a couple beefy u-bolts.


Two sections of square tube were cut to 20" long, they serve as the "deck" with a 1/2" gap between them for the metal to be pressed/bent down into. The 1/2" gap is accomplished by bolting the two pieces of tube together with some scrap material that is the desired width (in my case, a couple other bolts I had laying around that stuck out far enough to double as carry handles).


The third section of square tube was cut to 15", enough to span the work I needed to bend. The U-bolts were welded to each end, being careful to keep them as square and straight as possible. Last the angle iron was welded to one side of the square tube to serve as the 'blade' that presses into the bend.


Drill four holes into the 'deck' (the two bolted together pieces of tube) spaced precisely to accept the u-bolts, lube the threads up, and you've got a bender! I mounted it to my bench sideways as it was the easiest way to get at the bolts, and the material I was bending allowed this configuration. I put the metal in, lined up the bend with the blade, then hand-tighten the four u-bolt nuts. Then use your box-end wrench to tighten the u-bolts a half-turn at a time, rotating through all four bolts, to get an even bend. For me, a 100 degree bend (almost 90) was accomplished with 8 full turns on each bolt, and took about 3 minutes. Not fast by any means, but the bend was perfect and it's easy to check the angle after each half turn until you are just past the angle you want (to allow for some spring back).


All of this I had laying around in my shop, most people wouldn't have exactly the same stuff but you can do the same design with a variety of materials. The 3.5" square tube was chose because it's super strong and has nice rounded corners, which I thought would work well for the gap the metal gets pressed down into for the bend. The U-bolts are from a Super Duty Ford (leftovers from a lift kit), the key is having some that are beefy and fine threaded, because these act as the "press". The reason I used U-bolts instead of just regular bolts is because #1 they were some big bolts I had laying around and #2 although two beefy bolts could replace the U-bolts, I thought four bolts would make each one have to do less work, so it would make it easier to crank down the nuts as you press the bend. One flaw to my particular implementation, you can't quite bend a 90, but that's OK I didn't need to for this particular project. To solve this problem you could replace the angle iron with something longer and thinner, that would allow you to press down further before the metal being bent hits the "press". Another thought I had was to just weld a blade or smaller (say 1/2") angle to the tip to give it more extension.

Definitely not the best bender in the world, but it bent the 1/8" aluminum no problem at all, is a pretty flexible design that can use a number of different 'scrap' pieces to accomplish, and it's different than any other plans I found online.

Check the "induction articles" tech forum to see what I was bending. :)
 
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