When you start building steel structures at home you can achieve most outcomes with fairly simple tools, a welder, angle grinder, drill and vice. The skills to use these tools vary and once you are competent and have a knowledge in how to use them the skys the limit, but there’s will always be one tool that is expensive to obtain and without it many jobs are considered impossible no matter what your skill level.
Having the ability to bend tube at home is the key to any chassis, rollcage, bracing and visually appealing steel structures. There are two components used to bend the steel or alloy tube and thats the bender and the dies.
The bender is a fairly simple unit, a steel outer frame that positions a bottle jack (atleast 3 tonne capacity) in the base and then a series of holes up the perimeter to position the dies.
Above the bottle jack is a simple mount to position a large roller, behind the roller is a seat for the aluminium follower to sit on, the aluminium follower will run along the roller once the pressure is taken up on the die, the springs on the outer are there to return the bottle jack to its home position as fast as possible to save time.
The dies themselves are the expensive bit, you wont get much change out of $1200 by the time you choose three dies and get them delivered. I started off by buying a 1,3/4″ die and follower for the main hoop of a CAMS approved rollcage and a 1,1/2″ die and follower for the other tube. these are all I used for the Hilux project and now going on to the motorcycle build I just bought a 1″ die and follower and a 1,1/4″ die and follower to allow me to bend the smaller tube.
There are other types of benders on the market that I have tried, this is a horizontal ratchet style bender that I bought off a friend, I have since decided that this style of bender isn’t as good for my application and workshop space as it needs to be mounted to the floor or a beam and once its mounted cant be moved around, I dont have much space so this bender will be back on the market even before I have used it.
Looking back at my Hilux build I can attribute most of the chassis work to an angle grinder with both cut off disks and buffing disks and my bender. As I spend time in the garage bending up the tube for my PS13 build I am glad I have the bender in the garage and ready to go, it means I can get those ideas out of my head and get them tacked up.
When I get some time I want to make up a cutting list so that you can make a bender and roller frame by simply getting everything laser cut and then welded together. If your interested sign up to the mailing list and I will compile it and send it out.