View Full Version : Bending Iron

08-21-2010, 06:38 PM
I am considering my first build. Where can I get an inexpensive bending iron? or is there something else I can use to shape my ukulele? I see stewmac has an Iron for about $190, but I am looking for something less expensive if possible.

08-21-2010, 06:58 PM
Google DYI "bending iron" and pull up a chair. Here's one to start you off. Lots more out there.


08-22-2010, 03:35 AM
interesting stuff. anybody know how hot a pipe needs to be to work? you think a good heat gun could do the job?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-22-2010, 05:58 AM
If you are just beginning and want to see what it's like bending on a pipe I'd go the least expensive route possible. That would be a 2" piece of pipe, held in a bench vise and heted with a propane torch. If you don't already have these, the pipe and torch will run you an investment of about ten bucks. That will at least get you started, then you can decide whether or not to build or buy an electric bender. I personally like to cook with gas and have used the pipe/torch bender on hundreds of ukes.
As far as temperature goes, I'm thinking somewhere around 300 degrees is sufficient. Spray some water on the pipe, if it quickly sizzles off, you are hot enough. If the water droplets jump of the pipe you are too hot. I've seen some builders soak a small piece of rag in water and drape it over the pipe while bending, which protects the wood from scorching while adding steam. Bending with any method, including heat blankets, takes practice. Take your time and practice on all the scrap you can at first.

08-22-2010, 06:12 AM
Thank youall for the posts. Chuck is this similar to what you are talking about?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-22-2010, 06:58 AM
Thank youall for the posts. Chuck is this similar to what you are talking about?

Yes, we built that for a bending workshop. A bench vise works if you don't wan't to go through the trouble of making a stand. The soda can end-cap is pretty cool but not necessary. We just wanted to make sure people didn't roast their bellies while bending. That's not really an issue though. Just be careful as you would with any open fire.
BTW, I bend with heat blankets and a Fox style bender but I invariably touch up on the hot pipe. I'll also do unique shapes on a hot pipe that I don't want to build a bending form for. It's indespensible for bending body, head stock and sound hole bindings. I have several sizes ranging from 1" to 2 1/2".

08-23-2010, 07:52 AM
For my ukes I use a 1-1/4 NPT iron pipe from the hardware store. Just a 10" piece off the shelf with threads at both ends. You can get a flange to fit for easy mouting in a vice or something. I use a heat gun.....my Wagoner heat gun nozzle fits perfectly in a 1-1/4 pipe union (pipe to pipe connector). Total investment is about $25.
Sure...the pipe rusts a bit between use. But I only do a few per year so no big deal to clean it up before use

08-23-2010, 08:39 AM
If you are not in a hurry DaveG over at WSUkes even illustrates cold bending after soaking overnight. I'm not sure how well it works, but with some cheap starter wood, it may be something you can experiment with. Its my understanding that some woods don't take well to overnight soaking, but I can't remember which ones.


08-23-2010, 09:49 AM
Dave Gill cold molds after a couple hours of soaking. He uses a Fox style bender without the heat blanket and lets them dry in it. Usually he blows heated air over it. Always thought it was weird but he is successful in doing it with no cracks or tearouts.

08-23-2010, 01:48 PM
Wow that seems pretty simple. I like it. I plan on attempting to build a fox style bender as well. We will see how it works! Thank you all!

Matt Clara
08-23-2010, 04:24 PM
I made one out of an aluminum pipe with a light bulb in it. A guy I know who does some aluminum welding made a base for it. It's hard to get a bulb hot enough into a pipe small enough to do some tight waist bends on.

I made another smaller one out of a heating cartridge from Grainger. That thing gets hot and it's hard to control the heat, even with the dimmer switch I attached.


08-24-2010, 08:19 AM
I haven't tried this with Uke's yet, I have plans for my first one on the way but I used an old fashion heavy duty solder iron that I slipped into the end of a pipe clamped in a vise when I built my mandolin and violins. I first wrapped the wood in wet paper towels and nuked them for about 30 seconds, then put them over the pipe to bend.
Worked well.

08-24-2010, 04:07 PM
I did the same as Rick, Only I stuffed the pipe around the soldering iron with crumpled aluminum foil to help transfer heat a little faster. I used a pipe flange to screw it to a 2x4 clamped in the vise. I think the soldering iron was about $2 at the Flea-market.


Ken W
08-24-2010, 04:39 PM
This is what I use. I also sometimes replace the torch with a heat gun, but I like the torch better. The torch is much more quiet and I find it easier to regulate the temperature.