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View Full Version : Any way around the heating banket?



Chris Mudd
01-10-2012, 12:41 PM
Hello all!!
I have really enjoyed this forum!!!

I am gearing up to build a tenor Uke and am planning on building more than one.

I have found the most expensive new part I have to acquire is the heating blanket for the bender I am going to build.

EXCEPT for the hot pipe, is there an economical way around having to purchase a Watlow or other heat blanket?

Ideas anyone??????

chris

Bradford
01-10-2012, 01:30 PM
It is possible to build a Fox like side bender that uses light bulbs as the heat source, they are not as efficient or as easy to use as a heat blanket, but it is doable. BUT, why not a hot pipe?

Brad

Philstix
01-10-2012, 02:24 PM
I have built a Fox style bender which uses light bulbs as a source of heat and it works well. I use a 200 watt bulb under the larger end and a 100 watt under the smaller end. I have aso built using a hot pipe and that works very well also. The real reason I built the bender is that I was helping the son of a friend to build a tenor and it seemed like it would be an easier method for huim doing just one uke. Either method is fine, both have their own unique problems, I don't know that I would say one is easier than the other. If you are looking to make an occasional uke I would just go with the hot pipe - it is a lot more work to build a Fox bender, especially if you don't plan to buy a heat blanket.

Ken W
01-10-2012, 03:16 PM
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I sometimes bend on a hot pipe because I like the feel and smell and connection with the wood as it bends. I built a bender because....well....I just wanted to see if I could build a bender. Both work fine and I'll continue using both. The pipe bender shown is this picture is heated with a paint stripping gun. I also use a small plumber's propane torch and actually prefer it to the gun...the torch is much more quiet. The bender is heated with light bulbs as described above, but I have found that two 100 watt bulbs provide plenty of heat. I've been tempted to buy a heat blanket, but I'm trying to do this on the cheap. The bulbs work fine.

oudin
01-10-2012, 03:17 PM
Check out our Luthiers Interactive of North Texas page. Bo Walker's work up of the lightbulb machine is awesome. I use a Uke version of his design. http://www.lint.org/TechNotes/lowcostbender.html

kaizersoza
01-10-2012, 03:20 PM
do luthiers actually make the mould for the sides or can you buy them ready made?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-10-2012, 03:41 PM
Remember, lights bulbs heat the mold, a blanket heats the wood. You'll have much better and consistent results with a heat blanket. That said, everyone should begin with a hot pipe in order to have a better understanding with what's going on when bending wood. The bending jig removes the craftsman from the material.

lauri girouard
01-10-2012, 03:49 PM
Hi All,

It's my first time posting here and I am new to the forum.

In response to the question about the mold, you can buy them from blues creek guitars. Check out the link (http://www.bluescreekguitars.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=51)

I did make my own forms for the side molds and also made my own version of a bending machine that uses a heat blanket. While a heat blanket is a big initial investment, i think it would be a good one if you plan on producing them in quantity. Though Bo Walkers lightbulb machine is really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Lauri

BlackBearUkes
01-10-2012, 03:51 PM
do luthiers actually make the mould for the sides or can you buy them ready made?

Yes, we actually make all the molds we use. You can buy molds but I don't see why you would want to use the same shape of mold that someone else is using.

Liam Ryan
01-10-2012, 04:23 PM
Why would you take the two best options, cross them out, then go looking for the distant third? Breaking a couple of sides by using sub-standard methods will soon negate the cost of a heat blanket.

As for the light bulbs, by all accounts of those who have moved from light bulbs to blankets, the blankets are light years ahead.
Cost wise, the parts and time required to assemble a light bulb bender is more than a solid form and a blanket.

Allen
01-10-2012, 09:58 PM
If you think the most expensive part of building a uke is the blanket, then you haven't been doing your research. There are just countless things that I'm sure you haven't thought of that will suck the $$$ from the wallet.

Now, back to topic....I've built the light bulb bender. Used it a few times and knew there had to be a better way. I've got the hot pipe and it really is indispensable for lots of tasks. BUT there's not a snowballs chance in hell that you would ever get me to give away my heat blanket. It's bent hundreds of sides without a single one breaking.

As for molds, I make all my own, as I'm certain every single luthier here does as well....at least the ones that use a blanket.

Ambrosius
01-10-2012, 10:03 PM
Remember, lights bulbs heat the mold, a blanket heats the wood. You'll have much better and consistent results with a heat blanket. That said, everyone should begin with a hot pipe in order to have a better understanding with what's going on when bending wood. The bending jig removes the craftsman from the material.

And an other thing, - how does a bender with two light bulbs only, one under each bout, transfer heat to the material for the first initial bending of the waist? I've been wondering on that.

leewot
01-10-2012, 11:45 PM
Home brew outlets sell heating cords , pads and blankets that might be worth a try... Or find a friend that brews and try it before you buy?

Timbuck
01-11-2012, 12:26 AM
The trick with the light bulb method is to get the heat into the "heat retaining bars", mine are 10 mm steel but copper would be better..the more bars you have the more even'ly the heat is spread..Too few bars and you just get "Hot spots"...I also made the former sides from aluminium plate 5mm thick to hold even more heat..once the assembly is up to temp, bending is no problem...for the heat source I use a 500watt halogen bulb...I also recon a fan added to make it work like fan oven could work as well..But I havn't try'd that yet ;)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/Jigs%20and%20things%201/PICT7220.jpg

Kekani
01-11-2012, 06:45 AM
And an other thing, - how does a bender with two light bulbs only, one under each bout, transfer heat to the material for the first initial bending of the waist? I've been wondering on that.

I would wonder that too if I started at the waist, sort of. In any case, you gotta try it to see what's going on w/ the heat.


Check out our Luthiers Interactive of North Texas page. Bo Walker's work up of the lightbulb machine is awesome. I use a Uke version of his design. http://www.lint.org/TechNotes/lowcostbender.html

Wow, 20 minutes to heat up then another 20 to bend? I vaguely remember using a light bulb one (or was it a video?). . . either way, that image is deeply suppressed. I once said that once I learned how to use a blanket, bending sides was the fastest 5 minute process of the build. Until I started bending Milo. . .


Hello all!!
I have really enjoyed this forum!!!

I am gearing up to build a tenor Uke and am planning on building more than one.

I have found the most expensive new part I have to acquire is the heating blanket for the bender I am going to build.

EXCEPT for the hot pipe, is there an economical way around having to purchase a Watlow or other heat blanket?

Ideas anyone??????

chris

First off, welcome to the forum. 2nd, welcome to the lounge. While you may find economical answers to your question, you'll be hard pressed to find cheap here. As evidenced by the responses so far (mine included), it'll cost more in the long run avoiding the blanket. Now, if we all had the time and skill of Ken, we would have nice aluminum forms like him(good stuff) that could effectively use the halogen bulb.


Don't get me wrong, cheap is okay (I build my own cam clamps) - I also use a pipe at times ( for cutaways), however, since I'm too cheap to buy the pipe or make a torch setup, I drape my blanket over a pipe the I screw into the side of my bench.

Pipe and torch may be your cheapest route. FYI, there's a factory here that still uses a torch and pipe for their production instruments.

-Aaron

ksquine
01-11-2012, 07:58 AM
The trick with the light bulb method is to get the heat into the "heat retaining bars", mine are 10 mm steel but copper would be better..the more bars you have the more even'ly the heat is spread..Too few bars and you just get "Hot spots"...I also made the former sides from aluminium plate 5mm thick to hold even more heat..once the assembly is up to temp, bending is no problem...for the heat source I use a 500watt halogen bulb...I also recon a fan added to make it work like fan oven could work as well..But I havn't try'd that yet ;)


I've always been suspicious of the claim that the bars transfer much heat. Heat transfer is all about surface area. Round bars have the least surface area contact with the mold surface (basically just a line) and the least surface area to absorb heat. Sure, they must transfer some heat to the surface but it would be the least amount possible. Why not use flat stock to get more surface area for heat transfer? The whole point is to get the heat into the wood, not the mold.

Of course....I use a round pipe to bend for bending so I'm no really better off :biglaugh:

Pete Howlett
01-11-2012, 09:14 AM
I like hand bending. There is something prosaic and calming about it. I use a blanket to bend soprano sides and set tenor sides that aren't hand bending well. A heat blanket is a good investment but it teaches you next to nothing about the craft...

mrhandy
01-11-2012, 01:31 PM
I have only used a pipe to bend so far, I have made a couple ukes now with one piece sides. I really like them, and I have not figured out how you would make a machine that will easily bend a one piece side, I guess you would need a long blanket and start from the heal and work up in both directions... I figure I will stick to the hot pipe for now.

Sven
01-11-2012, 08:07 PM
I built a thing to do that. I'll go look on my blog and see if I can dig it out, first tenors It was. I really like one piece sides, but have switched to the bending iron.

Sven
01-12-2012, 12:03 AM
@mrhandy - here's some posts with my bending thing for making one piece tenor sides. I was never really happy with it, using regular threaded rods meant screwing on those nuts forever. And since the side piece and the blanket were vertical I used a lot of clothes pins to keep them together. I tossed it recently and now I do all sides on the iron.

http://www.argapa.blogspot.com/2008/01/bending-form-continued.html
http://www.argapa.blogspot.com/2009/04/bending-sides.html
http://www.argapa.blogspot.com/2009/04/sides-destroyed.html

kaizersoza
01-13-2012, 01:39 PM
Yes, we actually make all the molds we use. You can buy molds but I don't see why you would want to use the same shape of mold that someone else is using.

good point, i am toying with the idea of making my own uke, whether it will be a one off or turn ito a hobby remains to be seenthanx for replying BlackBear

jcalkin
01-14-2012, 06:03 AM
The Fox bender is more complex than necessary for ukes. The story of my uke bender will be in the next GAL magazine, after that I can share some details here. After a few hundred guitar sets the light bulbs in the Fox unit began to char both the forms and the bender itself.
A blanket big enough for sopranos is about $30, and the tenor blanket I bought last year was $43 after shipping. That's cheap for all they can do. Add a contact thermometer and you are good to go.
I threw away my hot pipe years ago, and good riddance! I bend by feel using a blanket, so I am not removed from my materials, but once you have the process down all that "in touch with the wood" stuff is old world/new age baloney. The wood shapes us as we learn to shape it, and after that everything just happens automatically. I'm getting pretty tired of the whole "lutherie as intuitive magic" thing, but maybe I've just been at it for too long.

BlackBearUkes
01-14-2012, 09:01 AM
[The story of my uke bender will be in the next GAL magazine, after that I can share some details here.

The GAL magazine is out John, so let 'er rip. Nice article. Also, the "luthierie as intuitive magic" thing is always good for a laugh. Every time I read about all the so called Rock Stars of the luthierie world in publications like Acoustic Guitar magazine, etc., I think who are these guys kidding. Might as well be reading People magazine.

jcalkin
01-14-2012, 11:32 AM
Thanks, Duane. My copy of the mag came just after I posted above. I'll see if I have any good pix that didn't make the story. If not, I'll take some more and maybe start a new thread.

I'm afraid that if we could take the mysticism out of lutherie we'd lose a lot of the folks who buy handmade instruments. Talent and hard work may not be enough to hold their interest. I'd rather keep the bull than kill the market. But like always, I could be wrong.