View Full Version : Latest videos out... hand bending

Pete Howlett
12-26-2008, 05:34 AM
Most young guns when they start these days begin with a Fox bending machine, heat blanket and no back-skills in hand bending. This is great for a kick start but what do you do when you can't offord one of these wonderful time savers?

This (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=qhRi6KWby5M) video and this one (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ggiZe1n90iI) in the series might help you to see why I think hand bending is an essential step in the learning curve of a luthier. :nana:

E-Lo Roberts
12-26-2008, 11:41 AM
Pete, alright! The 2nd bending vid. I now have a visual on the whole process. I can't wait to hand bend my first rib now and dump the Fox bender.

One question though... The little routed lip around your form... What is that used for? Is it simply an edge you use to check the shape of the bend or something more?? Thanks, e.lo....

Pete Howlett
12-26-2008, 11:55 AM
That lip (known pendantically as a rebate) is where my top sits - accurate positioning for glue up. Do not abandon your Fox bender - both methods are valid :eek:

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-27-2008, 04:57 PM
Good videos Pete. First time I've heard the word "polygonyl" used in a lutherie discussion! Interesting to see your pipe mounted vertically.
E-Lo, send your Fox bender to me. I could always use another.
I bend all my sides with a heat blanket (two actually) but I always tweak them on a hot pipe for a perfect fit. My objective is to have absolutely no spring back. My hot pipes are simply different sizes of galvanized pipe mounted in a vise, heated with a propane torch. Since I'm on solar power here I have to limit my heating element appliances because they can suck up my batteries quick, but an electric pipe is so much more controllable. No matter how many heat blankets and benders you have, every builder needs to know how to bend on a pipe. It also gives you a more intimate relationship with the wood and a deeper insight in to what you're doing.
Back in the day when I started (this was before the Internet) and I was living on a very small island and had no one to ask and I didn't know any better, I bent sides on a Weber Smokey Joe barbeque. Fire up the coals and put the lid on it and you had all kinds of radiusses to work with. It was such a revelation when I finally discovered the hot pipe. Doh! No wonder my early ukes always smelled like smoked meat.
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles

Pete Howlett
12-28-2008, 03:02 AM

I greatly admire your low tech life - personally, I couldn't do it.

If you load up my videos, in the pane on the right hand side there are similar vids. One has a really cool 'charcoal' pipe but the guy who introduces it suggests bending using a wet cloth! I tried that for my first ever instrument and it didn't work for me. I have also read where people use the propane approach that you have to 'regulate' it to get the right heat. for my blankets I have just invested in some thermocouples to get the temperature spot on.

I'm also glad to see chuck that you 'set' the bend... I thought it was just me that was fighting with spring back. It's clear from the Taylor vids that they took a year to get their bending forms right... I'm not so embarassed to go back to the iron from the bender now.

E-Lo Roberts
12-28-2008, 05:46 AM
Chuck, nice to hear from you again. I'm so jealous of your mango tree house, you wouldn't believe. Hope to get back to living in Hawaii again one day. In the meantime, trying to crank out a few ukes here in the horse capital of world, Lexington, KY. This is excatly why I want to switch to the iron...
"No matter how many heat blankets and benders you have, every builder needs to know how to bend on a pipe. It also gives you a more intimate relationship with the wood and a deeper insight in to what you're doing".
I feel so removed from the control of the wood when bending with the fox. I'll having a hit or miss situation judging the pressure to bend the curves without occassionally hearing that dreaded "crack" when I pushed the bend too fast. I'm hoping with the iron I will be able to feel "moorebettah" with my hands when the wood is happy or cranky with the bending process.
I'm with both you and Pete on wanting to "set the bend". I'm not comfortable with the spring back either.

One more thing...OK, ok...I'll hold on to the Fox bender. thanks for the input guys...e.lo...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-28-2008, 06:25 AM
Pete & E-Lo,
I know a couple of builders who use a bender similar to the Fox and they get absolutely no spring back. I've watched them bend and I can't figure out how they're doing it. It doesn't matter though, I don't mind a touch up on the pipe. I felt a lot better about doing this after reading an article in an old Guild of American Luthiers magazine where Mr. Fox himself admits ALWAYS going to the hot pipe after bending sides on HIS Fox Universal Side Bender! Good enough for me.
I do occasionally use a wet piece of cloth on top of the pipe (pipe is mounted horizontally in my case) to add additional steam when bending certain woods, bindings especially and on tight radiusses. It's not effective on ebony but it's great for cocobolo and other woods that tend to get case hardened. Lately, for bending extreme fiddle back koa I've been applying 3" wide blue tape to the outbound curves before bending. Been doing this with good success for a couple of years. Could be other factors involved as well but when something works I get too superstitious to change.
And Pete, I'd love to have real power but it's just not a choice in this part of the jungle. My solar equipment is anything but lo-tech; it's all state of the art and computer controlled, and expensive to buy and repair. The only real drawback is that I'm limited to a couple of horse power with my equipment and I monitor the power I use. All part of the price of living in paradise.
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles

E-Lo Roberts
12-28-2008, 07:59 AM
Chuck, thanks for the blue tape trick and additional bending tips. I'll add them to my options when dealing with some of this cranky wood I've been running into...e.lo....

12-28-2008, 02:31 PM
As you all know, I am still starting out.
That being said, I use the fox bender method, with a heat blanket, and it works good for me.
Since I don't have many tools, the absolute hardest thing for me is getting the jigs right. I don't know how many bending forms I have gone through so far, but I finally have one that is a good working bender.
I would be interested to do manual pipe bending, but maybe a little later on, one my tool selection is a little more diverse.

12-28-2008, 02:33 PM
Wow Chuck, you are living Very Green. That is commendable.
Take care.

Pete Howlett
12-28-2008, 06:04 PM
Chuck - I meant green. I'm sure you are doing everything possible to harness natural resources and I know, this ironically always comes at a price.

With bending, it's whatever works for you. For instance, I never 'cook' the ribs as some luthiers do - scares me to bits. I'm hoping that with the thermo couples I'll get more control over the heat. I've also learnt that you have to soak mahogany to get it to bend in the Fox Bender.