Homemade bending iron for $40 at the big home store

jusbot

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I was eyeing the ibex bending iron from Stew Mac, but it seems way overpriced - it's a round piece of metal that gets hot, and from the reviews, not that consistently... why is it $200?!

A bit of googling later and I see that folks are making their own using steel or aluminum pipe and propane torches or electric charcoal starters. I started looking into different materials available for piping/tubing that would give me a decent radius for bending ukulele and guitar sides. Should I go with aluminum pipe or tube from a metal supplier? Steel plumbing pipe from the home store? OOOhh an aluminum baseball bat, but what kind?! softball? slow pitch? fast pitch? tee ball? youth size?? What's cheap?!? The internets were getting on my nerves so I went to the Home Depot after work (the limited selection of the store vs. the infinite selection of the internet helps me come up with clever solutions.)

After checking the plumbing and electrical pipes, I stumbled upon the fencing aisle - 6ft of 16 gauge 2 3/8" galvy steel post for $15! I also grabbed a fancy cap and a bracket for attaching the post to wood.

Next I grabbed the electrical bits - charcoal starter, a handy box, cover, cable clamps and a dimmer switch. Done.

photo.jpg


Back at home I added an old computer power cord and a scrap 2x4 to the pile and got to work.

Step 1: Squeeze the heck out of the charcoal starter to get it to fit in the fence post. Took a bit more effort than I expected. There was a lot of clamping pressure going on in the vice; I thought it was going to slip out at me, snap or shatter. The wood vise ended up working better for this.

IMG_20130327_202913.jpg


Step 2: Once it fit, I placed it in the end of the pipe and drew a line a couple inches from the tip of the starter, then I cut it with a hacksaw. The metal shield made a nice end-cap.

Step 3: I de-burred and polished the pipe. Oooh shiny.

Step 4: Attach pipe to clampy thingy. Put on the little cap and take a picture of your shiny rocket/hardcore sex toy/zombie weapon.

IMG_20130327_212435.jpg


Step 5: Attach clampy thingy to 2x4. I chose to use a 2x4 so I can clamp it in my vise either vertically or horizontally. I also added a bit of wire around the bottom of the element to make sure it doesn't slip out.

Step 6: Wire it up with a dimmer and give it a test! I stopped at 540 degrees F because my temp sensor was getting close to its limit.

IMG_20130327_231857.jpg


Step 7: watch water disappear. Dang that's hot.


After running it at 500+ degrees for about 10 minutes, nothing was hot except for the pipe. The bracket was warm, but did not scorch the 2x4. There was some burn-y smells, but it might have been my temperature sensor, or just some oil or coatings burning off the pipe. The dimmer, cables and electrical box were all cool to the touch. I'm impressed with how well this came together. Now to see how it actually bends wood...

Here's my parts list with Home Depot links. Get one of each:

2-3/8 in. x 2-3/8 in. x 6 ft. Galvanized Metal Corner Post

2-19/50 in. x 2-19/50 in. Polished Aluminum Dome Post Cap

2-3/8 in. Galvanized Steel Adjustable Wood Adapter

Leviton Trimatron 600-Watt Rotary Dimmer

1-Gang Drawn Handy Box

1-Gang Toggle Switch Handy Box Cover

Electric Charcoal Starter

You will also need some clamp connectors for your electrical box, a length of board/2x4, MDF, etc to attach everything to, and an extra power cord.
 

seeso

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Thread out of moderation queue. Sorry for the delay.
 

connor013

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Well done.

Step four was my best laugh of the day, so thanks for that.
 

ksquine

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Nice. I tried using a charcoal starter in my first bending iron but it always tripped the GFI on my basement outlets. Maybe I cracked the insulation while re-shaping it. Now I use it with a heat gun with great results. Plus the noise from the heat gun makes it harder to forget to turn it off :cool:
 

jusbot

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I've used my Ibex for 18 years without complaint...

Cool, good to hear! If my monstrosity gets enough use I'll probably bite the bullet and buy one. For now though, there's lots of other tools that the extra $150 can go to. ;)
 

tobinsuke

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I have been thinking of making the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUEyl_ovRA

Not as nice as what you have done, but easy to make and I am only getting set to build my first ukulele.

If you go with this one like this, please be cautious of the top - especially accidentally reaching across it. I have not made one of these, but the hot air that heats the pipe clearly vents out of the top.
 

droze

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Point well taken

If you go with this one like this, please be cautious of the top - especially accidentally reaching across it. I have not made one of these, but the hot air that heats the pipe clearly vents out of the top.

I suspect it would be very hot at the top. Such is life for the frugal (cheap) woodworker.
 

W2XXZ

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Greetings Jusbot..I just returned from Home Depot with an armload of parts anticipating a build mirrowing your parts and instructions :+)
great post I am new to EVERTHING musical with a few construction ability's.
My only dismay was my vice was 2 1/2 in wide :+( not enough for the charcoal starter to fit.
Sooo off to harbor freight for a loaner :+). The burner is 3 5/8 wide call it 3 3/4 so I need to get a 5 incher.
All for now and will return again after I squeeze the burner to fit the pipe.
Thanks for posting such a great photo op and instructions.
W2XXZ
 

W2XXZ

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Greetings :+)
Just returned from Home Depot with an armload of parts.
I have everything listed from your photo op /info.
Dismayed to find my vise only opened to 2 1/2 in :+(
The Charcoal starter would not fit. It's 3 5/8.
Next stop Harbor freight for a loaner <:+)
Re post when I have the correct diameter to fit
in the pipe .

W2XXX
 

arctangent

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Late to the party here, but why the vertical pipe? Seems awkward at best.

Here's what I use:

2015-06-28 20.12.41.jpg

heat gun: $1 from yard sale.
bolts, nuts, washers from Lowes: a few $$, maybe three, maybe four.
pipe: my neighbor had this steel pipe. I cut 6" off it, and drilled two holes in it.
bungee cord: I forget where it came from.

Stuck the spreader from the heat gun in the end of the pipe. Frame built from eclectic mix of leftover crappy wood. Drywall screws and glue to taste.

I've bent a lot of sides of various instruments from ukuleles to guitars on this thing. Works good.
 

W2XXZ

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Greetings jusbot Making progress with your pipe heater...one thing...I am a bit unclear on the wiring The computer wire is connected to the dimmer-The
plug comes off.
The starter must also be connected to the dimmer as well correct ? soooo The plug on the starter has to be removed and wired to the dimmer ... also correct Yes ?
Excuse me for being slow <:+)
 
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scdano

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Nice bender!. However, you may want to read up on the toxicity of galvanized steel when heated. Zinc oxide is used in the galvanizing process and is a known toxin. There are lots of cases of metal fume fever (a real thing) caused by the heating of galvanized steel. You'd probably never go above 250 degrees for your intended use, and at that temp it may not be an issue, but your test temp of 500 is probably in the danger zone.
 

strumsilly

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hmm, I imagine that the charcoal lighter uses a lot more watts than light bulbs, so get a dimmer that's rated for the watts the lighter pulls. maybe one for fans ?